By 1974, 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' was on it's second series, and audiences were enjoying the darker, more adult storylines that had begun to emerge.
The Christmas special from the same year is now a recognized classic, and features a perfect distillation of all the elements that made the series such a success.
The episode begins with a great argument between Thelma and Bob regarding the fancy dress party they've been invited to by one of Thelma's work colleagues. Bob would prefer to go to the Fat Ox for a few pints with best friend Terry instead, and Thelma is giving him a hard time because he doesn't want to spend time with her "boring" friends.
However, once Bob sees the sexy nurses uniform Thelma has chosen to wear, he relents and is persuaded to get into the car and go to the party.
The gathering turns out to be a dull affair, and Bob sneaks out of the back door to join Terry at the pub for a beer or five. As the pints keep coming, Bob confides in Terry that he's becoming sick and tired of Thelma's hen-pecking, and is planning to "teach her a lesson she wont forget". Terry calmly agrees that this is for the best, while hiding his inner delight that Bob's relationship is heading for trouble.
Bob and Terry both return to the party -both blind drunk- and manage to quickly disgrace themselves in front of the respectable crowd of social climbers.
This leads to a doorstep row in which Thelma demands that Bob must choose between her and Terry, and results in Thelma driving away in tears as the lads urinate onto her car as she passes them.
After drinking a further bottle of neat whiskey, they decide to follow her home. The scene fades as we see the drunken pair giggling and staggering off down the street.
A slow zoom reveals Thelma's naked corpse, to a soundtrack of complete silence.
In the final scene, Terry walks out of court a free man after testifying against his old friend; Bob receives a life sentence, and the entire series came to a close.
It's easy to point the finger at this story as an example of how attitudes to comedy have changed over the years, and many have argued that the subject matter was misjudged for a Christmas special. I agree that it's sad to see Terry turning against Bob in order to protect his own back, but that selfishness has always been a fundamental part of his character, and this highlights the excellent standard of writing consistent throughout the series. Re-watching this every Boxing Day has always been a happy occasion in my house, and I look forward to chuckling along once again this year.