Still crazee now

Noddy Holder was a Seventies icon. This week, he stars in a sitcom set in the decade that taste forgot

The PR interrupts our interview to plead with Noddy Holder to wear one of those tartan scarves made popular by the Bay City Rollers for a photo shoot. He politely declines, perhaps fearing a Seventies overdose.

I know how he feels. Just a couple of weeks after Days Like These, ITV is launching The Grimleys, another sitcom set in the decade taste forgot, a world in which every wardrobe contains nothing but platform shoes, tank tops and zip-up cardies.

Written by Jed Mercurio (Cardiac Arrest), this new six-part comedy centres on Gordon Grimley (played by James Bradshaw), an Adrian Mole-ish schoolboy from Dudley who is struggling to escape the mind-numbing factory job planned for him by his couch-potato father (Nigel Planer). The official "school spanner", he is remorselessly bullied by his meat-headed PE teacher (Brian Conley) whose idea of careers advice is to hang Gordon from the gym apparatus with the sign "No future" round his neck. Gordon's only inspiration comes from the glamorous English teacher whom he worships (Amanda Holden), and a good-hearted music teacher with a penchant for lime-green floral shirts, Neville Holder (Noddy Holder).

Still sporting the trademark shock of strawberry-blond hair, Holder is delighted with the newfound interest in all things Seventies. "Throughout the Eighties people slagged the Seventies off. They said that the fashions and the music were no good. But when we got to the Nineties, people started to see it in the light it was meant to be - fun. The Seventies were very tongue-in-cheek. The music was an antidote to the politics of the time, which was all strikes and power cuts. In times of strife, people turn to showbiz."

But aren't sophisticated Nineties viewers just taking the mick out of the decade? "That doesn't bother me," says Holder, now 52. "I look back on the Seventies with fondness. It was larger than life. You look at old Top of the Pops and see all the bands laughing. Now all the pop stars are trying to be so hip and cool. In the Seventies, people did enjoy themselves. We went on telly and had a good time.

"You can't take rock'n'roll seriously; if you do, you're missing the point," he says. "The first rock'n'roll star who inspired me was Little Richard, and he never took himself seriously. I always wanted to be mad as a hatter for ever. I think I've achieved that."

Mercurio is adamant that he is not exploiting Seventies nostalgia. He claims that he can make serious points through the retro setting. "One of the advantages of locating the series in the past is that we can bring hindsight to bear," he says. "The audience knows things the characters don't. For example, in the 1970s, we believed that Britain would be involved in the space programme and that Dudley would have its own space station. The biggest sci-fi series then was Space 1999 - our year. Then it did not seem unreasonable to image that we'd have a moonbase in 1999. You can immediately see that the characters' aspirations won't be realised. They want to be winners, but you know they are never going to be.

"The Grimleys shows that the Seventies was a decade when hope was juxtaposed with failure," he continues. "Fashion and music provides texture for the series, but we're tapping into something more fundamental - all the characters want something they can't get. A lot of the series is about people not achieving their goals."

For Holder's character, that means an unfulfilled desire to become a rock star. In the poignant finale to the second episode of The Grimleys, Gordon reflects that "for some grown-ups, the brightest future is already in the past". Mr Holder then performs an acoustic version of the Slade hit, "Cum On Feel the Noize". It is the ultimate Nineties tribute to the Seventies: Noddy Holder Unplugged.

The Grimleys is on ITV at 10.30pm on Monday

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