My favourite TV show: Dad's Army

Dad's Army didn't play well with late 1960s' focus groups. When I interviewed the sitcom's co-creator Jimmy Perry a few years ago, he recalled: "One woman said: 'Haven't we had enough of this old wartime rubbish? And the bald-headed idiot [the great Arthur Lowe] doesn't know his lines!'"

Rude, but I can understand her compunctions. When Croft and Perry's portrayal of Walmington-on-Sea's charmingly risible last line of defence against Nazi invasion was first screened on the BBC, Britain was in the throes of Harold Wilson's white-hot technological revolution. It was 1968. Austerity? Sacrifice? Martial heroism? Yawn. Britain was young, swinging, libidinous and off its nut on illicit pharmaceuticals. This was no country for old men in itchy uniforms, bumbling about the south coast, mock-heroically practising for the stormtroopers who, as we know, never dropped in for tea and termination.

That said, any slur on Arthur Lowe makes me, like a latter-day Corporal Jones, want to fix bayonets and set about his critics. They don't like it up 'em, sir. What they didn't realise is that Lowe was a genius at performing pompous English self-delusion (you only have to listen to his audiotape narration of Charles Pooter in The Diary of a Nobody to get that). Such was Lowe's schtick as Captain Mainwaring, the roly-poly small-town Napoleon, the Quixote of the north. Once, Private Pike made Mainwaring a cup of tea and inadvertently tipped sand into it instead of sugar. Mainwaring took a sip. "Marvellous. I bet they're not drinking anything like this over in Germany." Pike and Sergeant Wilson exchanged glances that said: no, they're probably having lovely coffees with Sachertorte.

Moments like that still make me adore Dad's Army above any other TV programme. Croft and Perry always loved to put the ticking bomb of satire under the bottom of any British hubris, loved to point out, like Irvine Welsh avant la lettre, what an effete, hopeless bunch we British were.

By the time I started watching, it was the early 70s. Britain had lost an empire, had forgotten its white-hot technological dreams, was going post-industrial. Only a fool could take its national myths seriously. Dad's Army helped with that transition from hubris to hopeless: it was popular over nine series in part because it was for a TV nation that knew it was now a bit rubbish.

What remained now, to make the future palatable, was to satirise our ancestors' finest hour – hence a wartime sitcom that was the antidote to Kenneth More or Jack Hawkins, those stiff-upper-lip celluloid memorialisers of a lost Britain that will never, ever, come again. I've had a lot of occasions in my life to feel disgust at being British, but Dad's Army's ironising approach to national identity made me fall for this rain-soaked dime of a dump in a way that only Danny Boyle's 2012 Olympics opening ceremony has ever managed to replicate. As export products, both were as successful as the Austin Allegro.

Dad's Army was also great on class. Mainwaring, Pike and Wilson, the last bankers that Britain ever trusted, were always snooty about greengrocer Warden Hodges's dirty fingernails. Corporal Jones's deference to his captain was subverted by the fact that the former, a butcher in ration-book civvy street, was the town's most powerful man. The show also included one of the great absences in sitcom history, the terrifying Mrs Mainwaring who (like Maris Crane in Frasier, only much louder), was the elephant in her husband's psychic room.

Dad's Army finished in 1977, having readied me temperamentally for punk's nihilistic critique of national shibboleths ("God save the Queen," snarled Johnny Rotten, "We mean it man." No they didn't). There was no future in England's dreaming, but Croft and Perry had told me that already.

But now? Can the looming film version be anything other than risk-averse imposture for me and the rest of the deluded wrinkly demographic? So much of the TV that gives me a Proustian rush has been ruined by grave-robbing makeover ghouls (Bill and Ben can speak now? Top Cat is a Mexican movie now?) that the prospect makes me want to sharpen the Authentic Corporal Jones Souvenir Boer War Bayonet I picked up on eBay before taking out the movie trash. Or pitch a much lewder film version of Mrs Slocombe's Pussy.

That said, the fact that Toby Jones has been cast as Mainwaring and Bill Nighy as suave, lady-killing, utterly unmartial Sergeant Wilson – like Michael Jackson in his collaboration with Paul McCartney on The Girl is Mine, Wilson was a lover, not a fighter – makes me think that the casting director, at least, isn't going to step roughly on my sensibilities. I'd pay good money to see Nighy try it on with Mrs Pike.

But who can play the other characters? I'm putting a team together. The film would probably suck, but I'd watch it. Who could be such a Caledonian thistle of lugubriousness as to eclipse John Laurie's Private Frazer? Sean Connery, back from Caribbean exile to fulfil his manifest destiny as a laughable gloomy Scottish undertaker in intolerable England. Mrs Fox, the busty divorcee with the hots for Jones's chops? Hayley Tamaddon from Corrie. Corporal Jones, the ancient warrior with meat in his proverbial cleaver? Steve Delaney (AKA Count Arthur Strong). Private Pike, the mummy's boy in the scarf she knitted for military manoeuvres? Alan Carr. Walker, the dodgy geezer with a jacket lining filled with watches and breast pocket teeming with ladies' nylons? Matt King (AKA Super Hans from Peep Show). Mrs Pike, punching above her weight with her bit of posh? Julia Davis. Mrs Mainwaring, unseen but heard galumphing upstairs as her husband's platoon stand terrified, clutching teacups in the parlour below? Miranda Hart.

And Private Godfrey, weak-bladdered, doddery oldster who could barely lift a gun still less pull its trigger, and who lived in a home for the bewildered with his sister Dolly and her vast collection of upside-down cakes? Me. I would kill for that role. Literally.

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