Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Their Lives

Like many of my generation I have very fond memories of This Life. The cult popularity it accrued may have stumped the critics, including the pompous asses who pured scorn on This Life + 10 Newsnight Review a few weeks ago, but it was never a mystery to me. When it was screened in 96-97, my friends and I had only just flown the nest and settled into student life. This was the cusp of adulthood - the freedom to do as we please without the responsibility of a job or a family. For us This Life offered a glimpse of our future after graduation, a life that appeared none too different from that we had entered into.

Of course we knew this was bollocks. Only the lucky or well connected graduate into positions that pull down over 20 big ones. That was as true then as it is now. But that's what made This Life a powerful fantasy - it spoke to our naive hopes and dreams through characters and situations we could fully relate to. Being of a similar age to me, small wonder Johann Hari was the only Newsnight reviewer who got it. There maybe hope for him yet.

What was This Life + 10 like?

Well, it began with a casket containing Ferdi's remains being lowered into the ground. Guess this will be one episode where we won't be seeing his cock then.

We briefly take the tour through our heroes lives. Anna is shown as a brief-for-hire for the capital's organised villainy, and a woman desperately yearning for a child. Milly and Egg are still together. She's given up law to become a Chelsea tractor yummy mummy, and he's a bestselling author of a novel based on ... you guessed it, his time in London EC1. With an eye for self-promotion Egg has invited along Clare, a freelance film maker, to document his life for a reality show-publicity stunt thing timed to coincide with his next book. To aid this along it's suggested that the gang, Milly, Egg, Anna and Warren get together for a weekend at Miles's country pad. We then learn Warren has aspirations to be a life coach and sees it as an opportunity to raise some capital from Miles, who has become absolutely minted.

The scene is set for a series of encounters that ultimately lay bare the meaningless of each of our protagonist's lives. Some of the confrontations appear quite contrived. When Egg and Miles get into an argument over the Iraq war and carbon footprints, it smacks of a desperate stab at addressing contemporary issues. The original This Life was far more subtle, even when it came to slamming doors and walkouts. But unlike the original This Life + 10 came good for the characters in the end. As murky emptiness wraps itself around each character manages to rekindle something from the dying embers. Anna and Warren agree to have a child together. Milly and Egg rediscover their relationship (making sure Clare, as symbol of Egg's coming mid-life crisis, is seen off by Egg's disposal of the weekend's tapes in Miles's pond), and Miles loses his wife, his house, his possessions, but manages to scrape enough cash together to make off for Timbuktu.

Was it worth the wait?

Yes and no. It was by far the most entertaining TV from 2007 this far and it was great to see how the crew have done. And yes, I will be after the anti-ageing cream Warren's been using. But there was nothing really positive in this post script, except maybe a warning not to let yourself be imprisoned by the pursuit of success. Perhaps that was the point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

10 years ago This Life, along with Radiohead, The Bends, was a backdrop to my life as undergraduate in his mid 20s who, being slightly older than the others, was very aware of London where many friends seemed to be living the dream while I studied in a Northern university.

I took a lot of drugs in night clubs. I drank a lot. I shared a sexual relationship with my two bi-sexual landladies/flat mates.

I conducted a series of dangerous affairs and ran a faction within my student union which controlled the union building and all it's bars and stuff for four glorious years, giving us all access, perhaps, to a more glamerous life than the average undergraduate.

I even spent Christmas in Tokyo in '97.

I graduated in 98 with an upper second.

I read this in the Guardian yesterday:

"This is by the by, of course, since the real reason we're so excited by This Life's return is that it abets the sorry-arsed delusion of the person in their mid-30s that it is still 10 years ago, and we are still at the centre of culture, and we haven't been superseded by younger, better-looking and more talented people. The truth is, we have been superseded, as all humanity eternally will be"

Last night my 20 something wife refused to watch This Life on the grounds that "it's shit".