The "Up" documentary series (Seven Up! to 63 Up)

Mel O'Drama

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This has been on my viewing radar for quite some time.


Apart from being a wonderful social documentary of England of earlier decades, I'm also fascinated by what the series has become. The first documentary, Seven Up!, was made in 1964 as a one-off episode of Granda TV's World In Action interviewing and studying seven year olds from very different socio-economic backgrounds for reasons explained this way:
Why did we bring these together? Because we wanted a glimpse of England in the year 2000. The union leader and the business executive of the year 2000 are now seven years old.

At the end of Seven Up!, it's implied there'll be a follow-up in the year 2000. As it turned out, the first update came seven years after Seven Up! with 7 Plus Seven, where they revisited the same group of kids in 1970, aged fourteen. In 1977 came 21 Up, then 28 Up, continuing every seven years until the most recent, 63 Up which aired in 2019.

Last night I finally cracked open the Blu-ray and watched the first two films. I'll share some thoughts here. If anyone's watched (or even if not) I'd be glad of some views.

This may sound strange with a documentary, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers. I've only met the participants as seven and fourteen year olds, so I'm making a point of not looking to see what happens to them in future films. I did see a few potted histories when I was looking into the series a while back, but it meant nothing as I didn't know who was who.

I'm still very muddy on the names, so I'll pin this here, as much for my benefit as anything else:

 

Angela Channing

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I love this series so I'm really interested and looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it. I started watching it in the 1990s so that must have been the time of 35 Up but I think they might have repeated some of the previous years because I can remember seeing episodes when they were young children. It is a fascinating series seeing how social attitudes have changed and how people's lives have developed in so many different ways over a long period of time. I don't want to say too much because you said you didn't want any spoilers and to be honest, I don't remember all the details that well for many of the children.
 

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The Up Series is up there with my favourite documentaries of all time. Watching these characters grow and change and being able to go on this journey with them, with all the twists and turns life tends to serve up, is an unparalleled viewing experience. It's also interesting to note how being part of the experiment affects them, everything it brings up when they know the next one is coming up, and also their unique position of being able to look back at how they used to be.

Also each episode serves as a fascinating time capsule of the time it was filmed in. It's a truly unique and wonderful project and I'm sure you will love it.
 

Angela Channing

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I thought 7 thru 28 were quite affecting. But, much like life itself, after that everything from before just becomes too far-away to have the same impact -- at least, for me.
It's interesting that you felt that because I found the period from 28 Up through to the next 2 to 3 documentaries to be the ones the best. At this point in life most of the people were going through major changes such as marriage, divorce, birth of children, changes in career and it was fascinating to compare and contrast their lives at this stage with how they felt at 7 and 14 which seemed to have more of an impact during this period than at any other point in their lives.

I don't want to give too much away but there is one character whose life changes significantly between the 28 and 35 documentaries and for me it was the most memorable part of the entire series.

I did feel by the time they all got to 63, their lives were beginning to wind down and they were either retired or looking forward to retiring so there were fewer attention-grabbing moments but it was still interesting to see the similarities in the lives of the different participants at this stage.
 
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Mel O'Drama

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It is a fascinating series seeing how social attitudes have changed and how people's lives have developed in so many different ways over a long period of time.
each episode serves as a fascinating time capsule of the time it was filmed in.

This is what grabbed me with the first two. Especially discussion of class and race. I know division can still arise in these matters, but the extent to which it's expressed in this documentary is a little shocking.

There were the public schoolboys commenting that some of the working class children were very dirty and had horrible accents, while the feeling was mutual. And the nice Yorkshire lad who was so insulated he'd only ever seen a black person on TV. Then there was that Suzy girl* commenting that she's never met a "coloured person" and would be quite happy if she never did. There was balance, with some of the more inclusive comments, and then there was Symon simply saying "they just look like me, don't they?" (Symon is an early favourite of mine. He's so expressive and very deep. I really felt for him in 7 Plus Seven where he was torn between his happiness at being reunited with his Mum and missing his friends and the inclusivity at the children's home).


* I find Suzy quite unlikeable a lot of the time. But then there's that winning moment where she'd asked if she'd want her children to have a nanny and you can see her thinking profoundly. I expected her to touchingly say that she wanted to be a mummy to her children and not have a nanny, and she said exactly the opposite, which made me laugh. There's an unexpectedly brutal moment in the second film where she's speaking to camera and her dog, in the background, kills a rabbit. She responds with apathy and when asked why she's not bothered replies words to the effect that it's because of her upbringing (I think the implication was that it's terribly working class to be concerned with wildlife).




It's also interesting to note how being part of the experiment affects them, everything it brings up when they know the next one is coming up, and also their unique position of being able to look back at how they used to be.

I'm looking forward to this angle, especially since nobody involved could have imagined them being in the public eye beyond the 1960s.



I'm sure you will love it.

Thanks, so far so good.




I thought 7 thru 28 were quite affecting. But, much like life itself, after that everything from before just becomes too far-away to have the same impact -- at least, for me.
t's interesting that you felt that because I found the period from 28 Up through to the next 2 to 3 documentaries to be the ones the best.

Intriguing. Seems it could go either way.



I did feel by the time they all got to 63, their lives were beginning to wind down and they were either retired or looking forward to retiring so there were fewer attention-grabbing moments but it was still interesting to see the similarities in the lives of the different participants at this stage.

I'm guessing 63 Up might be the last due to Michael Apted's death.
 

Angela Channing

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This is what grabbed me with the first two. Especially discussion of class and race. I know division can still arise in these matters, but the extent to which it's expressed in this documentary is a little shocking.
I too found this shocking. Even though I was aware of the overt racism that existed in the 1960s, to hear young children express those views so openly and without any shame or embarrassment was kind of jaw-dropping.

(Symon is an early favourite of mine. He's so expressive and very deep. I really felt for him in 7 Plus Seven where he was torn between his happiness at being reunited with his Mum and missing his friends and the inclusivity at the children's home).
He's great, isn't he? My favourites are probably Neil and Tony though.

I'm guessing 63 Up might be the last due to Michael Apted's death
I hope not. The documentary is such a strong idea and has been very popular that I can imagine another TV production company taking it on although the issue would then be whether the participants would be happy to share their stories with someone else.

As the participants enter their 70 and 80 it will be interesting to see how they cope with the challenges of getting old and how it mushy be different depending on their social background. Also, and this sounds a bit in bad taste, as they get older I'm fascinated to see which of them survive long enough to continue to contribute to the documentary because there was some discussion about mortality in 63 Up so it's also on the minds of the participants.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Even though I was aware of the overt racism that existed in the 1960s, to hear young children express those views so openly and without any shame or embarrassment was kind of jaw-dropping.

Agreed.



My favourites are probably Neil and Tony though.

Two quite different characters.

It's ironic that there's a bit of a mirror between Tony's path and that of Andrew and John, in that they seemed very sure of their paths and they've mostly done what their seven year old selves planned to do.

I'm most fascinated by Charles - who was grouped in with Andrew and John - and Neil who have rebelliously veered from the direction their families had planned for them. The relationship between Charles and Andrew/John seemed a little strained, which I suspect is because of Charles's non-conformity. John made several I thought rather pointed) comments about it being a crime not to take advantage of opportunities given, while glancing sideways in the general direction of Charles.

I also thought Nick and Bruce's shared rejection of any praise or recognition quite poignant. Nick said he felt he wasn't a success story and hadn't achieved anything, while Bruce was keen to stress that his work with the special needs children wasn't done from altruism. Bruce in particular seems to have Imposter Syndrome.

Suzy is another who has rebelled and I liked her more in 21 Up. It was very clear in 7 Plus Seven that she was appearing against her wishes, so her confirmation that her parents had forced her to participate was almost a relief.

And both Jackie and Lynn married at 19. They seem happy enough, but it will be interesting to see how long term relationships work for all the participants.



I can imagine another TV production company taking it on although the issue would then be whether the participants would be happy to share their stories with someone else.

Michael Apted's interview style seems almost comically blunt, leading and critical at times. Such as pointing out that Symon's job is repetitive and dull and asking if he'd thought about finding a better one. Or his observation to Tony that "You're very short". But they all seem to respond to that no frills approach really well.



As the participants enter their 70 and 80 it will be interesting to see how they cope with the challenges of getting old and how it mushy be different depending on their social background. Also, and this sounds a bit in bad taste, as they get older I'm fascinated to see which of them survive long enough to continue to contribute to the documentary because there was some discussion about mortality in 63 Up so it's also on the minds of the participants.

In a way it would be a shame for a long-running film series like this to end, and somehow the idea of a 70 Up feels very important because of the digit. I'd certainly like to see occasional updates about the remaining willing participants. It's a known entity with brand recognition, so it's quite possible it will continue.
 

Angela Channing

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Two quite different characters.

It's ironic that there's a bit of a mirror between Tony's path and that of Andrew and John, in that they seemed very sure of their paths and they've mostly done what their seven year old selves planned to do.

My perspective of the participants will be very different to yours because of how I watched the series. I started mid way through when they were young adults and watched the earlier parts retrospectively so my views of then as young children was coloured by how I felt about them as adults.

Michael Apted's interview style seems almost comically blunt, leading and critical at times. Such as pointing out that Symon's job is repetitive and dull and asking if he'd thought about finding a better one. Or his observation to Tony that "You're very short". But they all seem to respond to that no frills approach really well.

I forgot about that and yes, he could be quite rude at times and also very personal in the nature of some of the questions he asked. However, he did seem to strike up a genuine rapport with many of the participants and they seemed comfortable with discussing all aspects of their lives with him.

In a way it would be a shame for a long-running film series like this to end, and somehow the idea of a 70 Up feels very important because of the digit. I'd certainly like to see occasional updates about the remaining willing participants. It's a known entity with brand recognition, so it's quite possible it will continue.
I really think a 70 Up is a must, even if the series has to end at that point. The round number would make a natural point of conclusion for the series.
 

Mel O'Drama

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I started mid way through when they were young adults and watched the earlier parts retrospectively so my views of then as young children was coloured by how I felt about them as adults.

This has made me ponder how each documentary plays independently, such as whether someone who only watches one of the later documentaries would find it satisfying because of the clips from earlier films.

The way I'm watching at the moment feels very in harmony with my other current scheduling. With the last episode approaching I've been regularly tuning in to Neighbours for the first time in several decades, and I'm seeing these characters who I remember being teenagers and twenty-somethings now in their fifties with different priorities and responsibilities. Some traits are very recognisable but I can also clearly see change and growth. It's fascinating to put the pieces together and map out how they got from there to here based on the limited information I have.

It's similar to those friends and relatives I see very infrequently, or physically seeing people after lockdown. The changes in them are far more noticeable than they would be if I saw them every week.


However, he did seem to strike up a genuine rapport with many of the participants and they seemed comfortable with discussing all aspects of their lives with him.

I'm very curious about the process. I've read that each participant's interview took two days per film averaging six hours in total, but I'm more interested to see if there's any kind of hierarchy to the relationship. Obviously when they first met him, they were very young and he would have been an adult and quite possible a kind of authority figure to them. It can be hard to change that kind of foundation, so I'm already wondering how it will shift as they head into middle age. Will they challenge him more or become more revealing because they view him as an old friend.


I really think a 70 Up is a must, even if the series has to end at that point. The round number would make a natural point of conclusion for the series.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think you're right. I suppose we only have four years to wait to see if it happens.
 

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This has made me ponder how each documentary plays independently, such as whether someone who only watches one of the later documentaries would find it satisfying because of the clips from earlier films.
That's how it was for me. I watched either 28 Up or 35 Up (I can remember which) without any prior knowledge of the series and still found it fascinating, so much so that I keen to watch repeats of the previous programmes for completeness and to gixe greater context to subsequent episodes.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think you're right. I suppose we only have four years to wait to see if it happens.

Ideally, I think the programme should end when they all die because the series is a chronicle of their lives so for completeness it should cover all of their lives. Maybe they could do a follow up show many years after 70 Up with their families talking about them retrospectively and what their lives were like at the end.
 
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Mel O'Drama

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I vaguely rememebr watching something about the show a good few years back

Oh my. I'm starting to feel in a minority of Telly Talkers who hadn't seen it before. Which is great, because I'm enjoying everyone sharing their histories with the series.




Ideally, I think the programme should end when they all die because the series is a chronicle of their lives so for completeness it should cover all of their lives.

The thought that a group of people's entire lives could end up being documented every seventh year from birth to death is quite mindblowing. It would surely be a first. I've seen the term "groundbreaking" associated with this series quite a bit, but really it's an understatement of its scope and uniqueness.
 

Mel O'Drama

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28 Up was the first film in the series where I found myself feeling not just curious but excited to see what everyone has been up to so it really felt like a reunion. It helps that I've finally started retaining many of the names. I suppose it's easier to distinguish between adults than children.

After seeing them discover themselves in 21, the majority of participants have settled down and married in the intervening years. Indeed, most of these seem to have happened closer to 21 than 28. It's slightly ironic - and a little depressing - that after a very short time as adult individuals their lives have more similarities than ever. Not that I have anything against relationships and marriage for anyone at any age should they choose. I just find it surprising that the majority have married by their mid-twenties which I think represents the more conservative society of the time where there was perhaps more pressure or expectation to do so, and so less choice (and things have come back round. Marriage seems fashionable once again).

The Eighties fashions do little to help the conservative imagery, and the women look especially matronly with their tight perms and pleated skirts. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the cars on the streets, and sights like a Mark II Cavalier have helped this instalment to feel particularly modern compared with the previous one. We're now in an era that I have clearer memories of experiencing which helps me feel connected to it.

In some cases, the stability of this era is particularly touching. Paul and Symon in particular are flourishing in their new lives. It's so lovely to see both so settled and growing so much in confidence and happiness. Hearing about Paul's Western Australia road trip with his wife, one really got the sense of them as a loving couple who really support one another. It feels even more solid since I believe his wife is the same partner he had in 21. Meanwhile, Symon's grounded outlook is wonderful. Saying that he didn't care about money because he has everything he wants felt like the perfect rebuttal to Apsted's comments about his job in the previous film. And his comment that his children already had everything he didn't because they have a father was very poignant. He also called Apsted for repeatedly asking "does "x" worry you". And indeed, he seems among the most contented because he doesn't worry about those things he doesn't need to.

Nick's now working as a nuclear physicist in the States. I think back to Seven Up! where he'd barely set foot outside the Dales, saying he'd been to Leeds but hadn't made it as far as Manchester. Now he's globetrotting. It's incredible, and even more so because of the time when I'm sure it would have been far less commonplace for the average Brit to travel to America. Again, his sense of ease really shone from the screen. His wife didn't come across in a flattering light at all. She seemed to have far more to say than Nick and at times seemed to bulldoze all over him with her vociferous opinion about everything under the sun. I don't know if she was edited to look worse or better, or if this is a truthful picture.

Nick's wife felt like a stark contrast to the warm, relaxed support from other partners, and especially to nervous, quiet Rupert who has married Suzy, now every inch the conservative wife and mother. I love how self-contradictory Suzy is. She only appears in 14 because her parents forced her, but happily returned for 21 where she said she was cynical about marriage and relationships and didn't want that for herself. Then we find out that she married a year or so after making these comments. One thing I did pick up on was her comment that travel and meeting people has broadened her mind, which I like to think shows she's left her "I've never met a coloured person and I hope I never do" attitude far behind her. It's also a little touching to hear her admit that she hated pre-preparatory school and felt it negatively impacted her, since that's where we first met her. Her modest country pile on the outskirts of Bath does make it that much more difficult to relate to her (in fact it's a little sickening that a 28 year old can live this way after dropping out of school at 16 and taking some time out in Paris) but it's fascinating all the same.

It's disappointing not to see John and Charles. I had read about one of the participants dropping out for good, which I now understand to be Charles. I'm sad about this because he was one of the more intriguing 21-ers due to veering away from his chosen path. Apart from finding him likeable, I really wanted to see who he became and how his choices impacted his life for better or worse. John is the most surprising absentee since he's the one who has consistently seemed very at home in the TV medium. He certainly spoke very articulately and was certainly a character. I'm hoping he'll return for a future instalment.

Their absence has been a nice opportunity to get to know Andrew a little better. Post Seven Up! he'd stood out to me less, slightly cancelled out by the more vocal Charles, and the non-conformist John. He does come across as a very nice guy.

Jackie and her friends feel among the most level headed of the group. They've got their work/home/social balance and seem to retain good connections. There's little to say about them other than it's always good to catch up with them.

Tony is the other constant. He's just always Tony and still recognisable from the "monkey" in Seven Up!. He's grown into an archetypal East End cheeky chappie cabbie, and the wife and kids haven't changed that at all. There's still all the banter and self-promotion. This time round, there's bad acting thrown into the mix. "He's a terrible actor" says his coach, and it's easy to understand why. Tony shines on camera when he's being interviewed, but because he's never anything other than Tony in any situation, it's going to be almost impossible for him to be someone else. I do wonder how his daughter will feel if she ever watches 21 and hears him express his desire for a "baby son" as the only thing he wants.

Peter has been a quiet part of this series for me. Always engaging, but never showy. He's seemed overshadowed by more forceful characters at times but is emerging as someone who has quietly moved his life forward in a very constructive way. Given his comments in 21 about the atmosphere in Neil's home and the pressure on Neil from his parents being teachers it's a little surprising to find he's now teaching. Peter made some of the most politically edgy comments in 28, possibly shooting his budding career in the foot by commenting that most of what kids learn at school is useless and criticising Thatcher's nasty Government. I'd like to have heard more about this from other participants, but I suppose the Thatcher influence is evident in other ways.

Bruce became a favourite in 21 and I continue to applaud him in 28. I love that he walks the walk when it comes to following up his beliefs, by living a life that has meaning for him. His choice to teach at Tony's old East End school feels very powerful because it is a choice. It's so good to see the ease with which he speaks to the kids in his class. His path makes me suspect he's been profoundly influenced by the impact of the children's meeting in Seven Up!

Neil's section seemed to be the longest at close to half an hour, and deservedly so. If any of the participants would warrant their own spin-off it's Neil. His journey has been a very powerful and unexpected one. The happy, middle class child in Seven Up! effectively opting out of life, living in squats and hitchhiking to remote parts of the UK in order to get away from people as much as possible (I'm fairly sure this is the first time we've visited a UK nation outside of England, and the Western Scottish Highlands look absolutely stunning here and make the higher definition Blu-ray worth the investment). His mental health struggles, implicit in 21 are to a degree voiced aloud in 28. Shaking and rocking as he speaks, we hear about his erratic moods and the flare-ups of his temper for reasons not evident to those around him. He tells us he's seen doctors but hasn't received treatment, leaving me to think he's either been misdiagnosed, given the wrong treatment or simply refused treatment. As he said, sick people want to get as far away from doctors as possible and it seems he most values the occasional kindness from a random stranger. He's the participant I feel most worried about, because he seems so isolated... as though he's been failed by the world. I really hope good things come his way and I'm a little nervous to know how he'll be in 35 Up.
 

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Last night I watched 35 Up and the beginning of 42 Up. As I haven't finished 42 I'll try and stick mainly to the earlier episode, but I'm sure there'll be some overlap.

I do really enjoy the soapy element of catching up on the gossip with them all. If the themes for 28 were marriage and birth, 35 has a definite air of midlife, with divorce and bereavement in the air.

With Jackie, Lynn and Sue, at least two of them are now divorced (it could be all three but I couldn't swear. It seems I wasn't paying enough attention), and Jackie now has a child from a post-marriage fling with someone. They're as level headed and consistent as ever. The dynamics of these three is always interesting. The more I watch, the more struck I am with how conservative Sue is. From an early age she was kind of the saucepot of the three - the prettiest one who probably got the most admiring glances from men, and she seemed very comfortable with herself which often suggests someone who's a bit more relaxed and liberal. But again and again she's expressed different views that are very traditional and conformist. She was the last of the three to marry, but she also expressed the view that marriage and children go hand in hand for her. Lynn has a bit of an attitude. Both she and Jackie are blunt, but Lynn can feel more prickly with hers and almost defensive, especially when it comes to discussing money and class. She seems very giving and I love how dedicated she is to her library work and introducing kids to books. Jackie is probably in between the two somewhere, but she usually comes across as the strongest personality.

It's interesting to see that Nick's wife wouldn't do either 35 or 42, having been unhappy with how her appearance in 28 went down. It seems there were lots of naysayers predicting that the marriage wouldn't last and she blames the programme makers. Nick's being as diplomatic as ever. He looks so incredibly settled in his new life and looks ridiculously good with a moustache in 35. I was very much reminded of John Slattery as Howard Stark in Iron Man 2.

The more I see of Suzy the more I like her. She seems to most clearly get across the impact having to live with the ghost of the series can have. She's another who has experience bereavement and is putting her life experience to good use in 42 with her bereavement counselling. It hasn't been shown a great deal but I'm intrigued by the relationship between Suzy and her son who has learning difficulties. I get the sense she hasn't coped with it very well at times and she mentions it's a love/hate relationship because of the problems they had from birth (presumably before she understood that he had learning difficulties). It does seem she and Rupert are putting the kids' interests first and life in their pretty new village seems nice and relatively simple.

Bruce is now doing an exchange at a school overseas, in a place where many of his students hail from. As close to missionary work as he's got. He's likeable as always though one feels he's somewhat anguished and tormented a lot of the time. Pressed about his lack of a love life, Apted points out "You're getting on a bit" like a critical parent tapping their feet and waiting for the grandchild. I can't help feeling Bruce is somewhat struggling with his sexuality. In every film from 14 onwards it's felt like the elephant in the room, and I note he also uses gender neutral pronouns when speaking about his brief affairs or waiting for the right person to come along. I may be wrong, and even if I'm not it's entirely possible he'll either marry a woman or simply never talk about his love life. Whatever happens, I hope he finds his peace with himself.

Tony's marriage seems interesting in that it's clear he's not going to change his laddish ways. In all three episodes since he's had the kids, his wife comments how she's the one who's handled a lot of responsibilities such as disciplining them, which Tony then undermines. In 35 he talks about going on golfing holidays abroad and implies there's temptation there (though his tone also suggests he wants us and his wife to believe he's resisted). His wife's face is very telling and it's clear it's a sore subject. In 42 they're still married, but the infidelity is now overt. And of course, it's because she caught him. And of course, it was only once. When asked why she forgave him, his wife says it's because of their responsibilities with the kids, and Tony nods enthusiastically remembering he has a family now that it's in his interests. I feel sorry for her. Tony's bad acting is paying off, with some clips of him playing a cheeky chappie cab driver in The Bill (the cab rolls forward while he's saying his one line) and a cheeky chappie customer in Children's ITV comedy Spatz (oh - I used to watch that!).

Andrew is an extremely likeable fellow, and John made a brief return for 35, mainly to promote a cause in which he's involved politically. He's exactly who and where I'd have expected him to be based on Seven Up!

It was really nice to see Paul bringing his family to London to visit his roots. He's built such a nice life for himself and the stability in his life continues to be something I cheer.

I missed both Symon and Peter in 35. Neither was really mentioned, which seemed a glaring omission as a brief update would have been nice. In 42 Symon's back and mentions his mother died in 1990, so I'm guessing that was why he didn't want to do 35. In 42 Symon has a completely new family and it seems his divorce was acrimonious and his children from his first marriage haven't forgiven him. I'm sure we're only getting part of the story. The situation feels particularly disappointing given his comments in 28 about giving his children a father.

Here's hoping Peter will appear in 42 Part 2.

Oh, I do worry about Neil. It's lovely to see him involved in what looks like a supportive community on the Shetland Islands, which suits his need for isolation while still allowing him to find interests like the am dram. And he has the stability of a council flat. But he actually looked so much more frail in 35 than he did in 28, where I thought he looked well, even if he didn't feel it. It's clear his mental health is declining in some areas, and he's rejected help. As always, of all the participants I'm most curious to see where he'll be in Part 2 of 42.
 

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Intriguing. Seems it could go either way.

For me, part of the problem of the post-28 episodes was that they were too truncated, trying to fit everything into the same limited running time as the earlier chapters -- at least, that's my memory of 35 and 42. But I haven't seen the later chapters at all, so I assume the time-crunch issue has been remedied.
 

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For me, part of the problem of the post-28 episodes was that they were too truncated, trying to fit everything into the same limited running time as the earlier chapters -- at least, that's my memory of 35 and 42.

That was certainly the case with 35, which is under two hours: twenty minutes shorter than the previous instalment.

There are also a lot of recaps which is understandable since they aired years apart, but it adds to the feeling that there's not as much "new" material and consequently we spend less time with the participants as they are at the time of filming.

It doesn't help that exactly the same few clips from Seven Up! have been reused in the last few instalments, which feels very repetitive when watching them so close together. I think earlier films were a little more thorough in picking out archive clips which tied in with a theme or comment in the new footage.



But I haven't seen the later chapters at all, so I assume the time-crunch issue has been remedied.

42 is only a few minutes longer than 28, but that's a definite improvement on 35's running time. 28 felt luxuriously long.
 

Angela Channing

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28 Up was the first film in the series where I found myself feeling not just curious but excited to see what everyone has been up to so it really felt like a reunion. It helps that I've finally started retaining many of the names. I suppose it's easier to distinguish between adults than children.
Having read your review of 28 Up I think this was the first episode I watched. I went into it with no prior knowledge of the characters although I had heard of the show and its premise. What first fascinated me about it was how interesting it was to see ordinary people living what was in most cases just ordinary lives.

Tony is the other constant. He's just always Tony and still recognisable from the "monkey" in Seven Up!. He's grown into an archetypal East End cheeky chappie cabbie, and the wife and kids haven't changed that at all. There's still all the banter and self-promotion. This time round, there's bad acting thrown into the mix. "He's a terrible actor" says his coach, and it's easy to understand why. Tony shines on camera when he's being interviewed, but because he's never anything other than Tony in any situation, it's going to be almost impossible for him to be someone else. I do wonder how his daughter will feel if she ever watches 21 and hears him express his desire for a "baby son" as the only thing he wants

Tony is very watchable and why he was one of my favourite characters on the show. He always seemed very comfortable chatting on camera, in fact he seemed to relish the limelight. He also is brutally honest and open and quite happy to discuss any aspect of his life which makes him so captivating to watch.

Neil's section seemed to be the longest at close to half an hour, and deservedly so. If any of the participants would warrant their own spin-off it's Neil. His journey has been a very powerful and unexpected one. The happy, middle class child in Seven Up! effectively opting out of life, living in squats and hitchhiking to remote parts of the UK in order to get away from people as much as possible (I'm fairly sure this is the first time we've visited a UK nation outside of England, and the Western Scottish Highlands look absolutely stunning here and make the higher definition Blu-ray worth the investment). His mental health struggles, implicit in 21 are to a degree voiced aloud in 28. Shaking and rocking as he speaks, we hear about his erratic moods and the flare-ups of his temper for reasons not evident to those around him. He tells us he's seen doctors but hasn't received treatment, leaving me to think he's either been misdiagnosed, given the wrong treatment or simply refused treatment. As he said, sick people want to get as far away from doctors as possible and it seems he most values the occasional kindness from a random stranger. He's the participant I feel most worried about, because he seems so isolated... as though he's been failed by the world. I really hope good things come his way and I'm a little nervous to know how he'll be in 35 Up.
While most of the participants at this stage were conforming to societal norms and expectations, (in work, marriage, children, divorce, etc.) Neil's life was the most unpredictable and from purely an entertainment point of view, the most engrossing to watch. Seeing him homeless after seeing clips of him in earlier episodes was shocking and his mental state seemed fragile and deteriorating. I remember at the front feeling worried for him and was genuinely concerned if he would survive to participate in the next update.
 

Angela Channing

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I do really enjoy the soapy element of catching up on the gossip with them all. If the themes for 28 were marriage and birth, 35 has a definite air of midlife, with divorce and bereavement in the air.
The series is a bit like a cross between a soap opera and a reality show before reality shows were a thing.

I missed both Symon and Peter in 35. Neither was really mentioned, which seemed a glaring omission as a brief update would have been nice. In 42 Symon's back and mentions his mother died in 1990, so I'm guessing that was why he didn't want to do 35. In 42 Symon has a completely new family and it seems his divorce was acrimonious and his children from his first marriage haven't forgiven him. I'm sure we're only getting part of the story. The situation feels particularly disappointing given his comments in 28 about giving his children a father.

What I do like about the series is how some characters declined to take part in a particular year but later agreed to participate in a future programme. It's a bit like a relative or a friend that you lose touch with over time and later your paths cross and you have a big catch up session.
 
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