Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part Two

One of my favourite programmes of the 1990s, This Life, was back for a one-off special the other night, This Life +10 (so called because it's now been 10 years since the series' original run). Hence another reason to be happy.

Okay then, just in case you don't know what This Life is about, I will be very kind and provide a brief resume. The original series was about a group of twenty-something lawyers who shared a house in South London. A boring sounding premise (it must be the word "lawyers") but fortunately the programme was anything but. It was basically a high-quality soap that focussed on the lives and loves of the young, ahem, lawyers, their relationships, entanglements and ups and downs (emotionally as well as in the bedroom - this was a pretty explicit show).

Another of the programme's strengths was it's naturalism - although obviously a fictional piece of drama, it was filmed in a very "normal" way with a constantly roving camera and the conversations between the characters were down to earth and believable, almost like real life.

And the main characters (in spite of the fact that they were lawyers) were a fascinating bunch. There was Miles, the athletic, classically good looking barrister who was a bit of a lothario and also homophobe (although thankfully this last bit didn't go unchallenged). Anna was a junior barrister from Scotland, a sultry babe with with a scathing, sarcastic intelligence and wit and also a tendency toward self-destructiveness. Her and Miles enjoy a major love/hate relationship throughout the series and the attraction between them both is undeniable. Unfortunately they go on fancying each other when Miles becomes engaged to someone else and even sh*g, Miles confessing that he loves her. Egg (played by the cute and hunky Andrew Lincoln) is the misfit of the bunch. He drops out of his law career and becomes a cook. Something of a dreamer and a footie fan, he is in a relationship with Milly, who is far more serious about practising law, a hard-working girl and also a fairly serious soul. However her treatment of Egg is not exactly exemplary when she goes and sleeps with her boss, O'Donnell (leading to a great cliff-hanger to the second series). And Warren is the token gay character from Wales, who is still coming to terms with his sexuality and regularly visits a therapist. Unfortunately he gets arrested for cruising in a park and is sacked from his job. He decides to go to Australia, leaving sort-of-old-flame, Ferdy, to take his place in the shared house. Ferdy is an interesting proposition: a bisexual motorcycle courier who ends up having an affair with a ginger-haired plumber who visits the house.

Phew. That was a rather more than a "brief" summary wasn't it? Oh and the other groundbreaking thing about the show was its pretty graphic sex scenes, Ferdy and the Plumber notwithstanding. We got to see more than a fair share of bums, willies and boobs during the programme's run. It made tuning in all the more worthwhile.

What about the Reunion Special then? Well, all of the original cast were back and considering the 10 year gap I thought they all slipped back into their roles pretty well, remaining faithful to the original characters (of course there were some personality changes but that's bound to happen over 10 years, no-one stays exactly the same do they?) Anna was her usual sour, wise-cracking self and all the more brilliant for it. Miles, now (apparently) a millionaire with a huge country mansion, was still arrogant and cocky.

The special kicked off with Miles, Anna, Egg, Milly and Warren all meeting up at Ferdy's funeral (although it wasn't really specified how he'd carked it, a pity). The group then learn that Egg has written a best-selling book based on their previous time together and is also being filmed for a fly-on-the-wall documentary. The quintet organise a formal reunion at Miles' country pad, with a female documentary director in tow.

The documentary concept, whilst potentially naff, actually worked quite well I thought. Rather like the Big Brother diary room, there were some revealing scenes in which individual characters sat on their own, delivering their own monologues to the camera, expressing their thoughts, feelings and frustrations about themselves and their friends. At other times though, the presence of the camera seemed too voyeuristic and intrusive, the director taking every opportunity to turn the lens on the characters' most private and personal conversations, which was painful to watch.

I also enjoyed the interaction between the characters and there were some good dramatic scenes. The tension between Miles and Anna was still present and eventually they sh*g again (in spite of the fact that Miles is now married). However, they finally both come to recognise, in spite of their mutual attraction, that a relationship between them will never work. But why wasn't it explained how Milly and Egg had reconciled after her fling with O'Donnell and Egg found out what had been going on (thanks to an over zealous workmate called Rachel who blabbed all to Egg)?? Old Milly must have had some pretty good powers of persuasion. The irony was that by the time of this special episode, it was Milly that had reason to be p*ssed off with Egg, with his constant focus on writing a new novel and subsequent negligence of her and their relationship.

There was also a good sense of naturalism in the conversations and dialogue like in the old series. However as a one hour and twenty minutes special things did get a bit wearing after a while. And there were a few too many farcical elements to proceedings e.g. Milly falling off Miles' horse; Warren apparently overdosing on drugs; Egg falling in a lake.

As a fellow blogger of mine has commented, the episode didn't feel quite right in a country environment. The original series took place almost entirely in London and the urban setting, with so many scenes set in offices, bars and clubs as well as the shared house in Southwark, felt more real than this.

And by the end one couldn't thinking - what a bunch of self-involved, naval-gazing people they all were!! I think one of the problems was that the special only really focussed on the five main characters without anyone else for them to interact with (the only other people were the female director and Miles' wife who was absent during most of the action). This rendered things rather claustrophobic and "samey" - it was just the same bunch of characters talking, bickering and arguing, and by the climax this HAD got tiresome.

On reflection then, This Life +10 was generally entertaining but I don't think I could hack another whole series of the same stuff. One special was enough in itself, and although there were some good aspects to the reunion, the programme has definitely run its course!

Still, it's made me want to rent out or even buy the original series on DVD and re-live all the good bits. Like Ferdy and the plumber and Milly punching that nasty, manipulative cow Rachel...you go girl!


  • At 2:40 am , Blogger matty said...

    You know, as I read this --- I do think I might have seen a couple of the original episodes on BBC America several years ago. I enjoyed what I saw! Wild that it over 10 years old.

    ...oh no.

    I'm old.

  • At 8:59 am , Blogger Minge said...

    I think the reason it fell down was because it was a special. It might have worked as a series without trying to cram too much in all at once. And the documentary vehicle was a bit silly. It lacked a credible story, the only one being that they'd got older, got boring, got more miserable.

  • At 10:15 am , Blogger Lost Boy said...

    The dialogue read as if it had been originally written down on the backs of crisp packets and copies of Jackie. Amy Jenkins should have her hands chopped off. Glad you enjoyed it, though.

  • At 1:27 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Matty - yes time flies. Scarey. You would like the series though, I think. Kind of like a grittier, London-based version of Tales of the City (perhaps with a bit less zaniness).

    Minge - yeah, I see your point there. All of the situations with the characters were kind of rushed and could have been better developed. But do you think we all get old, boring and miserable as the years go by? (Perish the thought!!)

    Lost Boy - lol, well you're entitled to your opinion! I didn't think it was as bad as that, I've heard worse dialogue in my time.

  • At 11:36 am , Blogger Chig said...

    Hi. I saw your comments on this on Lost In London, and I'm with you! I think I agree with everything you say here as well. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the reunion show. It was pretty much everything I expected, but I hope that's now an end to it, because it tied up the loose ends quite nicely.

  • At 12:28 pm , Blogger Boz said...

    I thought it was good. I just don't think we're ready to acccept a different resolution to the original episodes though.

    Apocalypse Wow.

  • At 8:04 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Chig - thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the reunion and I too don't really see the need for any more. Let's leave 'em to it, eh? Had a look at your blog too which looks interesting!

    Boz - Not totally sure about what you mean by a different resolution, am I being dense?


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