When the misadventures of a group
of British brickies working in Germany became one of the most unexpectedly popular television successes of the 1983-4 season. challenging Minder and Coronation Street for a position at the top of the ratings, it quickly became apparent that Auf Wiedersehen Pet would not remain a one series wonder.
At the conclusion of the ﬁrst series in February 1984 the gang’s hut in Germany burnt to the ground and the magnificent seven brickies dispersed to pursue individual means ofsurviving a continent blitzed by unemployment. The problem lingered of how to plausibly engineer a reunion that would satisfy a multitude of fans and allow scriptwriters Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement the scope to produce a further 13 episodes exploring the humorous side of the British abroad. human nature and the minor hiccoughs ofdaily living. The latter shouldn’t have proved too
AUF WIEDERSEHEN PEr
The sit-com brickies are back on the box. Allan Hunter, on a hot line to LA discusses the new series r Ian La Frenais.
were like prisoner-of-war camps and there was that proud, jingoistic British Stalag 17 mentality. I thought it was a very comic situation.’
La Frenais and Clement also saw the humour in the situation and what was idly proposeed as a two hour television ﬁlm soon burgeoned into a 13 hour drama series. Like the best of the team's humour, the situations are ﬁrmly rooted in realistic settings and acute observations. After all, during 1979-80 there were an estimated 30,0“) British construction workers ‘on the lump’ in Germany. The fact that Clement and La Frenais are based in Los Angeles must surely decrease their ability to observe the minutiae of life in Britain at first hand and thus curtail a fecund source of material. La Frenais counters such thoughts with the air of a man long accustomed to facing such a charge. ‘The actual process of writing is something that can de done anywhere,’ he says, reasonably. ‘We
challenging for such an experienced duo whose previous television credits include The Likely Lads and Porridge. On Friday 21 February the
are over in Britain regularly for ﬁlms i like Water, although perhaps not as ‘ much as one would be normally, but . we were around for the key
first episode of a new series can be seen on S'I'V, starting at 9pm.
In the intervening two years, various rumours about the returning series have surfaced in the press. Central Television was said to be considering a number ofoptions and alternating locations including the Falklands, Spain. England and Saudi Arabia. At one stage there was talk of a feature film or perhaps a series set on board a cruise liner entitled Bon Voyage, Pet. The most oft-reported setting was Spain with a series title of Hasta La Vista, Pet. Other rumours abounded surrounding the appearance of the
entire original cast. Jimmy Nail,
- portrayer of xenophobic slob, 02.
i apparently felt that his newly
: acquired star status, aided by success as a recording artist, deserved more
1 of a pay hike than Central deemed
; appropriate and there was an attempt to concoct storylines that
didn’t involve his character.
Now, however, any problems have been satisfactorily resolved, the cast reunited, including the late Gary Holton, and the new series unfolds in England and Spain. This information comes direct from the horse’s mouth or. at least, from the lips of co-writer Ian La Frenais on the line from Los Angeles, where the duo are based. ‘In writing a second series we knew that we faced a big problem in trying to recreate the same kind of purity that inevitably resides in a first series,‘ he explains. ‘It just wasn’t possible to go back to the same hut and the same situation and begin anew. The first series was set a few years in the past and this one takes place right up to date. We started from the assumption that the group had never kept in touch, apart from Dennis and Neville who live in the same city. Therefore we needed some excuse to bring them together, some social occasion like a funeral or
a wedding so we chose Barry’s wedding. Through a series of flashbacks we learn what has befallen them in the interim. At the
A ova; The ast of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
wedding they realise once again the
, sense ofunity they had enjoyed and how mutual frustrations over
7 unemployment and other things still hold them together. Shortly afterwards they are hired as a unit for ; a temporary job in England by an
; important new character. a somewhat abrasive Glaswegian
: played by that very fine Scottish
' actor, Bill Paterson. Eventually the
‘ work takes them to Spain and I really g don’t want to reveal any more of the
; plot than that.’
' La Frenais‘s reluctance to divulge too many details stems from a slight
change of structure evident in the new series. ‘I’m not being evasive,‘ he assures me as his partner Dick Clement feigns a heart attack in the background. This noise is later explained away as his breathing exercises. (Sounds very Californian). ‘This time it’s really a serial. every episode leads to another i and there is an organic progression.
I We had to stop them putting out the
bloody paperback because if people know what’s going to happen they
Inset: Bill Paterson
might be less inclined to watch the show.’
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was the first original work for British television by Clement and La Frenais in almost five years and won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award as the Best Drama Series of the Year. La Frenais seems at a loss to explain its popularity. ‘It’s extraordinary really, isn‘t it? I don’t know why. It went out in a drama slot but had a fair bit of humour. I think it just worked because of the honesty of the people involved.‘
The idea was brought to them by film director, Franc Roddam, who casually mentioned this notion over lunch one day. He has recalled, ‘One day in 1977, I went back home to this village near Stockton-on-Tees that I come from, and I found that a lot of people I knew were working in Germany as bricklayers and carpenters and living on building sites. A lot were going abroad for the first time in their lives. And they had this vision of Germany based on war movies. The huts they were living in
rehearsals and for some rewrites. Stan Hey did about four episodes this series and he’s our third man in Britain. We went with him to scout locations in Spain. It’s the same production team as last time so we felt secure in their hands.‘
Being based a good few thousand miles from the centre of the action also has its comic disadvantages as Dick Clement once recounted. ‘Although Ian and I didn’t base the characters on people we actually knew, an unemployed brickie friend from the North-east did provide us with valuable assistance. On one occasion, when [an and I were in Hollywood, this chap was waiting for a call from Ian. He was hanging around a phone box at three o‘ clock in the morning (British time), in the middle of West Hartlepool or somewhere when this policeman comes up, taps him on the shoulder and asks him what he’s doing. ‘Waiting for a call from Hollywood, officer.’ The policeman was just about to march him off down to the station, when the phone duly rings and the operator says, ‘is Mick X available to take a call from Hollywood.’ I gather the policeman’s face was a picture.’
The writers are currently collaborating on an as yet untitled film script for Columbia and the partnership seems as solid as any showbusiness union. La Frenais’s recent solo project Love joy continues its present BBC 1 run on Friday nights, providing the other v side’s opposition to the (“'33 imminent return of 4 ' AufWiedersehen, Pet. . He seems uncon- cerned by the comp- etition, bidding farewell from Los Angeles with a cheerful, ‘I hope you enjoy the series.’ Ifthe standard ofthe first 13 shows has been
matter is not in doubt. I»;