Large casts and overlapping storylines are essential features of several cult American imports currently on our screens, but the British television was doing it in Auf Wiederselzen, Pet ten years ago, as Paul Marshall remembers.
When the Berlin Wall came down. the cameras caught a glimpse of the spray-painted legend: ‘Built by Germans — demolished by ()z!‘ So while the rest of us toasted the end of the Cold War. the producers of Auf Wierlerse/ie/i. I’e/ congratulated themselves on their own achievement. it hardly mattered that the critics had universally praised the writing and acting; what counted was that the show had entered the popular consciousness. It had become a TV Classic. A recap for younger audience members. The story centres on Dennis. Neville and ()7... three Newcastle brickies disillusioned with life on the dole during mid-80s Britain. who set off for Dusseldorf to find casual work in the building trade. Living on-site in communal barracks reminiscent of Hogan Iv Heroes and led by a foreman straight out of Dad Ir Army. the Geordie lads team up with four fellow Brits and imtnediately dub themselves the Magnificent Seven. Saving up their Dcutschmarks to send back home to wives and girlfriends. they graft every hour to rebuild,
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the first place.
‘ Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: away the lads!
houses which. as ()7. puts it. his grandad flattened in
The series was a huge success when it was first shown back in l983. dtie in large part to the bantering script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the team who brought us such classics as Porridge and The Likely Luz/s. This is reason enough to welcome the series back. but it‘s also neatly timed to catch the sudden wave of interest in 80s telly.
More than a decade on. we enjoy looking back on the television from whence we catne with a post- modern smirk. (Classic lfus/lim/ers and the
continuous diet of not-so-golden oldies fed to us by UK Gold are jttst two examples of this appetite.) We think of ourselves as viewers these days and watch the shows with the same drop-jawed gawp we reserve for photos of ourselves or loved ones in New Romantic blouson and mascara. Next to this. An] ivlt'tlt'I’.\'(’/I(’Ii. l’e/ has the extra pull of a cast. then all unknowns. who went on to become household
Ron Wood look a like Gary Holton as Wayne found rock ’n’ roll fame by taking a fatal drug overdose during filming of the second series.
' Jimmy Nail. who plays ignorant but hilarious ()1. (a cross between Alf Garnett and Yosser Hughes)
I originally auditioned for a minor role. and now look at him; sex symbol. acclaimed screenplay writer. country singer (ahem!). Kevin Whately. so young
5 and wide-eyed as Neville, went on to be Morsc‘s older but just as wide-eyed sidekick. Timothy Spall (nasal Barry from Birmingham) is in just about every sitcom. but he's in good stuff too like l’rmzk Stubby. And then there was Ron Wood look a like Gary Holton (Wayne) who found rock 'n‘ roll fame by taking a fatal drug overdose during filming of the second series.
Auj' ll/ieilerse/ien. l’er was an ensemble piece with no stars about a bunch of working class lads in Germany. but the unpromising set-up turned into an inspired classic. Like the writers‘ previous creations -- Likely Lads Bob and Terry; Fletcher and Mr Mackay from I’m-ridge - the humour comes from great characters. excellent one-liners and an undeniable pathos. Fans of good comedy drama and students of 80s zeitgeist should make a date with Moxey. ()z. Bomber and the rest. Away the lads!
T/Iejirsl series (if/inf ll/I'erlerise/1e11, Pet is repeated ()II Channel 4. Slur/ng .S'uItm/(tv // Mare/I at 9pm.
W Heady nights
It could so easily smack of tokenism - an attempt to put female names up in lights, or at least on rolling credits. BBC Scotland’s trilogy of one-woman plays, Lambrusco flights is billed as a showcase of female Scottish writing and acting talent. If it sounds like a wimmin’s thing, that is because it is - but it is much more besides.
The title suggests blurred memories of cheap booze and furtive pleasure and like the wine, these three short monologues deal with a potent mix of fantasy and reality. The difference is that Lambrusco flights leaves its audience with a clear head, not a feeling it would rather forget. Each play bares the soul of a woman - Elaine c. Smith’s character is beaten by a brutish husband and Anne Kristen plays a woman coming to terms with
her drug addict grandson’s death.
Kicking off will be writer Aileen Ritchie’s bitter-sweet comedy Icing On The Cake. Starring Libby McArthur as Mary, it is the video diary of a bride- to-be desperate to shed the stones before her big day. Chocolate laxative binging, frantic exercise bike sessions and accounts of a fluctuating waistband all make this a ‘confessions of a dieter’ home movie, but its appeal goes much wider than expected.
Funny and poignant, it comes straight from the heart. ‘I got married about two years ago and I remember thinking brides aren’t fat, there’s no such thing,’ says Ritchie. The immense pressures exerted by an industry selling fairytales are the focus of Mary’s traumas, but Ritchie hopes the film highlights the tendency of women - and increasingly men — to become prey to image-mongering.
flow 32, Ritchie started out as an actress in Glasgow and felt the desperate lack of roles for young
women who did not fit into rigid, size 10 roles. In her early twenties, she was advised to give up and begin writing. She has got her own back by creating a strong, life-sized role which libby McArthur fills splendidly. Similarly, Lambrusco flights is a
Libby McArthur in Icing On The Cake
vehicle to let Scottish talent on both sides of the camera flourish. (Kathleen Morgan)
lambrusco flights begins at 10pm on Wednesday 20 March on 8802.