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63 Up, ITV review - age is beginning to wither them | reviews, news & interviews

63 Up, ITV review - age is beginning to wither them

63 Up, ITV review - age is beginning to wither them

Michael Apted's celebrated series finds his subjects taking stock

Cab driver Tony battles the Uber menace

The first film in this extraordinary series, Seven Up!, was made for Granada Television’s World in Action in 1964. It picked 14 seven-year-old British children from different social backgrounds, aiming to revisit them every seven years to see how their lives were progressing. Paul Almond directed the first programme, but ever since this has been Michael Apted’s baby.

The slow, methodical progress of the series down the decades has meant that it has steadily accumulated a strange power, as these lives of others have in some ways become merged with our own. Those original seven-year-olds are now 63 (Apted is 78), and mortality is beginning to intrude. One subject, Lynn, died in 2013, and in this first of three new films on ITV Apted revisited Nick, who’s suffering from throat cancer. Nevertheless, Nick has found that age has brought some rewards. A farmer’s son from the Yorkshire dales, he studied physics at Oxford and then moved to the USA for a career in nuclear research. By the time he was 42 he’d become a full professor, but had to change tack when “nuclear” became a dirty word. Now married to second wife Chris, and with a teaching job he loves, he’d be in an idyllic place if it wasn’t for his illness. “I’m focused on fairly short-term futures at the moment,” he admitted.

Class differences were always part of the Up story, and Apted re-introduced us to posh, entitled Andrew. An insufferable Little Lord Fauntleroy in his youth, with a gilded future mapped out – Charterhouse public school, Cambridge, a partnership in a prestigious law firm – he somehow made the smart decision to marry Jane, not some Tatler debutante but “a good Yorkshire lass”, as she put it. Andrew seemed almost ashamed of the supercilious twerp he used to be, and regrets that his work too often crowded out his family life. He’s now doing his best to make up for lost time.

Times haven’t been easy for London cabbie Tony. He became a cab driver after his early aspiration to become a jockey didn’t work out, then bought an apartment in Spain and tried to launch his own sports bar. It was scuppered by a plunging local economy and forced him back home and back behind the wheel, only to find Uber devouring the taxi market. Yet despite health scares and a Britain cursed by the divide between “them and us”, he’s now enjoying life in the countryside with wife Debbie. He voted for Brexit, but is now so disgusted by the Tories that he reckons he’ll vote Green next time.

Another East Ender, Sue (pictured above), has a successful career as a university administrator, and having been married once is quite happy living with long-term partner Glenn. She’s philosophical about growing older but thinks life has got harder for younger generations. She appreciates why the Up programmes have made such addictive viewing. “It’s a lifelong achievement to be part of this programme,” she reflected. “The things we go through are what everyone’s going through.” It’s the real reality TV.

The things we go through are what everyone’s going through

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Andrew's wife spoke about not being a "haughty deb", not an 'atler debutante'.

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