Favourite TV Series- British Social History Dramas
-Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes-
Absolutely brilliant. Funny, dramatic and fantastic characterisation. One of the best made series ever seen and find that I still miss the characters. It can be classified as science fiction also. The series is a trip back in time for a modern day policeman, Sam Tyler played by John Simm. He is transported back to the 70's, the era of Sweeney policing where police brutality, racism and sexism was commonplace. In this, an array of colourful and uncultured characters feature, none moreso than Gene Hunt. A great character with some of the funniest lines, he is a misogynistic pig but despite all his bravado you just can't help but like him. It is a big shock for Tyler who is used to things so, so and done right- it is a whole different world. Tyler joins Hunt's team that includes three other central characters in Chris, Ray and Annie together they work- not always harmoniously to solve the crimes of Manchester. There is a-lot more going on than meets the eye.
Ashes to Ashes, the follow up series, pushes forward a decade and includes Gene, Ray and Chris amongst a-few others from the first series. Sam and Annie are no longer in the programme and instead DCI Alex Drake enters this strange world. The characters of Hunt and Ray are calmer and less brutal in this series but none of the humour is left out. The team relocates from Manchester to London in this one. A new city, new crimes and even dodgier criminals.
The characters, attention to detail, smart one liners, cleverness of the plot and the way that this ties together at the end make this a unique and unbelievable series. The music is spot on and adds a-lot to the programme as a whole and its authenticity. I watched episodes with my mum and she recognised lots of the products, sayings etc in the programme from when she was growing up. Could not recommend this any higher- just make sure that you get the British and not the American version!
-Boys from the Blackstuff-
If you hate scouse accents this is definitely not one for you! This is another social history drama, produced by Alan Bleasdale and is set during the 70's and 80's. It is set in Liverpool and Thatcher's Britain (some of the series is pre-Thatcher). It follows a group of working class men who worked on the roads, surfacing them with tar but like many found themselves unemployed. The series fully captures the bleakness and sense of fear, disappointment and social unrest that plagued Britain at this time. The helplessness and shame of people finding themselves out of work is laid bare. It is uncompromising.
A dark comedy as such, the characters themselves are very real. Was interested to learn that this was initially a play and upon seeing the potential Bleasdale expanded it to the television screen. The character of Yosser Hughes played by Bernhard Hill is one of my personal favourite characters in television. Yosser sums up the time well, an ordinary man once full of confidence, humour and self confidence is driven to have a nervous breakdown. He is very much the central character and one that you are drawn to. There is no doubting Hill is the star of the show. I wasn't even alive to see the series when it was originally aired and from what has been read it had a massive impact on British society. It was groundbreaking, easily accessible and certainly something people could relate well to. Moving television, so evocative and the tinge of Scouse humour and wit is prevalent. The humorous side is important and from what I am aware is true to the people of Liverpool.
-Our Friends in the North-
The BBC does it again, fantastic cast in this. Including Christopher Eccelstone, Daniel Craig, Mark Strong and Gina McKee. Our Friends in the North follows a group of friends: Nicky, Geordie, Mary and Tosker throughout various stages of their lives. It is about life, growing up and getting old. Political slant due to the character played by Christopher Eccelstone's involvement there. Miners strikes, socio-political problems explored and it gives you a sense of what it was like to live through those times. The times in question being the years 1964-1995 and the series is set in Newcastle and London. The same actors are kept throughout and they are just aged as it progresses. To promote/describe the series is the following quote:- "Three decades, four friends and the world that shaped their lives" sum it up. It is what it is, simple, rich, fantastic characters and great attention to detail.
One of my favourite continual themes of the series was Nicky's (played by Eccelstone), troubled and strained relationship with his father. As he gets older things do change but it was very real, interesting and depicted to great effect by the pair. Geordie is the series tragic character, full of grand plans and a larger than life personality he falls by the wayside. He had a hard start in life and Daniel Craig's flawless acting fully captures all facets of Geordie- the raw and emotional. Similar to Nicky there is a deep lying issue with his father but Geordie's is greater. In the series he appears to be constantly seeking a father figure and he puts himself in jeopardy and pain by placing too much trust in the wrong people. Would regard this as the best television I have ever seen, it is captivating. With the intense focus and scrutiny of every aspect of the central characters lives you get to know them well and therefore get completely absorbed in their respective stories. Mary and Tosker are both as important in the series. Couldn't warm to Tosker as I could to the other characters. He doesn't appear to be as human and is a very strong and successful person. That is not to say that he isn't good or enjoyable though! Mary and Tosker marry and have children, it is unhappy and from the outset you are aware of the true ties between her and Nicky. Loved the character of Mary, she brings a softness and femininity but is a strong and ambitious personality at the same time. A great way to relive or else educate oneself on the goings on in Britain, more than that it is simply an outstanding piece of work from the premise to the writing.