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I felt compelled to comment after reading a disparaging comment, I too
from a 'North/South' family with a mix of working and middle class and in
way found this patronising or contrived.
Instead I found a drama that personalised Britain's modern history, which also gave me an anchor of historical facts while watching to really emerse myself in the stories.
I found the characters at times to be self important but this was clearly the intention- Eccleston's character Nicky was self-important and selfish with his views- these are character flaws. This was the brilliance of the length of the series as you become so intimately knowledgeable of the characters. The tragedy of Geordie and the on/off nature of Nicky and Mary's relationship. By the end you feel like you have lived their lives with them, something only achievable with a top notch cast and great script.
I would unreservedly recomend this to anyone, even outside of the UK, as it is quite simply brilliant drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Our Friends In the North is an exceptional drama mini-series that cleverly tells the history of 30 years of British politics through the mid-60's to the mid-90's from the perspectives of four wonderful characters. It is part soap opera but so what? Quality is surely all that matters and, just like the widely regarded Godfather trilogy, this is a wonderful study on family and friends. Regardless, Our Friends cannot be boxed into any one genre because its scope is so broad, encompassing themes that are wide and varied, dealing not only with political milestones such as the three day week and the miners strike but also with police corruption and Soho's pornographic industry. Admittedly there is quite a bit of 'It's year x, so this must be happening' (e.g. '1964? That'll be House of the Rising Sun methinks!') but for the most part I found that, like any history lesson, it was no bad thing as long as it was seamlessly added. Besides, complaining about probably the best ever television soundtrack must rate as one of the all time greatest IMDB nitpicks.
The most important and distinctive aspect of the soap opera elements is that we are not only able to witness the short-term consequences of people's actions but also the long-term consequences. Central to this is how closely all four of the central characters end up resembling their parents whom they had scorned years earlier. Perhaps a more heart-wrenching instance though, despite its inevitability, is the break up of Tosker and Mary's marriage after 15 years, Tosker unable to even muster the courage to tell his own young children why he is leaving.
Another significant difference is that Our Friends boasts some of the finest acting talent around. Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig and Gina McKee, all stars in the making, give breathtaking performances. Mark Strong, as Mary's dim but ambitious husband Tosker, drags the side down but only slightly. Eccleston does another fantastic job as Nicky Hutchinson, turning an unsympathetic character (snobby, opinionated, at times uncaring) into one whom the audience really cares for. We recognise his flaws from our own youths and we also empathise with the self-loathing that accompany all those early flaws in later life. The one big difference between Nicky and the others is that he is often aware of his flaws even when they're leading him down the wrong road. Mary (McKee), on the other hand, perhaps because she has a wheelchair bound younger brother, ends up living life as a martyr and it is only in the last episode when her son angrily points it out to her that she finally realises the truth of it. All four are decent in their own ways though and this not only makes their flaws forgivable but it also makes us care deeply for each one of them. That is particularly true of Geordie (Craig). Brought up in a dysfunctional family he nevertheless has an irresistible charm about him but is sadly far too easily led and ends up paying a high price for his naivety in cutthroat London. He never recovers even though, against all odds, he does see the series to its end. His time in Soho is gripping, giving us a rare glimpse into a seedy yet fascinating society ruled by the equally charming porn baron Benny Barrett (Malcolm McDowell). McDowell's character, arguably not only the best of this series but also of his accomplished career, is a fantastic one being totally at odds with the usual foul-mouthed hard man associated with this type of role. He's not the only British veteran to turn in a marvellous performance though. Peter Vaughn plays Nicky's father Felix, once a voice of the people but now cynical of everything associated with politics after years of broken promises. Vaughn is amazing in the early episodes but even more so latterly as an Alzheimer's sufferer. It's a gruesome site, not only witnessing Felix's sad plight but also seeing how difficult it is for Nicky to handle, particularly his sudden realisation that it is already too late to mend a relationship that has never been on the best of terms.
Our Friends then does at times offer up a pretty depressing view of our own existence particularly as the characters get older. The ideals that most of them harbour in their youths invariably lead to crushing disappointment and subsequent diversion towards the paths of least resistance. To illustrate this point further the conformist majority almost always outgun the likes of P.C. Roy Johnson who retain their principles into old age. So yes, it is a drama that makes it clear that life is tough with no clear-cut resolutions. However if there is one positive aspect to take from this then it is to realise that we should make the most of our times with those whom we love and cherish. Even if it doesn't send that message across to you personally then it shouldn't really matter because, despite its world weary stance, this is nevertheless great entertainment, beautifully told, wonderfully written, fabulously directed and endlessly watchable thanks to having a cast of characters to die for. Far from being the Emperors' New Clothes' of British TV it is actually the knight in shining armour that restored not only my own faith but a lot of other peoples faith in what seemed to be a dying medium.
Brilliant series documenting 4 Geordie's lives, from young adulthood to
middle/old age, and set to a backdrop of politics. More a social
documentary than a mini series, not only on our times but on the
fallibility of the human race.
The acting is outstanding, particularly from Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig and Gina McKee who have all become very successful, in part, no doubt, due to this series.
Combine this with an amazing soundtrack covering over 30 years of great music and it gets even better. The inclusion of Pulp's "Common People" in the final episode is one of the most effective uses of music in film ever! The song builds as the action builds and the crescendo is heartbreaking but so realistic that I challenge you not to cry in despair for our young.
US citizens may find the accents a bit hard to cope with, heck even some Londoner's will struggle, but it is well worth persevering.
Moving, gritty, realistic OFITN is a must-see.
No offence Burrobaggy but the review is stereotypical of people with
historical chips on their shoulder the size of Knots Landing. WAKE UP.
The north east has changed / is changing/ will keep changing. It is not
the outpost of England so "fondly" reconciled by anyone living south of
OK, so it's gritty, grim and depressing at times and the one thing I completely agree with is that the smug McKee is truly vile. But put the history of the program in context - it portrayed things "at the time". And that's exactly what it was - yes - even with the heavy dialogue and accent. Take it for what it was, a portrayal of life when it happened throughout the decades.
I happen to think it was a tremendous series brilliantly created for TV depicting credible characters which you warm to, relate to and sympathise with. Heck you even want to be on the frontline with them battling against the Police for the rights of the Miners (and I never agreed with that dispute!) Having recently rented the series after watching it originally on TV I retained the same feeling on conclusion. It left me feeling sad, fulfilled and wanting more even though that was never going to happen. This is truly an excellent drama. Put aside a weekend, rent it and lock out the world. And whatever you do, don't believe the north east is grim.....
This is one of the very few programs in British TV that actually lived up
the hype. It was billed as one of the best TV drama's we would see and it
delivered. It is the story about a group of friends from Newcastle and how
they grow up from being angry young teenagers to mild middle aged parents.
It starts off in the 60's and finished in the 90's. In that time it
documents the change that they themselves have and the change that the
east had during the 30 years. The rebellious 60's to the 70's strikes and
power shortages and the 80's hard times for working class families dished
out by thatcher.
The series culminates in one of the most unforgettable endings in British dramatic history. Never has and Oasis song been more appropriate. I also have to admit that i cried at the end. This truly was top quality drama from the writing to the acting..
When this drama first hit our screens in '96, there was a certain cynicism
about lengthy serials set in contemporary times, and whether it could hold a
nation's attention. Casting was wide and varied - the four leads, who grow
up together, grow apart, and grow together again - were played with class by
Gina MacKee, Chris Eccleston, Daniel Craig and Mark Strong. Others in
support included David Bradley, Peter Vaughan, Malcolm McDowell, David
Schofield, Daniel Casey, and many more. Each episode moved the story along
through its thirty-year span, while we watched each character reach their
highs and lows until the last episode which left them all
Two things in particular stand out - the episode about the miners' strike, which was brilliantly done; and the closing credits over which Oasis' 'Don't Look Back in Anger' was played. I can't think of a better tune to close this excellent serial. One of the BBC's best.
When this was broadcast in 1996 it was really important. Britain was
tired of the Tories and they were incompetent but also the soul of what
drives political ideals was gone. A year after this series was shown
the Labour party swept to power. Not that there is a correlation there
but the mood of the country had changed.
Fourteen years later - in 2010 - there is so much to admire here, even if the political urgency has past: the writing, production, casting, and threads to the long story, but there also parts that don't work anymore: the sex and corruption theme stands out here. As this is a single writer's work it has great features in character and in the human play that covers 40+ years. It also tends to fall into dirge over the miner's strike - as important as that was but like some other elements it is a bit close to agitprop-theater of the 1970s.
The biggest impression made now is that we have lost this type of story on TV. We are too involved with reality TV rubbish and contest shows of dubious merit and consuming more junk than stories about how people live. And finally, in an era of spin politics it reminds us that politics starts from simple things like housing and respect.
It's over 9 hours to watch the whole series and it's worth the time.
Possibly one of the greatest Drama of the Last 10 years.
This story of Characters and events of post war britain is fantastic.
A must see. The Cast are all excellent and a times this will amaze you to see the changes that have happened in Britain.
This is truly one of the finest series to come out of Britain. It took
writer Flannery 15 years to get the series made, and when it was
eventually produced the UK channel BBC2 spent their entire drama budget
for the year on it. However, it was a fine investment.
The lives of four friends from Newcastle are followed from 1964 to 1995, against a backdrop of massive social and political change. It says much for the quality of the writing and the performances of the principal actors that you find yourself getting heavily involved with the characters' lives and caring a great deal for them. The leads have gone on to further successes, but this series catches them all early in their careers, and on astonishing form.
It was, in hindsight, a good thing that it took so long to get the show made. Flannery's original play ended in 1980, but the elongated production process enabled him to write more and more about the characters' fortunes, and take them another 15 years into the future. The most changed character was Geordie, who served in the army in Rhodesia in the original play, but finds himself instead in swinging London in a strip club in the finished series.
Do yourself a favour. Pick up the DVD set, and savour 14 hours of top television. It will make you think, it will move you, and we will never see its like again.
Everyone should watch this. Epic and novelistic in its scope the series is believable, informative, interesting, well-acted and a based-on-real-life drama that won't put you to sleep. The way that the lives of the 4 principle characters are intertwined through the 30 years that the series maps is dramatic brilliance. Also the police corruption plot that links all 4 characters is wonderfully subtle. All the cast stand out and as the story progresses, the level to which we become involved with them just shows how good the writing is.
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