That Life

300this_life_10
Where are they now? Oh yeah
This was “event telly” for an entire generation, apparently, and certainly, in our house, there was no Sky-Plus-ing of This Life + 10. We sat down to watch it when it went out. And what a crashing disappointment it was. A feature-length special, it was actually written by Amy Jenkins, who created This Life and will always have her place in the pantheon for that, even though she didn’t actually write much of it: five episodes out of a total of 32 over two series, none at all of the second series – the bulk was written by the likes of Richard Zajdlic, Matt Graham, Jimmy Gardner, Joe Ahearne and others, which considering no duff episode ever went out, brings kudos on them for ever more. The problem with this reunion episode was that it was, well, a reunion episode. Once we’d discovered what the five housemates were now up to – Milly a mum (cue: career guilt), Anna a barrister (cue: biological clock), Egg a literary sensation (cue: not-spending-enough-time-with-his-family guilt), Miles a Tory millionaire (cue: not a rich as he seems revelation), Warren a life coach (cue: problems of his own revelation, or not much of a revelation at all) – it was all nostalgia and gear-crunching dramatic shifts, like the attempted suicide and the fall from a horse and the bailiffs arriving, as if they’d been waiting in the wings to come on and play the deus ex machina card for the preceding 80 minutes. By the end of it, I was wishing it would hurry up and end, and I speak as someone who loved these characters in their Portishead heyday. This actually felt as if it was a reunion for the actors rather than the characters – Jack the film star, Andrew the voiceover king, Daniela the square peg actress still waiting to kill off Anna in our imagination, Jason and Amita apparently out of work (I hope she’s a mum). It made me sad. I don’t blame a single person involved for doing this – not Jenkins, not the cast, not BBC2, not World Productions – it must have seemed like a great idea at the boardroom table, but the reality was an overlong, overindulgent overture whose documentary device wasn’t even used realistically and whose only really clever moment was to have Warren scroll through a mid-90s playlist on his iPod. I liked Miles’ hair though.

And what happened to Kira, Rachel, O’Donnell and Jo? I feel a reunion special coming on. No, stop it.

47 thoughts on “That Life

  1. I forgot this was on until about three quarters of the way through (I was watching Most Haunted on FTN instead). But I caught the end and echo the general sense of underwhelmedness. I’m not that bothered to have not seen the whole thing, despite being very excited about it previously. And what about Ferdy?

  2. I forgot this was on until about three quarters of the way through (I was watching Most Haunted on FTN instead). But I caught the end and echo the general sense of underwhelmedness. I’m not that bothered to have not seen the whole thing, despite being very excited about it previously. And what about Ferdy?

  3. I was never into This Life in the first place, as it was one of those things broadcast in my student days when I didn’t have regular access to a telly…but it’s rare to find something like this done particularly well. It all sounds like the Only Fools and Horses revival, which was truly terrible after the supposed last-ever episode when they make thier millions.The key to making a great show is knowing when to stop. A lot of the classics – Fawlty Towers springs to mind – went out on a high note, and are remembered for it. If your last x-number-of-series are rubbish, no-one will particularly remember the good ones.

  4. I was never into This Life in the first place, as it was one of those things broadcast in my student days when I didn’t have regular access to a telly…but it’s rare to find something like this done particularly well. It all sounds like the Only Fools and Horses revival, which was truly terrible after the supposed last-ever episode when they make thier millions.The key to making a great show is knowing when to stop. A lot of the classics – Fawlty Towers springs to mind – went out on a high note, and are remembered for it. If your last x-number-of-series are rubbish, no-one will particularly remember the good ones.

  5. I too found it disappointing and not only because I seemed to miss bits of dialogue while I filled in background for my wife. You’ve captured pretty much all the reasons I didn’t enjoy it. The other nice touch I think was in it (besides the mid ’90s Ipod moment) was the film maker leaving in an orange VW Beetle. I seem to recall one of the housemates arriving in a similarly orange Beetle in the first episode. And what was Miles’ air guitar to ‘A Design for Life’ all about?And for Alice, you missed Ferdy’s funeral as the opening sequence by switching on late. I s’pose he’s the only one of them who’s now too big a film actor to be bothered with a This Life reunion. And I remember him as a drama student at the University of Kent when his only claim to fame was being Tanita Tikaram’s brother.

  6. I too found it disappointing and not only because I seemed to miss bits of dialogue while I filled in background for my wife. You’ve captured pretty much all the reasons I didn’t enjoy it. The other nice touch I think was in it (besides the mid ’90s Ipod moment) was the film maker leaving in an orange VW Beetle. I seem to recall one of the housemates arriving in a similarly orange Beetle in the first episode. And what was Miles’ air guitar to ‘A Design for Life’ all about?And for Alice, you missed Ferdy’s funeral as the opening sequence by switching on late. I s’pose he’s the only one of them who’s now too big a film actor to be bothered with a This Life reunion. And I remember him as a drama student at the University of Kent when his only claim to fame was being Tanita Tikaram’s brother.

  7. I loved This Life when it first went out, being just old enough to ‘get’ it properly – I was 17. So I was really hoping this would be great, but realistically expecting it to be a crashing disappointment. (But secretly hoping that by having such low expectations it would actually easily beat them – bloody paradoxes…)It was a disappointment. I did enjoy it, on the level that I enjoyed seeing them all together again and finding out a bit about what happened to them all. But it was really poorly executed. The documentary device was just that – a device, that never rang true. And to me it felt weird seeing them all rolling about the countryside! This Life was about 90’s city life! I don’t want to see Milly on a fucking horse! I too was willing it to finish. I was bored. But oddly for a programme that i was bored and disappointed with I wished they had done +10 as a three-parter or similar. Flesh out the new backgrounds before flinging them all back together.The way it was done felt like they had just tried to cover too much ground in too little time. It was rushed, half-formed, and a bit lazy really.I did enjoy the bad dancing to the Manics though!

  8. I loved This Life when it first went out, being just old enough to ‘get’ it properly – I was 17. So I was really hoping this would be great, but realistically expecting it to be a crashing disappointment. (But secretly hoping that by having such low expectations it would actually easily beat them – bloody paradoxes…)It was a disappointment. I did enjoy it, on the level that I enjoyed seeing them all together again and finding out a bit about what happened to them all. But it was really poorly executed. The documentary device was just that – a device, that never rang true. And to me it felt weird seeing them all rolling about the countryside! This Life was about 90’s city life! I don’t want to see Milly on a fucking horse! I too was willing it to finish. I was bored. But oddly for a programme that i was bored and disappointed with I wished they had done +10 as a three-parter or similar. Flesh out the new backgrounds before flinging them all back together.The way it was done felt like they had just tried to cover too much ground in too little time. It was rushed, half-formed, and a bit lazy really.I did enjoy the bad dancing to the Manics though!

  9. Matthew Kelly – I’ve just looked Ramon Tikaram up in Spotlight and his CV isn’t the busiest sadly. I’d say Jack Davenport and Andrew Lincoln are much more successful than him.

  10. Matthew Kelly – I’ve just looked Ramon Tikaram up in Spotlight and his CV isn’t the busiest sadly. I’d say Jack Davenport and Andrew Lincoln are much more successful than him.

  11. I deliberatley avoided a special press screening of this before Christmas because I wanted to see it when everyone else did, plus I’d been looking forward to nothing else as much all year.So I too was crushed by how disappointing it was. Great to see them again, but what a duff story. The documentary thing didn’t work, none of them had changed, and what did they do in the interim years? Why did Miles’ first marriage break down? What happened after the wedding when Egg discovered Milly’s affair? Whither Keira, etc? What did Ferdy actually die of? Way too many ananswered questions.It was far too soapy, all this stuff condensed into 80 minutes, whereas you’d watch weeks of the actual series without anything really happening, and that was the beauty of it. As any fan knows, the best eps were written by anyone other than Amy Jenkins. Series two without a sniff of her is far superior to series one. I hope the memory isn’t tarnished forever, so let’s just leave it there. No more reunions please.

  12. I deliberatley avoided a special press screening of this before Christmas because I wanted to see it when everyone else did, plus I’d been looking forward to nothing else as much all year.So I too was crushed by how disappointing it was. Great to see them again, but what a duff story. The documentary thing didn’t work, none of them had changed, and what did they do in the interim years? Why did Miles’ first marriage break down? What happened after the wedding when Egg discovered Milly’s affair? Whither Keira, etc? What did Ferdy actually die of? Way too many ananswered questions.It was far too soapy, all this stuff condensed into 80 minutes, whereas you’d watch weeks of the actual series without anything really happening, and that was the beauty of it. As any fan knows, the best eps were written by anyone other than Amy Jenkins. Series two without a sniff of her is far superior to series one. I hope the memory isn’t tarnished forever, so let’s just leave it there. No more reunions please.

  13. Oh, and Jason’s not out of work, Andrew. He’s been John Nettles’ sidekick in Midsomer Murders for at least two years. What do you mean you don’t watch it?

  14. Oh, and Jason’s not out of work, Andrew. He’s been John Nettles’ sidekick in Midsomer Murders for at least two years. What do you mean you don’t watch it?

  15. I thought there were some decent lines in there to be honest – raised a few chuckles with me, like Warren’s ‘discussing the war is so last season’, and there were a few nods at times to say they’re at it again (Anna and Miles) (Anna and Milly), perhaps another of the faults was pandering to the actors whims – Davenport stating they made sure the audience got the perfect shot rather than someone’s ear.Andrew, your views seem to be echoed by ian johns of the times – he was equally disappointed.I thought The Thick of it on BBC4 was good in comparison – Capaldi being brilliantly vile as Malcolm Tucker, and Roger Allam and Will Smith as the Shadow version of Hugh and Glenn – Peter Mannion and Phil Smith, and Mannion’s reluctance to modernise for the sake of appealing to the populous was great.

  16. I thought there were some decent lines in there to be honest – raised a few chuckles with me, like Warren’s ‘discussing the war is so last season’, and there were a few nods at times to say they’re at it again (Anna and Miles) (Anna and Milly), perhaps another of the faults was pandering to the actors whims – Davenport stating they made sure the audience got the perfect shot rather than someone’s ear.Andrew, your views seem to be echoed by ian johns of the times – he was equally disappointed.I thought The Thick of it on BBC4 was good in comparison – Capaldi being brilliantly vile as Malcolm Tucker, and Roger Allam and Will Smith as the Shadow version of Hugh and Glenn – Peter Mannion and Phil Smith, and Mannion’s reluctance to modernise for the sake of appealing to the populous was great.

  17. I agree with you, Andrew, especially about Miles’ hair. I especially loathed the ‘Egg as Author’ bit – as if someone who’d penned a first, not really literary novel, would merit a British Library discussion with Mark Lawson (grrr!) about their small oevre, and get a documentary made about them. As you know, he’d be lucky to get some warm Chilean wine in the foyer of a London hotel.I saw the actor who played O’Donnell in Crouch End the other day. Looked just the same.

  18. I agree with you, Andrew, especially about Miles’ hair. I especially loathed the ‘Egg as Author’ bit – as if someone who’d penned a first, not really literary novel, would merit a British Library discussion with Mark Lawson (grrr!) about their small oevre, and get a documentary made about them. As you know, he’d be lucky to get some warm Chilean wine in the foyer of a London hotel.I saw the actor who played O’Donnell in Crouch End the other day. Looked just the same.

  19. I have to say I really hated Miles’ hair. Looked like that of a bit-part porn actor from 1979. Maybe that was the arch intention.I also hated the endless unspoken tease of ‘Is Warren continually necking pills because he’s, like, got Aids – oh no, they ARE actually vitamin pills because he’s that other gay cliche, the narcissist chasing eternal youth via Holland and Barrett.’ Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. The whole thing felt like a bunch of enthusiastic Year Tens had been shown the original series and asked to ‘have a go’ at writing an update.But I did sit there and watch the whole thing.

  20. I have to say I really hated Miles’ hair. Looked like that of a bit-part porn actor from 1979. Maybe that was the arch intention.I also hated the endless unspoken tease of ‘Is Warren continually necking pills because he’s, like, got Aids – oh no, they ARE actually vitamin pills because he’s that other gay cliche, the narcissist chasing eternal youth via Holland and Barrett.’ Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. The whole thing felt like a bunch of enthusiastic Year Tens had been shown the original series and asked to ‘have a go’ at writing an update.But I did sit there and watch the whole thing.

  21. Here’s the thing. Imagine you’re a BBC2 scheduler. Clearly, you get the finished copy weeks ahead of everyone else. You watch it (and surely with colleagues) and soon everyone in the room realises that they have a turkey on their hands. Want proof? It didn’t go out over the Christmas holidays, no 25th, 26th, 31st December or even 1st Jan release but…Jan 2nd.

  22. Here’s the thing. Imagine you’re a BBC2 scheduler. Clearly, you get the finished copy weeks ahead of everyone else. You watch it (and surely with colleagues) and soon everyone in the room realises that they have a turkey on their hands. Want proof? It didn’t go out over the Christmas holidays, no 25th, 26th, 31st December or even 1st Jan release but…Jan 2nd.

  23. I watched it fleetingly with the sound off whilst listening to the radio and updating my iPod, and it was still a waste of time. Then again, I didn’t much care for it first time around – I think I spent most of the first series wanting to push the lot of them under a bus.I hear Ramon Tikaram’s getting a bit sick of his characters being killed off early in a series or, as in this case, before a show’s even started.

  24. I watched it fleetingly with the sound off whilst listening to the radio and updating my iPod, and it was still a waste of time. Then again, I didn’t much care for it first time around – I think I spent most of the first series wanting to push the lot of them under a bus.I hear Ramon Tikaram’s getting a bit sick of his characters being killed off early in a series or, as in this case, before a show’s even started.

  25. Ooh, The Thick of It was great. Some of the best creative swearing ever. And a bit of a shock to see it going wrong for Malcolm for a while.And I love that Armando is still using his influence to up the profile of comedians like Will Smith and Justin Edwards.

  26. Ooh, The Thick of It was great. Some of the best creative swearing ever. And a bit of a shock to see it going wrong for Malcolm for a while.And I love that Armando is still using his influence to up the profile of comedians like Will Smith and Justin Edwards.

  27. I was never a massive fan of the original series for scheduling reasons – I saw the first series when it was on but skipped out somewhere after Warren left so I didn’t have the same connection with the characters. Actually I always thought North Square was better.For me this worked on the order of similar reunion dramas such as The Big Chill, Peter’s Friends and particularly The Return of the Secaucus 7 — I could see though that if you do love the characters it would be a disappointment — I still missed Jo, Kira etc. Seemed odd not include them considering they were such an intergral part of the original.

  28. I was never a massive fan of the original series for scheduling reasons – I saw the first series when it was on but skipped out somewhere after Warren left so I didn’t have the same connection with the characters. Actually I always thought North Square was better.For me this worked on the order of similar reunion dramas such as The Big Chill, Peter’s Friends and particularly The Return of the Secaucus 7 — I could see though that if you do love the characters it would be a disappointment — I still missed Jo, Kira etc. Seemed odd not include them considering they were such an intergral part of the original.

  29. It would surely have required some credulity-stretching plot contrivances to get everyone into it.I enjoyed the original series at the time but catching some of the recent repeats I couldn’t understand why. Awful self-important characters who seemed to equate booze and cigarettes with sophistication. Young people in other words (though they didn’t look it). Having seen what they were really like then, I’d have needed financial inducement to watch the reunion show.

  30. It would surely have required some credulity-stretching plot contrivances to get everyone into it.I enjoyed the original series at the time but catching some of the recent repeats I couldn’t understand why. Awful self-important characters who seemed to equate booze and cigarettes with sophistication. Young people in other words (though they didn’t look it). Having seen what they were really like then, I’d have needed financial inducement to watch the reunion show.

  31. Sad. This Life is one of those things that has become mythic for the wrong reasons and hijacked as a metaphor when in fact it was an airfiller. Like the claim to have seen the sex pistols at the 100 club – if everyone who said they watched TL actually did, like the 100 club being the size of wembley arena this life would have been Dallas. I remember how shocked I was when thsi first aired (at 33) that friends of mine would go home or stay in because it was on. I remember thinking that what the fuck is this about – how many fucking law students or trainee lawyers fo the population know that they would care about. But this series is a reminder of where Tv has got to now … and how deconstructed as a medium it has become. This Life was a marginal series when it first transmitted. It was on at 11pm and rarely hit a million viewers. I know I produced a show that was on against it and we beat it hands dwon on a weekly basis for 2 whole series. Not ebcause we were any better but because we got our tits out – we had Paul Ross presenting for one. I would never stay in for a TV show – even now – that’s why god gave us video recorders. And what if it was shit? I can’t remember a single likeable character in This Life, not even the little one we are supposed to liek who ended up in the risable and cynical Teachers and wasn’t the Nardini one supposed to take on Hollywood? She’s be lucky to get a cameo in the Bill.

  32. Sad. This Life is one of those things that has become mythic for the wrong reasons and hijacked as a metaphor when in fact it was an airfiller. Like the claim to have seen the sex pistols at the 100 club – if everyone who said they watched TL actually did, like the 100 club being the size of wembley arena this life would have been Dallas. I remember how shocked I was when thsi first aired (at 33) that friends of mine would go home or stay in because it was on. I remember thinking that what the fuck is this about – how many fucking law students or trainee lawyers fo the population know that they would care about. But this series is a reminder of where Tv has got to now … and how deconstructed as a medium it has become. This Life was a marginal series when it first transmitted. It was on at 11pm and rarely hit a million viewers. I know I produced a show that was on against it and we beat it hands dwon on a weekly basis for 2 whole series. Not ebcause we were any better but because we got our tits out – we had Paul Ross presenting for one. I would never stay in for a TV show – even now – that’s why god gave us video recorders. And what if it was shit? I can’t remember a single likeable character in This Life, not even the little one we are supposed to liek who ended up in the risable and cynical Teachers and wasn’t the Nardini one supposed to take on Hollywood? She’s be lucky to get a cameo in the Bill.

  33. It’s true that This Life started slow in the ratings but everyone I worked with at the time seemed to watch it. I certainly don’t recall anyone saying “No I watched that thing with Paul Ross” anyway. Different audiences perhaps. Apparently 5.6 million people watched the (original) final episode. Not bad for BBC2 even 10 years ago. (It’s over 2 million more than watched the reunion show.)It is terrible when a show becomes hijacked as a metaphor though. Don’t you just hate that?

  34. It’s true that This Life started slow in the ratings but everyone I worked with at the time seemed to watch it. I certainly don’t recall anyone saying “No I watched that thing with Paul Ross” anyway. Different audiences perhaps. Apparently 5.6 million people watched the (original) final episode. Not bad for BBC2 even 10 years ago. (It’s over 2 million more than watched the reunion show.)It is terrible when a show becomes hijacked as a metaphor though. Don’t you just hate that?

  35. Ramon Tikaram didn’t turn down being in the reunion he wasn’t invited at all, according to an interview someone rang him and said the reason for the reunion is your funeral or Ferdys rather so your not in it, he said he may not have accepted it would depend on the character. Ferdy was always my favourite character, but even without him in, if done right it might have been ok, but it just lost everything that was good. Apparently again according to interviews a lot of the cast did the reunion out of duty but not sure which members, but would not recommend as it was not good.

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