Friday, 9 March 2012
don't look back in anger
A last minute decision as I left home for my travels this week was to slip a DVD into my bag. It was a loose one from a box set, in one of those thin plastic space saving wallets.
It was the first three episodes of the 1996 Peter Flannery's 'Our Friends in the North' which we seem to have as a box set but I'd never got around to watching.
Well, not since it was first screened on BBC television back in the 1990s.
The original screening was one of those 'imprint' type series where you feel like you've lived it by the end. Like looking at the cover of Sergeant Pepper is almost enough to recreate the sensation of listening to the album (even as I type it I can hear the opening track). There's a cliché about 'unforgettable', but it does sometimes genuinely apply.
That's probably why the DVD had languished shamefully unwatched at the back of the cupboard. I now can safely report it is still as great to watch today as it was when it was made. What's also interesting is the 'different things I know' between the first time I watched it and now.
It is set across the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s, tracking four friends whose lives intersect mainly around Newcastle plus some story lines that drift into the Soho area of London. It's a story of England as much as a story of the friends.
It covers city hall corruption, sleaze, three day working weeks, rock 'n roll, property backhanders, a dodgy Metropolitan police force, politics, miners' strikes and more. That's the backdrop against which the characters engage and the related front stories of their intertwined relationships play out.
There's Daniel Craig playing a loose cannon Geordie, Christopher Ecclestone as the idealist Nicky seeking a better future, Gina McKee whose Mary falls into a fractured marriage with Mark Strong's failed musician the womanising Tosker. The rest of the cast provide authentic supporting roles as the story unfolds.
The whole series is nine episodes, lasting about ten and a half hours, I've had to stop the world for a little while to watch them again, in just three sittings.
I wondered if the memorable close to the series would still work. It does.