“It’s not about the money, it’s about the nostalgia”
This Is England returned to our screens last night for the final series, This Is England ’90. We’ve followed the cast of This Is England through the 80s, and fittingly, their story will come to an end in 1990. We’ve had highs (well, there’s been one or two…), and many, many lows with the characters of TIE, from brutal racist beatings to rape. If you want very depressing and gritty drama, coloured by a tint of nostalgia, TIE is the film/TV series for you. However, from the first episode of TIE ’90, ‘Spring,’ there was barely any grit in sight. What we received were attempts at comedy and lethargic exchanges between the characters we know and love…
One side of TIE’s appeal is nostalgia. The opening montage is the best part of the episode, The La’s ‘There She Goes’ playing over the montage, with the appropriate (and brilliantly chosen) last scene of Thatcher leaving 10 Downing Street. There’s the poll tax riots, Gazza, Gulf War, Mad Cow Disease…everything you could ask for in a montage of 1990! And in 1990, I was at an age where memories began to form. So I rather enjoyed seeing the NES version of Probotector being played by Gadget. Gadget also defends WWF, as he’s watching Hulk Hogan fight Mr.Perfect (which, erroneously, he says is happening at WrestleMania. They never fought at WrestleMania! Plus, could Gadget really afford Sky?!?!?) Unintentionally, I presume, Meadows shows us another racist in TIE in the form of Hogan…but that’s another story!
The most appealing aspect of ‘Spring’ was seeing the characters of TIE at another stage in their lives. We’ve seen them grow up in almost a decade (of their time, of course, not ours!). Shane Meadows has treated his characters with such respect and reverence that we have grown to love (most) of them. Of course, some of the acting hasn’t improved a lot. Like I mentioned in my review of This Is England, some of the acting feels like a A-Level Performance Studies class. However, the actors behind characters who really matter (Shawn, Woody, Lol, and a few others) really pour their heart and soul their part. And that’s what also drew us into their characters.
Seeing Woody with two children, back together with Lol and friends with Milky was a very welcome development. We don’t know how the reconciliation came about, but the important thing is that it has happened. Most of the characters seem to be in a fairly happy place; obviously things have improved in two years. Shawn is still in love with Smell, and it’s only his life that hasn’t really improved, in a sense. Of course, it’s Shane Meadows: we know the lives are being built up to fall at some point.
However, that point wasn’t in ‘Spring.’ To reintroduce the characters, we endured endless attempts at comedy. From the beginning conversation about coffee whip and the school dinner racket, to Woody’s phone conversation with his parents, the dialogue begged us to laugh. However, it rarely happened. Forced and empty, the comedy failed to hit the mark time and time again. Considering ‘Spring’ was all about making us laugh, it was a failure. Yes, we don’t need the grit and realism to batter us in the first episode. But we didn’t need what seemed like poor improvised comedy either! The only moment that made me giggle was the ‘sniff banging’ comment, but even that was compromised by the inane Iggy and friend. They are two new additions to the cast who add nothing to the programme.
I felt thoroughly bored by the end of the episode. Even with the ‘fireworks’ in the rave scene towards the end, the show didn’t engage my attention. We know where the characters are, physically and emotionally, in 1990, but we learned almost nothing else. It’s inevitable that bad things will happen, so I presume the intention in ‘Spring’ was to make things as light as possible to pave the way for doom and gloom. But surely there was a more entertaining way to execute it? For once, I am thoroughly disappointed in TIE. It felt like a A-Level Performances Studies act that would be looked to get an E…
VERDICT: 3/10. A boring re-introduction to the TIE characters we know and love. It relied too much on unfunny attempts at comedy. There’s a lot of work to do for the rest of the show.
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(Click here for my review of This Is England (2007)