49 Up, ITV1

by | Sep 15, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

The latest intriguing chapters in the lives of children born into the first TV generation.

What to say if you didn’t like it

A aimless, arbitrary focus on a selection of middle-aged people, common only because of their admirable mediocrity.

What was good about it?

• After Jackie noted that her son Lee is “a lot like” her, director Michael Apted retorted, “Is that a worry?”, which sent Jackie into one of her typical rants about how Michael edits the show to suit his own perceptions of her and the other subjects.

• Bruce, who has transformed from a nervous little seven-year-old into a genial hulking maths teacher at a posh independent school. His tale was one of the few worthy of being updated, as since the last programme, he has become the father to two boys. And hearing him speak with fondness, and sometimes frustrated, about his sons was one of the elements which validated the earlier chapters of other subjects’ lives.

• The moribund lives of the subjects serves as a glowing harbinger for the under-45s that middle-age is a black hole of dullness and crushed ambitions, where the only

respite from the lonely march towards the grave are grandchildren.

• The really nice Jackie has got herself a Paul Weller lookalike partner

• We still love the old clips of Paul (who went from a care home to Melbourne), especially his reason for not wanting to get married: his wife might cook him something he wouldn’t want to eat.

What was bad about it?

• Because the shows are seven years apart, it’s difficult to build an affinity with the subjects (especially when each is given barely 15 minutes), as even if you avidly viewed previous entries it would be difficult to remember much about them.

• Middle-age is certainly the dullest stage of anyone’s life if this sample of Britons is anything to go by. We’ve just mentioned that each person received only 15 minutes, but much of this was padding from previous films, as to tell most of how their lives have changed over the past seven years you would only need about four minutes.

• And much of the time spent on the current lives of the subjects was overflowing with mind-numbing activities. Former East Ender Tony showed Michael around his

holiday home in Spain, taking particular attention to point out his floor tiling. Meanwhile, Sue gushed lovingly over her dog (“She adores Rolf Harris and

Animal Hospital”), and the reticent Suzy said how she felt lonelier now her children had started to leave home.

• Tony’s near-racist comments about the East End being taken over by newcomers (“other cultures buying all my own tradition up”) juxtaposed with him strolling through a part of Spain which has been colonised by Brits. He even pointed out the English pub as if that was a good thing.

• It was not the fault of the subjects, as such uniformity and banality is perhaps spread over many 49-year-olds in the country, but the golden years of this show would have been the chasm between optimistic childhood ambition and the crushing realities of adult life. And this point was illustrated by many of the conversations between Michael and his subjects being taken up by their children’s lives.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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