Did we like it?
An entertaining blast of spiting spoilt children, but as an experiment it had little value as the discrepancy between the parents’ and children’s lifestyles was far more entrenched in personal philosophies and circumstances than societal change.
What was good about it?
• As an opener, the set-up was perfect. John grew up on a Leeds council estate, lost his mother at 11 and spent the rest of his adolescence under the tutelage of his stern but fair father. As an adult, he is a very successful businessman (though it was never actually specified what his business was), and was at his wits’ end with his spoilt children who regarded him as a taxi driver-cum-cash machine and who only spoke to him in scornful tones (or it was at least edited that way).
• The simple device of starving children of their creature comforts and standing back to admire the fireworks yielded predictably joyous results. Twelve-year-old Hannah was apoplectic when her lavish wardrobe was reduced to just three outfits and “Sunday best”, while Josh, 10, struggled with being told where to sit. But the funniest bit was when John gave Hannah a lift to school in a garish 70s campervan. “I hate it! It’s disgusting! It’s embarrassing!” she stormed in a typical teenage tantrum, to which John retaliated by driving her right up to the front of the school.
• And after John petulantly drove home alone during the weekly shop, his wife Emma suggested walking the three and half miles home. “Walk home? Are you mental?” replied Hannah.
• Arthur Smith’s droll, doleful narration.
• John slowly realising that the wholesale transfer of 70s values to the modern day is badly flawed after he smacked his children when they wouldn’t stop fighting (a squabble that seems to have been born of the boredom of their temporary abstinence). Although, it did shock the pair of them out of their complacency that seemed ingrained in them over their dad’s weak authority, and also provoked them to unleash the kind of insults that made John feel they needed more discipline. Hannah screamed: “I hate you, dad!” While Josh weighed in with: “You’re the worst father. I hope you die!”
• John’s trip back to the home he grew up in Leeds where he showed his kids the bedroom where his mother suffered a “rupture” of some kind, which led to her hospitalisation where she passed away soon afterwards.
What was bad about it?
•Hannah and Josh were brattish not because of any fundamental shift in society, but because of a fundamental shift in John’s financial circumstances; undermining the notion that was examining the disparity between a 70s childhood and a modern day one.
• There were no doubt kids in the 70s whose parents were newly wealthy who were every bit as spoilt as John’s kids. This was summed up in John’s belief that his “kids have got a lot to learn about 70s hierarchy”, which seemed, as much as anything, more of a facile excuse for him to regain some of the authority he felt he had lost in his own home.
• On their “budgeted” shopping trip, John offered to let the kids have a treat of macaroni cheese on toast, a nauseating meal that tastes like cooked plastic.
• When John took his kids to work on an allotment, as if by magic, a crop of carrots and peas sprung up five minutes after their arrival.
• The ebb and flow of the narrative, like so many other documentaries of this genre was too convenient and artificial. Inevitably, John met fierce resistance when the new measures were put in place, but within the allotted period of two weeks both children had gone from selfish gorgons into angelic bundles of benevolence as they cooked a meal for their long-suffering parents.
• John’s father was a staunch Labour supporter, but John’s entrepreneurial spirit had been inspired by Margaret Thatcher, and his was his adherence to his crass credo of “capitalism rules OK” that was to blame for his lack of respect in his family more than the 30 or so years that separated the childhoods of himself and his kids.