It's a special TV series that stars both James Bond and Doctor Who. So it was with the landmark saga Our Friends in the North. Daniel Craig and Christopher Eccleston, in their breakthrough roles, together with Mark Strong and Gina McKee, formed the central quartet in a panoramic drama with the tag-line: “Three decades, four friends and the world that shaped their lives.”
Writer Peter Flannery adapted the nine-parter from his own stage play for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Inspired by watching the Bard’s Henry IV, Jarrow-born Flannery attempted his own historical epic, following four Tyneside pals from 1964 to 1995.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIt combined the personal with the socio-political, with their lives played out against the backdrop of post-war upheaval: from Sixties local government property scams to Seventies police corruption; from the Miners’ Strike to the Great Storm of 1987; from Eighties Thatcherite prosperity to the Nineties New Labour dream.
The sheer scale of the production required Michael Jackson, the BBC Two controller at the time, to devote a whopping £8 million to the shoot, which was half his drama budget for the entire year.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appThe troubled production took a decade to reach our screens and was almost never made at all, due to the BBC’s fear of legal action over controversial storylines based on real-life scandals. As Eccleston says: “I genuinely don’t think anyone would have the balls to make it now.”
Luckily for viewers, it proved well worth the trouble. The wigs, ageing make-up and Geordie accents might be a tad dodgy at times, but it remains powerful, evocative and emotionally stirring. An estimable cast includes Alun Armstrong, David Bradley, Peter Vaughan and Donald Sumpter in supporting roles, along with Malcolm McDowell, making a rare TV appearance as a Soho porn baron.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIt drew an audience of 5.5 million, became the channel’s most successful drama for five years and won three Baftas. Not bad for what Flannery called “essentially a very, very posh soap opera”.
Did you know? Danny Boyle was originally slated to direct the series, but when his film debut Shallow Grave proved a hit, he dropped out to make Trainspotting.