I have a soft spot for Auf Wiedersehen Pet, because I used to work on building sites, and I've spent a lot of time in Germany as well. The lines in this are so well delivered, that they sound exactly like the things real people would say, and they don't sound scripted at all. I've met people who could have stepped right out of it. I've experienced things that could have been in it. But the jokes are probably better than a lot of the real "banter" I've heard.
Auf Wiedersehen Pet was always a comedy drama – or comedy/drama, and the first episode is more drama, than comedy. It's mainly a set up, but there are still some great comedy lines in it. Some folk say that it's very male-orientated, which is true, but there always were strong female characters in it, and we get to see a few of them too.
I've always loved this series. I never got to see it when it was originally broadcast, but I've seen it many times since. It's certainly one of the best acted and best written British sitcoms of the eighties. Most of the other sitcoms of the time have dated horribly, and were usually set in comfortable middle class suburbs in the Home Counties. AWP was different from them, in so many ways. It showed what many ordinary people were going through at the time.
In the 1980s, nearly 30,000 people from the UK had to go to work in Germany to make ends meet. AWP is about a group of seven English builders who work in Düsseldorf, and the culture shock that they experience. It's also about the relationships between them and their families, each other, and between them and the Germans. They are forced to live in a wooden hut on site, because the hostel's full, and at the weekends, they get into all kinds of trouble on the town. Although there are frequent references to World War Two, the show avoids stereotyping the German characters themselves as being some kind of Nazis. True, the German gaffers are a bit too serious (many Germans are in real life), but the Germans are treated as human beings throughout the series.
It's also one of the few shows I can think of which shows the full variety of English working class people as well. There isn't much attempt to poshen up their accents, or have them all speaking like Londoners. Three of the characters use Broad Geordie all the time, one's from the West Midlands, and another's West Country. They're just shown as they are. Oz is a rough diamond, whose Gateshead accent and blinkered attitudes lead to a lot of misunderstanding. Wayne is a chirpy Cockney who spends half his time listening to music, and the other trying to seduce women. Dennis manages to solve everybody else's problems, but has trouble enough with his own. Barry – my favourite– is a kind of bizarre (and occasionally boring) Brummie philosopher, "the Prince of Trivia". Neville is deadly serious, a loyal husband, and someone who wants to be somewhere else all the time. Bomber is a larger than life Bristolian, who keeps on losing his money through gambling, partying and womanising, in some kind of attempt to regain his youth...
The characters are some of the most memorable on British TV. They're all lovable in their own way. Even Oz and Wayne are good guys in the end up. They're the best mates you never had.
It's sad to think though, that at least three of the main actors are dead – Gary Holton (Wayne), Pat Roach (Bomber) and Vera. Before this programme most of the cast were unknowns – Pat Roach (Bomber) had appeared in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "Barry Lyndon" already, and was a notable wrestler, but he was the exception. But by the time the series had ended, the seven actors were all stars. They went on to greater things. Jimmy Nail became a successful solo artist, selling a million albums and appearing in "Spender"; Kevin Whateley got the sidekick role in "Inspector Morse", and his own series in "Lewis" and Timothy Spall has gone on to serious roles in stuff like "The Damned United", "The King's Speech" and "Pierrepoint" etc. Tim Healy (Dennis) hasn't made such a big impression as the other ones perhaps, but he's still instantly recognisable, and has done some good work. Gary Holton, like I said, was taken from us too soon, as a result of bad lifestyle choices...
And if you want to know why they're famous, watch this! Anyway, enough of my guff.
High Point: Just great to see this legendary series coming together.
Low Point: Exposé, the band that taste forgot (who dress in baseball gear) Also no Moxey! Christopher Fairbank fans have to wait til the next episode.
Look out for: Dennis giving building advice to Dutch custom officers; The German building site (now known as "Eastenders"' Albert Square!); A German bridge that looks suspiciously like one in Newcastle (and in Sydney).
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