Last night on British tv we saw "This Life Plus Ten", which took us back into the lives of the people in my favourite mid-Nineties drama series "This Life" and showed you what had happened to them in the last decade.
I loved "This Life" with a passion. Everybody I knew found the story of young lawyers Miles, Anna, Milly and her husband, would-be writer Egg, too serious, the characters vain and uninteresting, the hand-held cameras pretentious. But it all struck a chord with me. Even now I feel as if the show tells something about me in the mid-Nineties, though I had neither money nor ambition at the time (I did have drama.) I understand it inspired similar feelings of devotion in all of the people who watched it week in week out for the short period of its life (you may recall the BBC pulled it, to loud protests, when it was at the height of its cult appeal.)
"Plus Ten" was always going to suffer by comparison. And the pretext that the author Amy Jenkins chooses to get the core characters back together--a weekend at Miles' country house, filmed by a documentary maker after Egg's novel about the group has become a bestseller--doesn't help the audience suspend its arms-folded, prove-yourself-then sense of resistance. That's really a shite idea, done hundreds of times by hundreds of writers. But once we get past that and everybody starts interacting in the old way, the old intelligence and wit and style are still there. So is the smart take on the condition and the mind state of that generation, though the author is careful not to hammer at the zeitgeist thing too hard.
And then at the end it all falls to pieces. Miles, who has become a successful (or so we think) hotelier in the intervening years, suddenly loses everything, beds Anna, after crying victoriously "I know everything," and then announces he's going off to travel the world: as our suntanned hero walks away from the group, smiling handsomely, and the camera freezes, you can't help thinking that Amy, at the computer keyboard, has confused Miles' destiny with that of Jack Davenport, the actor who plays him--he left the original "This Life", after all, to go and star with Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Carribean." Egg and Millie's marriage is improbably rescued by Egg's midnight rediscovery of his conscience too, and Anna is going to have gay friend Warren as a sperm donor so she can have the baby she always wanted and not get entangled in a complicated relationship. We're only two short steps away from a dog bursting in trailed by twenty cute puppies for everyone to kiss and cuddle. In the original "This Life" nobody would have had a happy ending.
Best scene? Everybody dancing drunkenly by the lake to "A Design for Life" by the Manic Street Preachers. Then they really hit something, something that made me shudder with recognition. "We don't talk about love/ We only want to get drunk/ And we are not allowed to spend/ And we are told that this is the end."
Shit. For a few delicious, goose-flesh-erecting moments I was there.