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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 0:06   #1
leyla
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Default This Life - the finale

In theory, it was a great idea to revive this sparky drama about a group of young lawyers living together, which first aired around ten years ago. First time round, it seemed very new and exciting: - the the jerky hand-held camera was still vaguely original back then, and the script, originally penned by Amy Jenkins, was irreverent, funny, and compelling. The housemates were about as different from their US equivalent - the glossy-haired, dentally enhanced inhabitants of the US comedy Friends - as it was possible to be, and each came with emotional baggage, hang-ups and a vocabulary that would make Gordon Ramsay gasp. Sex, drugs and rock and roll added shock value to an already colourful script, and the acting was very good all round.
Like Bodies, the BBC has opted for a one-off drama to tie up loose ends rather than a new series, and it is a real pity. What could have been a strong come-back deflated like a pricked balloon, largely but not wholly due to the fact that so much was crammed into one hour and twenty minutes. I won't give the story away in case anyone has taped it to watch later, but low points in a fairly disappointing production for me included Miles - handsome, confident, bordering on the arrogant - bemoaning the fact that men couldn't provide anything that women couldn't obtain themselves - totally out of place for his character as Miles is not the angsty, navel-gazing sort. This came across as a redundant point, almost seeming to be present only as part of a tickbox list of Thirty/Forty- Something Issues. Other aspects were also totally implausible - one person coming out of a long-term relationship and instantaneously proposing to another for example - surely even the hardest soul needs time to recuperate after a failed relationship.

This was all a shame as the acting was as strong as ever and the vitality was still there. It would have worked so much better as a new series, where tumultous events could unfold at a more feasible rate.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 11:17   #2
jim
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

I agree it was a real disappointment. Nothing rung true at all and I think the whole setup of the documentary was tired and poorly executed. I would disagree in relation to the acting though. I don't remember it from the original series but Jack Davenport has been outstandingly dreadful in everything I have seen him in subsequently and this was no exception. He is just a really bad actor.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 11:48   #3
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

I agree that it was a disappointment. Main problem was cramming far too much event and plot into a one hour slot. The joy of the old series was that nothing too much happened. Last night's programme felt overwrought because there was too much melodrama happening. I also thought that the documentary-making theme was a distraction, and took up valuable time that could have been spent exploring the original characters in more depth. The whole "biological clock" theme feels very cliched. And how much was the whole thing a rip-off of (rather than a homage to) The Big Chill? I have a great affection for the old series and did enjoy hanging out with the characters to a degree - but, script-wise, this felt very lazy.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 12:11   #4
John Self
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

I skipped it, after realising that while I enjoyed This Life very much on its original outings, I hadn't exactly hankered after it or indeed ever thought about it in the ten years since, much in the same way that I enjoy Desperate Housewives but would never watch a repeat or cancel an engagement to get to see it.

It's worth pointing out though that it wasn't that the BBC didn't want to make a new series, but the production team didn't want to. After the second series the BBC would have paid anything for another run, but the makers (rightly, as it turns out) decided to end on a high.

I think the main reason the second series was better than the first was because Amy Jenkins didn't write it. She was the creator of the show, but I remember noting at the time that the episodes she wrote in the first series were the worst in terms of dialogue. Her literary career since (Honeymoon, for which she apparently won a £600,000 advance ["a chore ... leaden and boring ... cliché upon cliché ... on the plus side, the print is very big" - Amazon reviewer] and Funny Valentine ["Indistinguishable from every other wacky-jacketed chick-lit on the shelves ... a tiresome, derivative plot with cardboard characters" - Amazon reviewer]) would seem to bear this out.

I agree with jim too that Jack Davenport is a terrible actor.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 14:56   #5
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

He was ok in Coupling. But not as good as the others.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 15:02   #6
John Self
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

Oh absolutely, he's good in Coupling, one of my favourite sitcoms. But it's essentially a farce and doesn't require much acting skill.
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Old 3rd Jan 2007, 18:58   #7
leyla
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

Other things that bugged me about it were the ludicrously unlikely events, eg
1 - Miles, having just found out all his furniture and cars are being repossessed decides not to work harder as a stockbroker or go back to law, but, er, flit off to Africa. More like a spoilt trust fund babe than someone facing bankruptcy.
2- Egg giving up hugely lucrative novel which is only 5 weeks from completion and more or less promising not to write any more, just to please Milly.
3 Milly, who's supposedly a decent person, being PLEASED about this.
4 - Miles deciding (a day after his wife storms out, as pointed out above) that actually he wants Anna after all this time. The whole joy of the original series was that it avoided fairy story cliches and showed the pain of her unrequited love for him and his use of her as an occasional shag.
5 - Anna, after having flirted and made cow eyes at Miles every time she was with him in the past ten years turning him down when he proposes living together - yeh, right.
6 - The documentary maker being prepared to watch Warren take what (for all she knows) is an overdose and filming him unconscious...
7...then allowing Egg to find her filming when he comes up - perhaps she's devious and cold blooded but surely not so stupid?


Awful. I agree that it is difficult to make something meaningful in only 1hr20 mins, but the 'wrap up' of Bodies, after two successful series and in a similarly short period was so much better.
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Old 4th Jan 2007, 11:43   #8
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Default Re: This Life - the finale

I enjoyed it.

Yes I agree that Mile's wife and the documentary producer were not strong sub-plots. But I enjoyed seeing the characters again and perhaps catching up with how they might have developed from what they were like.

Some things in a personality never change.

1. Egg is a "waister" -- I suspect he was never going to finish that second novel and the first had taken ages to do anyway

2. Milly was overly attentive, obsessive and a worrier.

3. Anna, never admits the truth, shouts the opposite and usually rejects the best option - self destructive.

4. Warren - in control, calm and collected and self-aware, but not.

5. Miles - git.


Yes it was different from the original. It had to be.

And making a new series was out of the question as they all now have other careers.
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