Anna Baddeley

21 Up is intelligent and sensitive – and makes me crave for sex, vomit and immaturity

At 9 o’clock last night, I sat down with my take-away curry, flipped
back the lid of my MacBook and went to the iPlayer website to catch
the first episode of 21 Up: New Generation, taking care to click the
button that says ‘Yes, I do have a TV licence.’ One small problem: 21
Up wasn’t on. Not until 10.35 p.m., aka time for Newsnight.

Surely, I wondered, my small prawn karahi rapidly decreasing in
temperature as I hunted for something rubbish to watch on 4oD, the
latest instalment of the 21st century remake of Michael Apted’s bold,
immensely flawed sociological experiment, 7 Up, deserves a prime-time

The reason why it had been denied one became apparent halfway through
the episode. This new Up series has been intelligently and sensitively
directed by Julian Farino. It has respect for its participants, and is
generally free from the leading questions and clunky hypothesising
that marred the original. The children, who were seven at the turn of
the century, and 14 when the world started plunging into
financial crisis, have become conscientious, well-adjusted,
hard-working adults, who should give us great hope for the future.

Unfortunately, a bunch of 21-year-olds talking sensibly about work,
money and relationships doesn’t make for tremendously exciting
viewing. Watching computer science student Jamie from Belfast go
leafleting for the Alliance Party and Orala (a superb singer) talking
passionately about her biomedical sciences degree and Alexandra
telling us how her independent girls’ school had taught her that the
world was her oyster, left me longing for the sex, vomit and
immaturity of The Secret Life of Students.

A few participants stood out for me: John, a BMX and drum ‘n’ bass
enthusiast, because he appeared to have Pedigree Chum cheesy bites
attached to his earlobes; Ryan, born with cerebral palsy, who has had
to deal with his dad leaving and surrogate dad (his grandfather)
dying, and is still remarkably positive and hoping to play wheelchair
rugby for Team GB; and, most striking of all, Asif, a Pakistani Muslim
from Glasgow, who’s rebelling against his strict upbringing by
dressing in a western way, having non-Muslim friends, listening to
Rihanna (‘Mum wouldn’t be too pleased, she thinks it’s “the devil’s
music”‘) and only going to the mosque for Friday prayers.

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