Why is this show so compelling?
The participants said we think we know them and how they feel but we don’t. Several said we see a minute snapshot with the producers taking a perspective, or an angle.
Yet we are seeing real people however small the snapshot. To see the arc of their lives, the narrative, is as engaging as reading a memoir.
It’s touching. I teared up at the fellow who moved to Australia. Mr S couldn’t understand it, “But it is happy.”
Yes, but he was so vulnerable. And sliding doors, I don’t think he would have had such a happy life if he’d remained in England. And how Aussie is the grandkid – Shano? An English documentary maker couldn’t have hoped for more stereotypical Aussies.
Some people seem to be hit with bad luck; drama, illness, unemployment, misadventure, all compounded by poor choices. But for me, it is the happier stories that are so touching.
I love seeing the changing fashions. The makeup on the women. The hair on the men. God, the 70s and early 80s were not kind to men with all that hair. And 80s make-up never heard the word subtle.
The increasingly compelling part is that nothing like this can ever be made again. Our view of the media has changed and this would affect the filming from the start. OK, some participants have come on in this or in previous episodes to promote something, a band or a charity for example, but reality TV and social media have changed the way we use and present ourselves. And the simple presentation, gentle editing and pace, would not be the style of a modern documentary maker.
There have been some short-lived versions from other countries. But they appear so derivative.
As the years roll on, my fear is no one will participate. So it becomes more compelling – will this be the last one? As we’ve come to know the people – we want to know what’s happened, like we do with old school friends who we “know” and are FB friends with. We know we don’t know what is really going on in their lives, we don’t know all they hold important, what they value, but we want to know what they’re up to and how they’re travelling.
What about class?
Although all the participants decry the concept of class that they say is the producer’s point, class is clearly a determining factor in their lives.
Class isn’t money. But the effect is evident in the life choices.
Of course, options are vastly different for whatever class you are born into than they were a century ago. Children may go to university, participants be the first to own their own home.
Representatives from different social groups may be tokenism, but it holds largely true.
But the saying, “Give me a child …” isn’t just about class. We see the personalities come through. Worried little 7 year old Paul is still worried at 56. Sparky Tony is still sparking.
Why do they agree to continue?
I am so grateful that they do. It must be interesting to have a kind of record. Yet strangely disturbing to see the years go by so quickly.
The wife of the lawyer said she gets to see the physical changes of her husband and compare them to her sons. But that’s hardly a reason for her husband to continue.
The posh country girl said she feels a responsibility to return but hates it. I am glad she feels that responsibility.
What’s the real lesson?
Family, significant other relationships, purpose. Those three things are most important for happiness, feeling satisfied and content, and getting through the rough patches. Irrespective of class.