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This Life was a BBC television drama, produced by World Productions and screened on BBC Two, running for two series in 1996 and 1997 and a reunion special in 2007.

The series centred on the life of five twentysomething law graduates embarking upon their careers while sharing a house in south London.

Original production

The series was created by, and some episodes written by Amy Jenkins. Other writers contributed scripts, including Joe Ahearne (who also directed some episodes — the only person to do both on the series), Ian Iqbal Rashid, Amelia Bullmore and Matthew Graham. Tony Garnett was the executive producer and Jane Fallon worked as a producer on both series.

When the first series was screened it was a modest critical success, rather than being a ratings 'hit'. Nevertheless, the original production agreement secured a second series. In the lead-up to the broadcast of the second series, the entire first series was repeated, helping to generate a critical 'buzz' around the programme, to the point that millions of viewers were waiting to discover the ultimate resolutions to the various plot-lines and generating front-page newspaper coverage.

Synopsis

Series one

This Life was based around life in a London law firm and barristers' chambers of a group of twentysomething trainee solicitors and pupil barristers, but essentially it was a character-driven drama.

Egg and Milly have been dating since they were at university together but their career choices create tension between them: Milly is a high-flyer, spending a lot of time working with — and becoming attracted to — her older boss Mr O'Donnell, whereas Egg suffers a crisis of dissatisfaction with, and drops out of, his law career.

Anna and Miles have a love/hate relationship which causes conflict at work (where they share a room and often have to compete for cases) and at home. The latter is exacerbated when Miles's girlfriend, the drug addicted, bulimic, manipulative Delilah (Charlotte Bicknell), moves in with him. This results in conflict in the house (referenced in the episode title "Sex, Lies and Muesli Yoghurt"). When Miles, who hasn't been practising safe sex with Delilah, discovers that she is still sleeping with her heroin addict ex, Truelove, he has an HIV scare.

The other house-mate, Warren, is an "out" gay man. He spends some time dealing with issues around his sexuality, especially in relation to "coming out" to friends and family, and in a unique (at the time) plot device he is frequently seen discussing his feelings with a therapist (Gillian McCutcheon) who is heard and only rarely seen by the viewer. Miles appears, at times, to dislike Warren, and subjects him to occasional homophobic abuse when angered.

Series two

This Life cast
During the second season, storylines were expanded to include other connected characters. These included Ferdy (Ramon Tikaram) - Warren's boyfriend briefly, Rachel (Natasha Little) - new junior trainee at Milly's law firm and Francesca - Miles's girlfriend/fiancee - whilst previously secondary-characters Jo (Steve John Shepherd) and Warren's cousin, Kira (Luisa Bradshaw-White) feature more heavily as they embarked upon a relationship. Ferdy was a largely improvised, complex (and sometimes unwilling) bisexual character and was seen as a replacement for Warren when Jason Hughes decided to leave the show (he did return for the final scene). Finding a relationship with Anna impossible, Miles began a relationship with Francesca, a woman nearly a decade older than him. Miles proposed to Francesca, but still harboured feelings for Anna.

Rachel had a long-running passive-aggressive feud with Milly, although on the surface the pair were able to work together without mention of their mutual dislike. Milly's dislike of Rachel was very strong, viewing her as a threat to her relationship with O'Donnell, and disliking her apparently perfect demeanour. Milly confided in Anna that she found Rachel almost suffocatingly "nice". The tension between the two went unresolved throughout the second series, culminating in the final scene, in the episode "Apocalypse Wow!". At Miles and Francesca's wedding reception, Rachel is floored by a punch from Milly, after Milly learns that Rachel has told Egg about her affair with her boss, O'Donnell.

Post production

The second series ended with a close-up of an advert for the house, and the original intention was to re-cast with new characters. The controversial stage writer Mark Ravenhill was involved in drafting story-lines and early scripts for a third series, but the plans were aborted, and the decision was taken to end the programme "on a high". Series one and two are available on DVD from BBC Worldwide, as a box set and as two individual series volumes.

In 2001, NBC Television broadcast a loosely adapted U.S. remake titled First Years. It attracted scathing reviews and low ratings, and vanished quickly.

The young production team behind This Life went on to further success:

This Life + 10

In 2006, the BBC reconvened the original cast for a special one-off 80-minute special, looking at what had happened to the lead characters in the intervening ten years. The resulting new episode, entitled + 10 onscreen with the original title sequence used intact making the title of the programme simply This Life as before and the title of the episode "+ 10", was screened on 2 January 2007, and was a co-production between BBC Wales and the original producers World Productions. This Life + 10 was written by Jenkins, directed by Ahearne and produced by Garnett. It gained 3.5 million viewers, with a 14% audience share.

Synopsis

The 2007 reunion episode begins with Ferdy's funeral, at which Miles, Egg, Milly, Anna and Warren are in attendance. Following the funeral, the group are filmed by a documentary-maker who want to report on the inspirations for Egg's first book (a fictionalised account of life in Benjamin Street), in expectation of his soon-to-be-released second novel. She suggests that the group should stage a reunion which she will film.

Miles and Francesca divorced after only a few months. He has given up the law in favour of owning a successful chain of hotels called Hobotel, which he is expanding into the Far East having been living in Hong Kong for several years. He now lives in Whithurst Park, a huge house in Sussex, with his Vietnamese second wife Me Linh.

Warren is a successful life coach, but has an unhappy life himself. Grieving for Ferdy, he has become an habitual user of herbal and new-age remedies, drugs and concoctions.

Anna is still a barrister, and a high-flyer, and has resolved her excessive drinking and drug habits but is starting to feel the biological clock ticking, to her surprise and dismay. She visits a sperm bank.

Milly and Egg's relationship survived her affair with O'Donnell, and they now have a three-year-old son called Oscar, with Milly as a full-time mother and Egg as a successful writer. Milly is not entirely happy with the sacrifice of her career for motherhood, and neither is Anna at the idea.

The group re-unite at Miles' country home, observed by the documentary film-maker. Me Linh inexplicably storms out soon after her husband's guests arrive. Tensions run high in the house as the former friends resolve their differences. Warren discovers that Miles always liked him, despite constantly having hurled abuse in his direction. Anna and Milly fight as each has what the other has missed out on (Milly has motherhood, whilst Anna has a career). Egg reveals he hasn't written a single word of his second book, and destroys the documentary tapes so he can enjoy a less-pressured life with his family and friends. Anna agrees to have a child with Warren, if he gives up dependency on supplements, which she flushes down the toilet. As the bailiffs move in, Miles admits that he is actually broke, and that is why Me Linh has left him. He sleeps with Anna one more time before departing to travel.

Production notes

Lead cast



Supporting cast

  • The Office star Martin Freeman appeared early in the second series, pictured stealing money from Milly and Egg's bedroom after a party, and accidentally drinking Egg's urine from a can, believing it to be beer.
  • Also from The Office, Ralph Ineson featured in an early episode as a client of Milly.
  • EastEnders actor Nitin Ganatra appeared in an episode of the second series playing a prospective housemate who manages to upset Milly.
  • Another later well-known actor appearing early in the second series is Martin Hancock, who went on to star in Coronation Streetmarker as Spider, followed by Holby City as Reg Lund.


Locations

  • The opening scenes show the house as being on Benjamin Street, which is in EC1marker in Clerkenwellmarker. However, the building is actually Anchor Terracemarker, a terraced house on Southwark Bridge Roadmarker. As the characters are often seen commuting from South London it is unclear why the Benjamin Street sign was filmed. The house has since been converted into luxury flats.
  • The law firm's offices were filmed on High Holbornmarker near the junction with Chancery Lanemarker. The location for external shots of Moore Spencer Wright are at the bottom end of Borough High Street, now the FTC Kaplan offices.
  • The barrister's chambers external shots were filmed outside Verulam Buildings on Gray's Inn Roadmarker, part of Gray's Inn; the interior scenes were filmed in the Anchor Terrace house (see above).
  • The café that Egg works in, and later runs, is on Victoria Road in North Acton next to the Tube stationmarker.
  • The café where the characters are often seen having lunch was actually just further down Southwark Bridge Road from the Anchor Terrace house (on the same side). It was called the Island Cafe.
  • The job centre Egg visits is on Borough High Street, Southwark, London.
  • Miles' country house in the 2007 reunion (Whithurst Park in Sussex) is the same location used in Lewis Series 1 episode 1 "To Whom the Gods Would Destroy".


Other

  • A then largely unknown Ricky Gervais, partner of producer Jane Fallon, was credited as "Music Advisor" for the series, and it was he who commissioned the theme tune, written by The Way Out [110257]


References

  1. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/article/ds41253
  2. O'Donnell's first name is only mentioned on a couple of occasions


External links




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