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Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983-86)
ITV, tx. 11/11/1983 - 16/5/1986
3 series of 13 x 60 min episodes each
Production CompanyWitzend for Central Television
CreatorsDick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Franc Roddam
Written byDick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Francis Megahy, Bernie Cooper

Cast: Tim Healy (Dennis Patterson); Kevin Whately (Neville Hope); Jimmy Nail (Oz Osbourne); Timothy Spall (Barry Taylor); Pat Roach (Bomber Busbridge); Gary Holton (Wayne)

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A gang of building workers leave the dole queues of Newcastle upon Tyne to find work in Germany.

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A superlative comedy drama which helped launch the careers of Jimmy Nail and Tim Healy among others, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (ITV, 1983-86; BBC, 2002-) reunited the writing team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, responsible for Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (BBC, 1973-74) and Porridge (BBC, 1974-76).

Based on an idea by Franc Roddam, the series borrowed the familiar sitcom theme of characters thrown together by circumstance: in this case seven builders forced to flee recession-hit Britain to find employment. The different ways in which the characters adjust to their foreign environment provides the programme's comic thrust.

The unglamorous world of bricklaying may seem an unlikely setting for a comedy, but the scripts employ both humour and empathy to engage the audience in the everyday concerns of a gang of intrepid workers based in Düsseldorf in Germany.

Much of the plot revolves around three Geordie lads of wildly diverse personality. 'Oz' (Jimmy Nail) is a headstrong fool whose big mouth frequently lands him in trouble. With his lack of ambition, petty-minded xenophobia and aggressive streak, he represents a rather unsavoury working class stereotype. Dennis (Tim Healy) cuts a more sympathetic figure. Older and more worldly-wise, he recognises the lack of options available but does his best to look out for his colleagues. Neville (Kevin Whately) is naïve but likeable, a selfless devotion to wife Brenda governing his every action.

A wounded sense of male pride combined with a vigorous work ethic drives the British workers. Tied down by family responsibilities back home, the grim reality of their situations frequently impinges on their day-to-day existence. The only source of escapism is the Friday night booze-up and the lure of the local brothel: short-term temptations which frequently prove the gang's undoing. Despite their shortcomings, however, there is much to admire within the camp, not least the strong camaraderie which helps them overcome considerable adversity.

A second series, broadcast in 1986, saw the seven return to England to embark on further misadventures. Though losing some of its novelty, the scripting remained as sharp and funny as ever, while the uniformly excellent casting allowed the characters to develop.

After a sixteen-year absence, the programme was recently resurrected by the BBC, with most of the original cast members coming back on board.

Darren Lee

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Video Clips
1. At sea (3:20)
2. Two brickies and a chippie (4:04)
3. Stalag 17 (3:18)
Clement, Dick (1937-) and La Frenais, Ian (1936-)
Elphick, Michael (1946-2002)
La Frenais, Ian (1936-) and Clement, Dick (1937-)
Spall, Timothy (1957-)
Whately, Kevin (1951-)
Central Independent Television