Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dark Underbelly of The Good Life

Survivors - Series 1
Starring: Peter Bowles, Lucy Flemming, Carolyn Seymour
Director: Pennant Roberts, Gerald Blake, Terence William
The mid 70s saw a John Seymour inspired fashion for self sufficiency. Middle class people all over England fantasised about a simpler life where they could throw in their high-flying careers, grow their own vege, keep pigs, and practice arcane crafts in their dining rooms.

This programme feeds that fashion. The point is constantly made - 'do you know how to make that?' asks one character holding up a candle. And everyone in this programme is insufferably middle class. Most survivors seem to have a stately home and drive around in a Rolls Royce.

The middle class preoccupation comes through yet again when we find that a northern (northern = working class?) union leader has set himself up as Lord of the Manor, local police chief and high court judge combined, and sentences a luckless man to be immediately executed by firing squad. Our middle class heroine then runs off shouting 'this is what happens when people like you are in charge' (I paraphrase). The point is made: while all the landed gentry lay dying in their beds, the uppity working class start introducing their Stalinist ideals.

The sets are stagey, the acting stilted, the pace slow, but what do you expect from a mid 70s BBC production? I've given it 4 stars because it is what it is, and that is an ahead of its time end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it drama albeit, produced by English middle class media lovies.

It is well made - a lot of though has gone in to considering what the actual issues would be - and introducing these ideas to a relatively unsophisticated audience. To those of us brought up on Zombie films, and 'I am Legend' it might all seem a bit obvious, but stick with it. There are genuinely moving moments, some shocks, in all, some very good drama. And it serves as a social documentary of a time and a place.

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