Helen Parton looks back fondly at the drama that defined a decade and hopes its reprise will live up to the original
Forget the Spice Girls or Madonna, in the mid-90s EVERYONE wanted to either be Anna from This Life. Or sleep with her. Or both – hey this was the mid 90s, it was kinda hard to distinguish whether you were into boys or girls – Brett Anderson of Suede looked the same as Justine Frischmann of Elastica after all, and Blur said as much about this gender confusion in the song Boys and Girls.
Great to look at, fascinating, infuriating, addictive – all the qualities that made Anna so great could equally be applied to the whole show. Ten years on, BBC2 are sensibly repeating the whole two series in big double-bill sized helpings. And unlike Trainspotting, which gets more irresponsible and poorly acted the more times you see it, This Life has stood the test of time. Even its sweeping about camera style, which the show was mocked for originally, is now so commonplace in TV I hardly noticed it this time around. The only thing that has dated really is the absence of mobile phones - but then Anna’s doomed romance with Miles would be a bit harder to write if they just texted to say they were late for that vital rendez-vous or apologised for acting like a twat the previous night.
Sorry, I seem to be a bit ahead of myself here for the uninitiated, but writing about This Life is a bit like being given a box of chocolates to oneself. I’m metaphorically tucking into the strawberry and orange creams now, people, bear with me.
OK, let me start from the beginning - This Life tells the story of a house-share of twentysomething lawyers. Milly and Egg are the couple, Anna and Miles the should-be couple, Warren a Welsh gay chap, Ferdy a bisexual who in real life is Tanita Tikaram’s brother. And then in Miles and Anna’s firm there’s Joe who goes out with Keira, who works in Milly’s firm as does Rachel. Egg and Warren used to work there too but both left due to having a career epiphany and ending up working in a caff and getting caught cottaging on Hampstead Heath respectively. Actually it sounds far too PC for its own good written down like that. Except it’s not. The characterization is brilliant – Milly slowly being drawn into an affair with her boss, O’Donnell, the middle aged chap with a Morse-like absence of a first name, and her increasingly hatred for Rachel are particularly vivid. Then there’s the music – chosen by Ricky Gervais, a fact sure to crop up in trendy pub quizzes soon – which makes the whole programme even more evocative of the times. If I’m allowed to be a bit melodramatic here – think of it as halfway through that metaphorical chocolate box now, say a noisette whirl, – it also kind of reminds me of my own mortality. I was a student when I first watched it. I’m thirty now. I’ve lived through my own This Life years in a not entirely dissimilar fashion and I don’t really want to leave them. Who wants Fay Ripley and Hermione wotsit in thirtysomething drama Cold Feet when they can be eternally Daniella Nardini as Anna?
But of course, we are going to get to see what the This Life lot are like as thirtysomethings in the ten-year reunion show (Date To Be Bloody Confirmed by the BBC), which I’m anticipating with much trepidation. I’m just hoping they’re not as fucking boring, mortgage obsessed and musically out of touch as all my thirtysomething mates. Or maybe I should just grow up and put the empty chocolate box in the bin.