Auf Wiedersehen Pet was a comedy drama about unemployed construction workers forced to seek employment in Germany. Its crux revolved around the pain of them leaving wives, girlfriends behind and their worry about just what their men might get up to away from home. With unemployment high in Britain, it was a concept many could empathize with, and it became an instant hit.
We first meet three Geordies, Dennis, Neville and Oz, with Dennis in the process of being divorced by his wife Vera, and Neville firmly under the thumb of his wife Brenda. Meanwhile, Oz is a loud, obnoxious Newcastle United loving drunk who hates Germans. The boys soon find themselves teamed up with four more construction workers, after which they nickname themselves the magnificent seven. The other four being: Barry a twice-married boring Brummie who the boys mock constantly; Wayne, a womanising Cockney whose love of the ladies often lands him and the gang in trouble; Moxey, a stuttering Scouser with bad acne and a criminal past as an arsonist; and Bomber a quiet spoken giant of a man. Wayne, after the death of actor Gary Holden, was later replaced by Wyman. They were brilliant characters everyone could relate to and the conflict between them even more so. Its popularity was also due to its writers Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais (The Likely Lads and Porridge), who also co-produced the first two series.
Airing in 1983, the first series revolves around the lads working on a building site in Düsseldorf where, despite being promised hostel accommodation, they have to live in a hut resembling a POW camp. The interactions, altercations and evolving friendship of the characters drives the show as the boys, led by appointed leader Barry, get into all sorts of trouble. In 1986, the boys reunited to help renovate a country manor house owned by crooked businessman Ally Fraser, but soon end up in Spain refurbishing his villa. The gang are soon mistaken for criminals and at the end of the series they flee the Spanish police in a motor yacht. Clement and Le Frenais revived the series in 2002, this time for BBC One. However, with many characters appearing to have moved on, critics doubted whether the series would retain its initial audience appeal. Viewing figures of 11.6 million (a 47% market-share of viewers) soon laid the doubters to rest.
The storyline for series three revolved around a corrupt politician's plan to dismantle the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge and the sell it in the Far East. The gang look likely to get cheated out of their share of the profits, but a wealthy Native American from Arizona comes to their rescue by buying the bridge, instead. In 2008, the fourth series sees the boys refurbishing the British Ambassador's residence in Havana, Cuba, where Neville is reluctantly recruited by British Intelligence as a spy. When Pat Roach (Bomber) announced he had cancer in real life, it was decided the curtain would be brought down on the programme whilst it still retained its popularity. In a two hour finale Barry is kidnapped whilst on the Eastern and Oriental Express before being rescued by the boys amidst emotional scenes, which left the audience satisfied - though they would have happily welcomed more.
Published on November 28th, 2018. Tim Rands (2014).