It's been seven years. That means it's time for another installment of the perennial favorite UP Series, which has followed the lives of over a dozen English men and women since they were 7. (The latest is running on PBS this month.) Granada Television first aired the program in 1964. Other updates came in 1970, 1977, 1984, 1991, 1998, 2005, 2012. The brainchild of Michael Apted, the series has tracked the participants hopes, fears, interests, successes, failures, and more. It ranks as one of the best, most original documentaries of the 20th century.
Fifty years ago Apted hoped to shine light on the deep class divisions in England and to see how that would shape the lives of these individuals as the grew into adulthood.
Here's what Rebecca Mead writes about it at the New Yorker blog (January 9, 2013):
The series began with a political agenda. Taking the Jesuit maxim “Give me a boy until he is seven, and I will give you the man,” it suggested that the prospects of the participants were determined by the class into which they were born. To a certain extent, this turned out to be true, particularly for those participants belonging to the social and educational élite. John, the prep-school boy, became a barrister, while his classmate Andrew became a solicitor. . . Less predictable were the fates of the working-class and middle-class characters.And Emma Brockes has this to say at the Guardian blog:
What couldn't have been predicted was that a programme devised with the modest intention of giving viewers "a glimpse of England in the year 2000" would grow, over the years, into a candidate for the most affecting piece of television ever made. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces; mental illness; thwarted and realised ambitions; infidelity and its accommodation. That nothing extraordinary happened to the participants only made the series more profound, a dizzying and, at times, existentially terrifying examination of what it is to be alive, unfolding in a kind of emotional time-lapse photography.
A snapshot of 20th century social history.
If you haven't seen it, have a look at how it all started roughly half a century ago:
Watch Roger Ebert's interview with UP Series director Michael Apted.