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A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

General chat about all things Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

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A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Alan Clarke » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:53 pm

So, for years I've been hearing how brilliant "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" is and I've been planning to get stuck in for about as long, but for some reason, I never got 'round to it. Seeing how it gave the push to some of my favourite actors (Kevin Whately, Timothy Spall, Bill Paterson) I decided to finally bite the bullet. In short: I loved it. In long:

Series One
What really amazed me at first and continues to do so is just how real, relatable and recognisable the magnificent seven are. After about three episodes I felt like I really knew these guys. Of course, characters have always been one of Clement and la Frenais' strength. Their other strengths include consistently hilarious jokes and wonderful dialogue however I've always found their plots sadly lacking. "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" is a great example of all of these strengths and that one (hardly slight) weakness. They have an annoying tendency of introducing plotlines that don't amount to anything (what was the point of the necklace in "Suspicion" for instance), setting up situations that never connect to the rest of the plot or dragging out a story over the entire episode and then resolving it in a single unsatisfying scene ("The Accused" just ends doesn't it). Now maybe I've been spoilt on a steady diet of David Renwick or am missing the joke, but this kind of sloppy writing annoys the hell out of me. Another major weakness was the very awkward mixing of comedy and drama. While the funny elements work beautifully, the drama parts feel dull, jarring and unnecessarily bleak (again "The Accused", also "Last Rites"). The thing I had the biggest problem with was just how tedious the confinements of the setting became. I was more sick of the hut then they were. Of Germany certainly. It seemed to me that these confinements started impacting the originality of the plot. Namely, several elements kept being repeated in the later episodes. Some of the lads' quirks also became somewhat boring (like Nevile's constant Brenda-ing). I felt like the claustrophobia angle was stretched very, very thin. Strangely, though, I liked the show even with these flaws. The major strength of the show that saves every series are the characters, their camaraderie and the humour (I can't think of a single failed joke). There are several episodes that are truly brilliant and flawless ("If I Were a Carpenter", "Home Thoughts from Abroad", "Private Lives", "The Lovers"), there are several duds ("Suspicion", "The Accused", "The Fugitive"), but on the whole it is an enjoyable, entertaining and endearing experience.

Series Two

If I liked series one, I ADORED series two. This is the show I wanted to see, expected to see, hoped to see when I started watching "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet". This series is one of the greatest things ever put on telly. Top 5 screen comedies definitely. Vibrant, constantly funny, engaging, entertaining and wildly original, to me, it is a vast improvement over the already good debut. The cast really started coming out in this one. While certain character seemed to have little to do in the first series (which seemed to be quite Geordy-orientated) here all of them get equal treatment (Moxey for instance, was barely noticeable in series one, bar that gardening outing with Barry). The addition of Bill Paterson is also a major plus. Bill is one of the best actors in Britain and Ally Fraser is a creation for the ages. Slimy, nasty and vile, I was surprisingly always glad to see him on screen. Timothy Spall also must have changed something about his Barry performance because he very quickly became my favourite character nocking Gary Holton's Wayne to second place. Talking of Gary Holton, I braced myself for the Spain episodes after hearing his absence is jarring, but I personally noticed nothing out of ordinary. They always found fairly natural ways to write him out of scenes, there is also a good bit of footage of him in them anyway. The repeated change of setting and scenery helps immensly to make the show dynamic and constantly exciting and the continuing plot makes the show a definite TV equvialent of a page-turner. There is less drama here and when it's there it is handled extremely well ("Marjorie Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is the best of a brilliant lot of episodes). The only complaint I had was that the last two episodes could have been condensed into one, a little of Hazel goes a long way). A classic, a masterpiece, absolute genius. Whatever you call it, series two is the best.

Series Three

I have to say I was very glad to see the lads back together. Even though there was no waiting for me, I plunged right from "Quo Vadis, Pet" to "Bridging the Gap" I felt very happy when they were reunited. Series three isn't brilliant, but I quite enjoyed it. The one feeling I had when it was finished was that I wished it was four episodes long. Two in England, two in America. The American episodes are excellent. They zip along, they are funny, touching and enjoyable. The English episodes have great moments but on the whole run too long. While I really enjoyed Bill Nighy and his subplot I found Barry's Russian wife and her "brother" very tedious. I've seen these characters many times before and obnoxious is very rarely funny. Much less of them would have been better (to think I thought Hazel was bad). Also, what exactly was the point of Oz's relationship with Sarah (other than eye-candy and telling Oz where Jeffrey is she serves very little purpose). The lazy plotting is also back with various plotlines left unsolved or solved in a quick, unsatisfactory manner (the Albanians, Neville's prostitute friend, Barry's DEA arrest which also served no purpose at all), I also found Jeffrey's drug-induced confession an insanely contrived (and as any small child who's ever seen an episode of "Law and Order" could tell you) entirely legally impossible way to end the series (even if it was hilarious). Speaking of contrived the plot of this series has thrown all realism in the air and believability be damned. I liked the changes in the lads 15 years later, I even like Wyman (I really don't get the hate). On the whole, I quite liked series three. It has flaws, more holes than a swiss cheese but there is enough great, funny, touching moments there for it to be enjoyed.

Series Four

Well, speak of contrived. Spies, ballerinas, embassies, and Fidel Castro's bath. This takes the cake. And what a mixed bag. Episode one was great if disjointed. Dynamic, entertaining and surprisingly well directed with some excellent, though highely derivative, music (you can hear a thin rewrite of a Morricone score and several bars of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" in there). Episode two was lively, fun and energetic, it felt kinda like what you would expect Cuba to feel like. Wild, unrestrained and (again) fun. Episode three is brilliant. Some of the best farce I've seen on this show. Then it kind of goes downhill. The plot becomes too complex, the characters around the boys too caricaturish. Wyman's mother is annoying, Nevile's handler becomes a little too slimy, the premises are stretched way too thin. Barry spends too much time in a Cuban prison (though. And no matter how many times this show does it, I'll never believe Oz's romantic liaisons with beautiful, sophisticated women. It's much more sound structurally than series three, livelier and never stretches its premise too thin, but it lacks the emotion, believability and the laughs ("A Gift from Fidel" is the exception) that made the previous series as good as they were.

The Special (Series Five)

And so it falls apart. This is the only series of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" that is entirely outweighed by bad and was a total disappointment to me. Horrible, unbelievable plot, lack of truly funny scenes, two annoying characters are brought back (Tarquin and Tatiana) and so many failed opportunities. The lads trekking the jungle could have brilliant (gets resolved after two scenes), Barry is again in prison (and again spends too much time in it), the lads separate based on some of the flimsiest excuses I've ever heard and Pat Roach isn't there. The lack of his presence is sorely felt. This series also features the laziest writing of the entire series. Oz's arse injury amounts to nothing, the lads are saved in the most anticlimactic way possible, nothing is made out of Barry's return to Tatiana, at first he says he wants to talk to Nevile about it, he seems in two minds, and then they are just back together for the epilogue, no discussion, no thinking, nothing. They even ripped off the who's on first routine ("Why") which is probably the oldest joke in the book. Thankfully it ends on just the right note, in just the right way. It comes full circle (the only thing that does in this special). I must say though that despite how bad this special was, it has probably my favourite scene of the entire show. The scene in which the lads are on a gondola and then Dennis sort of nonchalantly mentions a dead dog ("probably just having a swim"), and then Oz throws up with the comment "A bit of character never killed nobody". There is something so hilarious in just how silly, (intentionally) stupid and brief this non-sequitor is. It is kind of like one of those Monty Python cartoons or a "Not the Nine O'Clock News" cutaway. I absolutely loved the scene and hated the special. I wish the show had ended on series four (or three even). Two minutes of greatness are not worth sitting through the horrible remainder.

In conclusion, I really loved "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet". I felt I knew the lads and had become the eight magnificent cowboy (Claude Akins?). The acting is consistently brilliant, the jokes are always funny (except for in the final five episodes) and the camaraderie is always tangible. I prefer the serialised format despite the fact it was done with complete success only once, series two is my favourite series and Barry's my favourite character. My favourite episode is probably "Marjorie Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and the least favourite "Au Revoir, Part Two" (simply because part one featured the gondola scene). I see myself enjoying most of these episodes again and again, especially since series two came extremely close to dethroning "Only Fools and Horses" as my favourite comedy series of all time.

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Musta bin Elbowed » Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:22 pm

Superb analysis, I enjoyed reading that. Thank you for taking the time. I love imagining what it must be like to see Pet for the first time (I grew up with it) so it's very interesting to read your reactions. I agree with almost all of what you've written.

re the necklace in Suspicion having no point to it - the necklace helps to drive the whole plot. Because of the necklace, Nev is suspected of being the thief when he is seen exiting the pawn shop. As a result, he has to 'confess' to the lads that he basically nearly cheated on Brenda. So we see the pressure of being away from home beginning to tell on even the most doggedly loyally married of the bunch. It also adds a nice comedy touch in the girl being the same one who earlier rejected Wayne.

Also interesting about the gloominess of the hut/Germany etc in series one - I think it was meant to be that way. Lets be honest, a hell of a lot of the hut/site scenes in series one are depressing as hell. I think its intended to make the viewers feel just how miserable an existence the lads were living.

As for Barry being in prison so much in the later series, I think I'm correct in saying Spall was so busy with other acting jobs that he couldn't commit anywhere near the same time as the other actors so the scenes were designed to 'write him out' for large parts of filming.

One other tiny point - I too love that scene with the dead dog in Thailand (I actually dont mind that whole section in Bangkok, its one of the few watchable bits of the special) but Oz says a bit of carrot wont hurt, not character (after he's spewed on Dennis' feet). Sorry to be anal like ;)

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Lou » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:23 pm

:lol: Bloody hell has he been living on the moon for the past 30 years........ :lol:
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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Alan Clarke » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:24 pm

Thanks. I like a bit of chat (Alan Partridge fan here) with the fans after I've watched a series.

I was hoping for a better punchline to the whole necklace situation. At first, they seemed to be building it up for the boys to mistake Nev for the thief, but that's resolved in a single scene. Then it seems poised to created a rift (or at least an argument) between Nev and Wayne, but that's never resolved at all, not even mentioned afterward.

I know that the gloominess was intended but it tired me a wee bit too much. When I say was bored of the hut, it wasn't in the "oh, this is ghastly" was but in the "it's getting kind of tired" way.

I thought that might be the reason. Timothy is a busy little bee, isn't he. They could have come up with a better way to explain his absence then prison every time, though.

Oh, carrot, right! I guess I was laughing so hard at Moxey I misheard Oz. It's not anal, it's correct (that's what I always say when I'm accused of being anal when correcting people who call The Doctor, Doctor Who).

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Musta bin Elbowed » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:02 pm

Alan Clarke wrote:I was laughing so hard at Moxey I misheard Oz
Moxey does have some brilliant 'pointing out the obvious' digs at Oz in that special ("Maybe a boat ride wasnt a good idea if you're feeling sick", "Should have brought your big cushion Oz" :lol:


I was a bit surprised 'Marjorie' was the stand out episode for you. I rank it among the weakest of series two. Its like a stop-gap while the plot stands still. You said the final two eps could have been condensed into one, I think so too could those two Newcastle episodes, they come across as filler. Plus after Cowboys and No Sex Please, yet another 'Oz episode' (three in a row!) was too much I think

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Alan Clarke » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:19 pm

I really loved it. It was heartfelt, good drama, good comedy (the kidnap scene "Burn rubber" was hilarious). It wasn't overdone on the drama side, nor on the comedy side. Just right. I didn't feel two Newcastle episodes were too much because they were soooo different, had different tones, stories, and focuses while the last two just had the same feel. It wasn't the sole standout, though, it was a real tossup between "Marjorie" and "The Return of the Seven" for me, I also really loved "Law and Disorder", some of the best Barry scenes ever, "Cowboys" (what a great ending) and "Scoop". All of the series two ones are 10/10 for me except for "For Better or Worse".

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Tracy » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:34 pm

Nice bit of summary that, I enjoyed it.
What did you make of Neville's relationship with Kelly-Anne ? What did he tell Dennis, "movies, bowling" ? BOLLOCKS ! He was payin for it and loving every moment !!! :D
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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Auf Wiedersehen, Pet » Sat Dec 10, 2016 8:04 pm

Brilliant piece of writing, and like many others I feel quite jealous if you watching it for the first time!
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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Musta bin Elbowed » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:38 pm

One thing that can be said for 'Marjorie...' - without it we wouldn't have had the legend that is Sandro Gadgie :mrgreen:

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Musta bin Elbowed » Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:01 am

Alan ("aye Alan, thats what they call 'im, aye") - I read your first post again as it was so good :) Did you binge-watch the first series? If so that could explain why the setting got a bit tiresome. Obviously it was made back in the days of 'once a week and thats your lot' so probably didnt jar as much back then

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Alan Clarke » Sun Dec 11, 2016 9:19 am

Thanks a bunch for the good reviews. I wish I were this praised in real life. Anyway, at first I wasn't buying the whole Nevile falling for young women but Kevin really sold it. His relationship with Kelly-Anne could have been explored more, as it stands it's just a punchline. It could have been Nev's catharsis and return to his old only-Brenda-fancying-self. A missed opportunity, in my opinion. And that's one thing I forgot to bring up. In series 3 they were all different, changed people, but by series 4 they all reverted to their old selves again. I swear, if I'd watched series 4 immediately after series 2 (other than the few Arizona references and Wyman) I wouldn't have known I'd missed anything. That's a shame though 'cause I quite enjoyed seeing the lads grow up a bit.

As for your binge watching point, I keep logs (I'm that geeky, don't hold it against me) so I can tell you exactly. I watched series 1 between 27th November and the 4th December, in contrast, I watched series 2 between 4th and 6th December, series 3 between 6th and 8th, series 4 between 8th and 9th and the special on the 9th. Binge watching's no problem for me, I've gotten quite used to it and it serves me better, I like watching shows one after another otherwise I tend to lose the plot and the atmosphere. I've always hated having to wait a week before episodes so DVDs are a god send for me.

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Musta bin Elbowed » Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:07 pm

You hit the nail on the head re the character changes from 3 to 4, especially Oz (the 'no drinking' Oz didnt even make it to the end of series 3). Its something that is oft discussed here. And yeah Im with you on DVDs too, and Netflix is even more of a godsend - just done Narcos in one week and there's not even any discs clogging up the flat :)

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Auf Wiedersehen, Pet » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:56 pm

I think it was noted by cast/crew that they made a few errors with S3. Not getting them in a confined home quick enough, by S4 it was the first episode! It's noted by Jimmy Nail that finding the OED story was a total godsend, and could have given them years of stories, sadly it ended too soon due the Pats ill health and death. I would have loved to have seen a few more series, I believe it's too late now, the cast are in their early 60's now and it'd be a bit daft I believe.
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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by Alan Clarke » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:30 pm

I didn't mind the fact they weren't in an enclosed space as much I minded they were separated for so long. But giving them their own storylines they had to be separated. I don't really care where they're living, but it works best when they're together. In series two we didn't really see them living together (except when Arthur kicks them out) but they were almost always seen together or at least most of them together. That's when it worked best. The show really thrives on their chemistry. The real missed opportunities of series three for me were having Moxey work for Mickey Startup instead of bringing Ally Fraser back who would have filled that role much better and not bringing Wayne's eric son in instead of Wyman. That would have made for some interesting chemistry. After the misfires of series four and five, I would rather not see any more.

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Re: A first time viewer's experience - Quite in depth (Please do comment)

Post by rodoz » Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:48 am

Bet you wouldn't dare post your heretical comments on social media, they'll have yer arse for a hat.

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