This Is England ‘86

(Tuesdays, Channel 4, 10pm)

Worth a look if you enjoyed the This Is England film, the new four part follow on series, written and directed by Shane Meadows sees some of the original characters from the 2006 film, older but not necessarily wiser, living out their lives in a drab northern town amongst poverty and cultural conflicts.

“You’ve finished school now, you’ve got to get a job now luv, you’re an adult,” announces Shaun’s mum to 16 year old Shaun the minute he finishes his final CSE History exam.  Meadows re-introduces us to teenager and loner Shaun, after the violent ending from the 2006 film.  He is still an uneasy and aloof soul.  In one fairly funny, but sad moment, Shaun is bullied and threatened by the self-styled ‘hardman’ of a local scooter gang into playing a part in an orchestrated scene.  Knocking on the door of pretty, slim Gemma’s house, Shaun is forced to tell her, “I’ve just come round to tell you you’re a fat dog,” thus allowing the little scooter thug to step in and act as her knight in shining armour hoping that this will ensure his sexual conquest of her.  Of course, this funny and extremely sad scene doesn’t quiet go to plan, but we are reminded of Shaun’s vulnerability and Meadows’ abilities at scripting humour.

Later we see some new and familiar faces such as Lol, Woody and Smell, where friendship bonding and alliances are integral to their way of living and social morality.  Smell is the kookiest character by far and re-ignites her acquaintance with Shaun.  Soon to be wedded in her iconic battered Dr. Marten boots, a frustrated Lol tells Woody, “I’m still a fucking skinhead at heart!”  Woody, as ever, is calm and endearing.

With ‘NF’ (National Front) graffiti sprayed angrily onto a scruffy hospital door, This is England ’86 maps out the cultural backdrop of the 80s race riots, miners’ strikes and city Yuppies, mixed up in a dreary landscape with troubled characters and vibrant fashions.

The first episode lacked the shock value, energy and character innocence of the 2006 film and was knowingly reflective:  it felt at times too scripted and polished and didn’t live up to my expectations.  The characters were sometimes overly stated in mannerisms and style, but Meadows’ knack for portraying reality with conflict and humour still delivered and I will be tuning in again next week to see if Shaun manages to pull his head up a bit and develop into the confident young man you hope he will be.