A few days after the FA Cup Final and a few weeks before the World Cup seems to me, the perfect time for BBC One to launch their new drama, From There To Here, which is about our love for the beautiful game, in particular the events that happened in Manchester during Euro '96.
This three-part mini series, definitely isn't short of great talent - Philip Glenister (Life On Mars), Bernard Hill (Five Days), Steven Mackintosh (What Remains), Saskia Reeves (Luther), Liz White (Life On Mars), Daniel Rigby (Big School) and Morven Christie (Hunted) all star in From There To Here. Reuniting Philip Glenister and Liz White in Manchester, who of course starred together in Life On Mars. Oh and to add one more name to the list, the series is written by Peter Bowker, who brought us Blackpool, and describes his latest series as his "love letter to Manchester, warts and all."
From There To Here tells the story of a city, an era and two families from different sides of the tracks whose lives are brought together in the aftermath of a bomb.The story spans the four years that changed Manchester and the country forever - from Football’s Coming Home in 1996, to New Labour sweeping to power in 1997, and finally to the hangover that occurred after the Millennium celebrations in 2000.
One of the opening lines of From There To Here is "There are three battles that shape our lives; Nature Vs Nurture, Free Will Vs Destiny and City versus United." which to me, sums up the series better than anything else.
The opening episode takes place on Saturday 15th June, 1996 - the same day in which an IRA bomb destroyed much of Manchester's City Centre and England were to take on Scotland in Euro '96.
Philip Glenister plays Daniel Cotton who lives a perfectly nice life with his wife Clare, played by Saskia Reeves and their two grown-up children, He runs a sweet factory with his dad Samuel (Bernard Hill), and his brother Robbo, played by Steven Mackintosh is, let's just say - the black sheep of the family who runs a nightclub in a rough part of town.
We don't even make it ten minutes into the first episode before the bomb goes off in Manchester, leaving Daniel, Robbo and Samuel, who had met in a bid to get the family back together again, shocked but with no serious injuries.
In fact, when sat outside being treated for a minor head injury, Samuel asks Daniel to "make sure he's back for kick-off" at 3pm, proving that nothing will stand in the way of them watching the football.
It's difficult to imagine this happening in today, because I'm pretty sure that if a disaster of that scale happened now, the England match would've been cancelled - but not in 1996, which thankfully makes for a better drama. It's clear that the one thing that unites everyone in From There To Here, is their love for the beautiful game. And at one point Samuel says "We should got to Old Trafford tomorrow to watch the Germany Russia game. Show the paddy's we're not scared."
The story is told against the backdrop of a great northern city that is reinventing itself in the face of adversity and massive socio-economic change. The material damage to the city is echoed in the fault line running through the Cotton family's fractured relations.
Straight after the blast, Daniel is asked by his father to make sure he sees hotel cleaner Jane (Liz White), who was caught up in the blast with them, home.
If you're thinking you might detect a bit of chemistry between the two, you'd be right. Although I can't say too much, you do have to question why, when asked whether he's married or not, Daniel tells Jane "I'm not married. It's a long story, and you don't really want to hear it." which roughly translated means "It's a long story, and you don't really want to hear, because I've just made it up and haven't come up with it yet."
So not only does surviving a near-death experience provoke a change in Daniel's relationship with his wife, but also with his brother Robbo, whose lifestyle has meant he has pretty much always been short of cash. As a result, Robbo is lent £10,000 from Daniel, which instead of spending it wisely and paying off his debts, he puts the whole lot on a five match accumulator, where if England were to win their next four matches, he'd receive a return of £250,000.
Needless to say this doesn't happen as England famously lose out on penalties and Robbo is forced to take drastic action if he is ever to see that kind of money again.
I've only seen the first episode so can't comment on the rest of the series, but from what I've seen it's a great drama that finds the perfect balance between those epic moments, such as the blast, and the more intimate sensitive moments of family life. Philip Glenister is great as ever and it's nice to see him reunited with his ex-Life On Mars co-star Liz White.
Having been written by Phillip Bowker, there was never really any doubt as to how good From There To Here would be, and at a time where we're all preparing our own plans to watch the World Cup, the timing couldn't have been better and the drama really shows how sport can bring people together in all kinds of situations - a way for men to express themselves in a way that's acceptable. So if you're in two minds about giving this go I'd recommend very strongly that you do. BBC One haven't exactly delivered (Happy Valley aside) this year in terms of drama but From There To Here certainly begins to make up for it and is a welcome move away from the usual period pieces you find on the channel.