Tonight saw the return of the brilliant This Is England, which started life as a film in 2006 following a bunch of characters from England in 1983.
In 2010, the first spin-off television series This Is England '86 began and now the second spin-off set two years later This Is England '88 has just aired its first episode. So with a further spin-off This Is England '90 already commissioned what is it about the characters and what they go through that keep audiences returning time and time again to find out what they've been up to?
Back in 2006 we were introduced to Shaun, Combo, Lol, Woody and many others when the film This Is England hit our screens. I remember the first time I watched the film, which wasn't in the cinema but actually when it premiered on Film 4.I hadn't planned to watch it and despite its rave reviews I felt that the film didn't really appeal to me and I may not enjoy it.
But I was wrong, I was hooked, the characters were so brilliantly created by Shane Meadows and the sets and costumes did an excellent job in placing you back in 1983. It was remarkable how raw and gritty the film was along with the strong topics that were covered.The film's main character was Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) who through his troubled school days comes across a group of 'skinheads' who take him under their wing and soon become best friends.
The film is said to have been inspired by the director and writer Shane Meadows, own experiences growing up. The film quickly became one of my favourite films of all time and although I own it on DVD, I also choose to watch it whenever they repeat it on TV.
Then, in September 2010 I got really excited when I saw that Shane Meadows had created a spin-off entitled This Is England '86 that followed the same characters as the film but 3 years on. Each of the four one hour episodes that built up the series including Woody & Lol's wedding, Lol's relationship with her dad Mick and a very uncomfortable scene between Mick & Trev, as well as emotional scenes featuring Combo as he comes to terms with his mothers passing.
These are only some of the storylines that '86 covered and the benefit of having four hours dedicated to these issues as opposed to an hour and a half to two hours film is the depth that can go into these issues that often is only touched upon in cinema.
The second series, This Is England '88 which started tonight followed the characters 2 years on from '86 as they celebrate Christmas. The first episode, set on December 23rd, saw Shaun all grown up and preparing for a Christmas play at the Drama college which he now attends.
We see that he's still together with Smell, however he appears to have feelings for Fay, the girl which stars opposite him in the play. We also see how the events that took place in '86 have continued to affect Lol and have left her feeling lonely and isolated as she struggles to raise a child on her own.
All in all I thought the episode was brilliant and I can't wait to see tomorrow night's episode to find out how the rest of Christmas pans out for Shaun, Lol and the rest of the gang, and see whether or not Woody can adjust to life with Jennifer.