Next month, one of the most amazing and drawn out television projects returns to British television. It is the series Seven Up which was broadcast in 1964, and can claim to be the first reality television series.
It involved interviews with 14 children aged 7 and has followed them through their lives, so is part social experiment, part a view of Britain through the eyes of a small group of its citizens. There has been nothing like it since, and is viewed by many as the most important piece of television ever made.
It was originally planned as a single programme, and it has not been possible to keep all the children involved. One of those who dropped out is now a filmmaker. Whilst it must be painful for the subjects to watch their younger selves talking about their thoughts and aspirations, it is also a fantastic record of who they were, a piece of their own family history to pass on to their own children.
The director is Michael Apted, who deserves much of the praise for the series, one of the hardest working filmmakers around, and one of the most sympathetic to his subjects. He formed bonds with his subjects, and the series has become an important part of British culture. He is a respected filmmaker who seems to specialise in films with strong female leads. Sissy Spacek won an academy award for her starring role in his ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’. Gorillas In the Mist starring Sigourney Weaver helped raise awareness of wildlife in Africa, and his bond film, The World is Not Enough was the first to feature a woman as a major villain.