Auf Wiedersehen, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet 

31 August 2021

Every Saturday evening over the last few months me and the missus have been enjoying the DVD box sets of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, doing it the old fashioned way watching each episode on a weekly basis, interrupted only by the odd ‘change in tonight’s programme’ (Eurovision Song Contest, Cardiff Singer Of The Year, Euros championship) that really had to be seen live.

Last week we came to the end of series two. Mrs Nash was unaware that the programme was ‘revived’ by the BBC in 2002 and although I felt the new version was pushing it a bit, I do remember enjoying the initial run. But I did feel obliged to warn the missus that it would never match the two original series.

So we settled to watch the start of the BBC series one (as one who loves AWP to me it will always be series three) and instantly, for me at least, I felt the enjoyment factor diminish by a few notches. It wasn’t anything to do with the performance, the storyline or the slight mellowing of the characters. No, it was the inevitable change in production techniques in the intervening years, something we’re all used to by now but very noticeable when you leap sixteen years forward from one series to the next.

You see, up until the previous week we’d been watching something that had quite clearly been a traditional television drama production, recorded on videotape both in the studio (Elstree and Nottingham in this case I believe) as well as on location and while the production was slick, there were no pretensions about it being anything more than a TV drama. The twenty-first century version just looked way too polished for such a simple idea.

Sixteen years on and right from the opening titles the show was getting the “movie” treatment which really looked out of place for such a simple format as AWP. I think it summed up what I don’t generally enjoy about watching television drama these days, it all looked a bit too cinematic for my liking.



Now, like many of you reading this I realise that when I’m watching a studio based TV drama made in the seventies or eighties I do have an inkling of knowledge about what’s going on behind the scenes and how it’s put together, that the actors are playing to three or four cameras and being chased by an overhead boom microphone (all with leads trailing across the studio floor) while a team of people are sitting in a gallery where the camera shots are being cut together in real time. Maybe it’s for this reason that the ‘old’ shows I’m currently enjoying (Public Eye, Callan, Rock Follies, Budgie, Upstairs Downstairs, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and Rumpole Of The Bailey) come across to me as ‘live’ drama, theatre being played out on the TV screen, allowing for some fairly lengthy and involving scenes to be played out. No quick cuts and little in the way of incidental or accompanying background music, just straight theatre.

Of course back in the day we did have the filmed action series, most notably from the ITC stables along with the Euston Films productions, but even their composure made it quite clear that they were for the small screen, there was no attempt to make them look anything more than that.

Ironically the only pieces of TV drama that still adhere to my old fashioned expectations in production are the soaps which still look like they’re recorded on good old videotape (yes, I know they’re not….) and have yet to receive the filmic look. I’ll continue with the “new” Auf Wiedersehen, Pet but I will stop at the end of this series, not because of my fussy whims about modern TV but because in series four (BBC series two) it really did outstay its welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not campaigning or appealing for it to go back to the way it was, maybe the shift to the 16:9 format demands such production techniques, I just find the older methods presented a more relaxing and often more engaging viewing experience.

Is it just me?


You Say

3 responses to this article

James 31 August 2021 at 2:51 pm

It’s definitely not just you, I definitely think video look drama does the job an works incredibly well if done properly, it’s a shame it so often gets derided as “cheap” and nobody wants to make drama that way any more… or let’s be honest, programmes of any genre- the film look has penetrated everything, even daytime property shows, gardening shows, cooking shows, sitcoms, even some sports coverage, even when it’s to the detriment of the content. I’d argue around 2/3rds of shows which have the film look inflicted on them these days shouldn’t have it at all.

I’d definitely wish at least the likes of Casualty would go back to being “video look”, with the sort of fast moving emergency the show was, it, along with The Bill, really did show just how well video look drama, but with more modern production and editing techniques than the old studio based, more-or-less as-live multi-camera shows, worked. A shame both shows succumbed to the film look in the late 00s, they could have both been really effective showcases for video-look drama in the HD era if they hadn’t.

As it stands, I’d argue Emmerdale is the best current example of how well video look drama can work, because their producers are prepared to experiment with various filming and editing techiques, especially when they have a special week or a big stunt and they make tweaks to the look of the show without needing to filmise, and it looks nothing like the “cheap 70s costume drama” that far too many people deride video-look drama as being and really highlights how effective and powerful the immediacy of smooth video can be. Ironically Emmerdale being a show which attempted to start using the film look nearly 20 years back but thankfully u-turned after a mere 7 episodes and hasn’t (yet) tried it again.

Of course when we’re in an era where even the Antiques Roadshow and Gardener’s World have been filmised (probably among the least appropriate shows on TV for the film look to be applied to), it’s going to be hard to convince producers of the merits of video-look drama..

Richard Jones 31 August 2021 at 3:07 pm

I find ‘old style’ multi camera (cut in camera not in post) has more energy and vitality than single camera (either film or electronic progressive)…. I also much prefer the actuality look of interlace VT, it looks live and feels more real…

(and this is also the case if the TV is shot single camera or multi camera cut in post like productions using BBC MARMITE type set ups, it still feels live and real and actually)

Lee Dobson 25 September 2023 at 1:16 am

For me the first two series are peak British television, being a Geordie this was the first time we heard unadulterated Geordie being spoken on Tele, I’m just in the process of upscaling them from the dvd to 1080p using AI, video tape shows like this and Blackadder will never be remastered from the source as they weren’t shot on film stock

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