"Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man."Jesuit maxim
The Up Series comprises (at present) eight television documentaries following 14 English people's lives from the age of 7 upward. Beginning as an episode of the Granada Television World In Action series in 1964, "Seven Up!" aimed to show the different attitudes and prospects of children from different social classes. It proved so popular that the children were revisited seven years later, and every seven years after that. Film director Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, The World Is Not Enough, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) was involved with the original programme as a young researcher and chose the child participants, and has made every subsequent instalment over the decades since.The films so far are:
Seven Up! (1964)
7 Plus Seven (1970)
21 Up (1977)
28 Up (1984)
35 Up (1991)
42 Up (1998)
49 Up (2005)
56 Up (2012)
The people featured are:
Three upper-class boys from a posh pre-preparatory school in Kensington: John Brisby, Charles Furneaux and Andrew Brackfield.
Suzanne (Suzy) Lusk, also from a wealthy family, attended a posh private school
Bruce Balden, also privately educated
Two middle-class boys from Liverpool, Neil Hughes and Peter Davies
Nicholas (Nick) Hitchon, who grew up on a small farm in Yorkshire
Three girls from working-class London: Jackie Bassett, Lynn Johnson and Susan (Sue) Davis
Tony Walker, from the East End of London
Symon Basterfield and Paul Kligerman, from a children's home in London. Symon was the only non-white person featured; he had a black father and white mother.
The Bus Came Back: John didn't appear in 28 Up but returned for later editions to publicise his Bulgarian charities. Symon missed 35 Up as he was going through a messy divorce; he returned for the later versions.
Peter dropped out after 28 Up after his comments about Margaret Thatcher cost him his job. He's finally returning in 56 Up.
Oxbridge: John, Andrew and Nick all go to Oxford. Charles didn't make it, and said he was glad in a sense to have avoided the "prep school-Marlborough-Oxbridge conveyor belt". Neil didn't make it either, leading to a Heroic BSOD.
Follow the Leader: Many versions followed, in the USSR, USA, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Netherlands...
Funny Background Event: Seven Plus 7 has perhaps the most memorable shot of the whole series, where Suzy's dog chases down and kills a rabbit in the middle of her interview, then presents her with it. Complete with Apted saying "I think your dog has something for you."
London Gangster: Apted suspected that Tony would become one, and filmed him driving around "rough" areas in 21 Up for use in later films. However, Tony went on to achieve law-abiding success.
Shrinking Violet: Nick and Suzy in Seven Plus 7 make almost no eye contact with the camera.
Token Minority: Symon is the only non-white (although, in fairness, 1 in 14 is far higher than the actual proportion of non-whites in 1960s England).
To a lesser degree, the female participants fit here as well. Only 4 of the 14 children were girls — while the programme aimed to show children from different class backgrounds, equal gender representation was not particularly considered in 1964. Apted has stated since that one of his regrets is that they did not take feminism into account, and consequently included fewer girls and did not select them on the basis of any possible careers they might choose.
A Touch of Class, Ethnicity and Religion: The original documentary's hypothesis, based on the quote at the top of this page, was that the UK's class structure is so strong a person's life path would be set at birth: at seven years old, the children's lives would already be representative of what they would grow up into. The assumption is that those born into the 'higher' classes of society will do better for themselves than those from the 'lower', who will struggle to progress up the social ladder. (The producer of the original programme had at one point thought to line 20 children up on the street, have three of them step forward and narrate "of these twenty children, only three will be successful"... an idea which was not used, perhaps mercifully in hindsight.) The idea of class immobility held up in most, but not all, cases as the series has progressed: the children from the working classes have by and large remained in those circles, though Tony seems to have become more middle class.
Your Cheating Heart: Tony admitted he was feeling tempted to cheat on his wife at 35, and by 42 he had actually done it. The marriage survived, and both he and his wife are remarkably willing to talk about it to the cameras.