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Series / Up

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Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.
— Jesuit maxim

The Up Series comprises (at present) nine 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. Michael Apted 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)
  • 63 Up (2019)

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 (died in 2013) 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.

Tropes associated with the Up Series:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Neil shows signs of suffering from depression and anxiety.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Tony and Symon, aged 7 at least.
  • Britain Is Only London: Ten of the 14 were Londoners or boarding in London when the show was made.
  • British Brevity: Probably the best example: ten episodes in 42 years...
  • 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.
  • Bus Crash: Apted would often talk about how he hoped to die before any of the participants, so the series wouldn't have to deal with their deaths. Sadly it didn't happen, as Lynn died a year after 56 Up.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Charles dropped out after 21 Up and never returned. He attempted to sue Apted for using some of the footage of him in later films. Since then, any photos showing him with the other children have his face blurred out.
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    • Nick's wife refused to be interviewed after 28 Up after many fans said she didn't deserve him.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The upper-class Suzy is quite stoic and somber even in the original film, but becomes more relaxed as she enters into middle age. It still doesn't change her generally negative view toward the series, though, and by 63 Up, she finally chooses not to participate.
  • Disappeared Dad: Symon had one, leading to him being determined to be present in his own kids' lives even after his first wife divorced him.
  • Documentary: A pretty unique one, following a set of people through their entire lives, from when they were little schoolchildren to retirement age.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: Tony
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In 7 Up and Seven Plus 7, Nick (William Nicholas Hitchon) is referred to by his complete middle name. Meanwhile, Sue (Susan) and Lynn (Lindsay) are likewise called by their complete first names in the first two films. Also, in 7 Up, the narrator calls Jackie by her nickname, but Sue and Lynn both call her Jacqueline.
  • First-Name Basis: The participants' surnames are never mentioned, except for Neil, who mentions his full name in 7 Up while talking about a teacher who often gets "cross" with him.
  • 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."
  • The Good Old British Comp: Jackie and Susan attend one.
  • He's All Grown Up: Most notable with Nick, who goes from a quiet and shy shepherd at 7 to an upbeat and gregarious nuclear physicist and college professor as an adult. His first interview in 21 Up even has him admit that he went out of his way to resolve to become more outgoing when he left home.
  • Irregular Series: Each release comes seven years after the previous one.
  • 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.
  • Long Runner: The first film debuted in 1964 and it has returned in some form every seven years since then.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Suzy, in 21 Up.
  • My Nayme Is: Symon
  • The Napoleon: A non-malicious example can be found in Tony, who remains noticeably short throughout his life and is infallibly scrappy and talkative.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted by Susan "Sue" Davis and Suzanne "Suzy" Lusk (and Susan Kligerman, Paul's wife), and again by Sue Davis and Peter Davies. Also averted in 28 Up, where Nick is married to a woman named Jackie. (They eventually divorced, however, and Jackie Hitchon chose not to appear in 35 Up and 42 Up due to negative fan feedback toward her.)
  • Parental Abandonment: At 7, Symon and Paul were in a children's home; Symon's mother was clinically depressed; Paul's father's reasons are not given.
  • Picky Eater: Paul, at age 7, says he doesn't want to get married because he doesn't want his wife feeding him stuff he doesn't like — vegetables, or "greens," for instance.
  • Porn Stache: Paul, from 28 Up onwards.
  • Precision F-Strike: Bruce, of all people, drops a minor version in Seven Plus 7 when he talks about most TV programs being "crap." Later, in a scene toward the end of 21 Up, Lynn drops an actual F-bomb while quoting one of her teachers.
  • Sequel Escalation: The films get noticeably longer with each entry, as a natural consequence of the children growing and developing more complex characters and lives.
  • 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.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: A rather tragic example with Neil, who, at age 7, was the picture of a Cheerful Child. In Seven Plus 7, he was noticeably more reserved, but still ostensibly an average 14-year-old — a fact he lampshades a few installments later. By 21 Up he had become a disillusioned young adult who had dropped out of college to live as a squatter. He continued to spiral in and out of self-destructive depression for many years before finally finding some fulfillment in local politics by 42 Up.
  • Walking the Earth: Neil, to an extent, in 28 Up, where he has no permanent residence and thus is constantly moving from place to place.
  • Wild Card: Neil counts as this to a degree. While for the most part all of the children followed through with Apted's expectation that they would remain within the boundaries of their social classes throughout their lives, he ended up going completely Off the Rails and turning his back on his middle-class suburban upbringing to live as a squatter. As a result, he tends to be found in entirely new and unexpected circumstances each time the documentary returns to check up on him.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Bruce has had an uncanny ability to sound incredibly profound as far back as age 7.