Today I turn 49 years old. Since that is an age divisible by seven, I’ve decided to revisit The Up Series, the great documentary series from the UK that checks in with a group of people every seven years starting back with this TV special in 1964.
I first discovered this series back in 2005 when I checked out the box set from the library. Susan and I binged all the movies in less than a week and then went and saw the most recent release at the time, 49 Up, at the movie theater. I’ve kept with additional installments over the years but this is a good opportunity to revisit the earlier films.
Title: Seven Up!
Release Date: 5 May 1964
Director: Paul Almond
Production Company: Granada Television
Director Paul Almond created this one off TV special for the Granada Television series World In Action to focus on a group of seven-year-old children, the generation who would provide “the shop steward and the executive of the year 2000 .” Twenty children were brought together for a visit to the London Zoo, a special party, and time to play in an adventure playground (none of these things would past muster with today’s helicopter parents). The children represent various parts of England including London’s East End, the post Kensington borough, the Liverpool suburbs, a farm in Yorkshire, and a charity orphanage.
The experiment is flawed from the beginning as the 14 participants chosen to be documented in the ensuing films, only 4 of them are girls. Michelle, a girl from the East End who is featured prominently in the first installment but for some reason never returned in the subsequent films. There also is only one non-white participant, Symon, who has an immigrant Black father and a white English mother.
That aside, it is an interesting gathering of children. The interviewers ask a series of questions about issues such as interest in the opposite sex, money and class, racism, and violence. The answers are as adorable as you might expect and surprisingly insightful. The upper class boys Andrew, Charles, and John, naming the prep schools, public schools, and universities that they plan to attend (right on down to specific Oxbridge colleges) is alarming. But then again, working class Tony is always spot on about what he’s going to accomplish in the future too.
Highlights of the movie remain:
- Tony falling flat on his face
- Andrew licking his knee while being interviewed
- Nick refusing to answer questions about girls
- Bright-eyed Neil talking about how he dies when playing make believe
- Paul not wanting to get married because his wife might make him eat greens
- Also, I noticed this time that at the party the kids are actually drinking from bottles of 7-UP. Great product placement!
Michael Apted worked as a researcher on this film, and by 1970 was wondering how these kids were doing as teenagers. But we’ll get to that tomorrow!