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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Revived Pet lives off its past
Auf Wiedersehen Pet
The new series offers a trip down memory lane
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William Gallagher
BBC News Online
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Television series are not always cancelled for the best of reasons, but they are usually not dropped without cause and reviving them is a risky idea.

In a week when audience research suggests viewers are bored by current television, the BBC has reached back 16 years and across TV channels to take ITV's 1980s hit Auf Wiedersehen Pet and bring it up to date.


The new Auf Wiedersehen Pet only rarely has flashes of the show's heyday skill

At the time, a cast of little known actors were united by a very good script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, both of whom are behind this revival.

This pair are rightly praised for their work not only on the original Auf Wiedersehen Pet but also Porridge, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? and comic hit film Still Crazy.

Sketchy

But Clement and La Frenais more recently took credit for Honest, the extremely poor film debut of director David Stewart and the, now disbanded, pop group All Saints.

The new Auf Wiedersehen Pet is not remotely as bad as Honest but it also only very rarely has flashes of the team's heyday skill.

The opening episode, which looks gorgeous and expensive, simply cannot handle the number of cast members it has to carry from the old show.

The programme may be a victim of its original success
The characters in the new series are diminished
Where ER or The West Wing invariably run eight to 10 major characters in any episode and do so seamlessly, Pet feels the need to have almost separate sketches.

One particular piece with Moxey, played by Christopher Fairbank, phoning someone to tell them a plot point is little short of amateur.

However, Timothy Spall gets a tremendous vignette that sees dazed old Barry appearing to have become a huge financial success with a trophy wife but in truth being conned by her and his partners.

That segment is funny but also sad and Clement and La Frenais handle it perfectly.

Unfortunately, they handle it perfectly far too many times, returning to it over and over either because they enjoy it or, worryingly, because they feel we have yet to get the point.

Victim

There is nothing complex here, which need not be a criticism but for the fact that the plot is so wide open that it is hard to accept the characters falling for the problems that face them.

In the original show you felt the characters were real, somehow, and here they are diminished by being bunched together with too little time or perhaps just too little character to engage us.

Auf Wiedersehen Pet may be a victim of having its original success and merit exaggerated but even as a new, separate piece, this version is merely okay.

It is a diverting hour and, while that may be enough when coupled to nostalgia for the old show, it is not enough to fill six episodes.

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The BBC's Doug Morris
"The quality of the writing made it worth it"

BBC News Online users review the BBC revival of Auf Wiedersehen PetHello again
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See also:

13 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Cameras roll for new Auf Wiedersehen
07 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Hello again to Auf Wiedersehen Pet
27 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Pet boys fête TV return
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