November 1983 was when auf wiedersehen pet first hit our screens and is still one of the funniest and best loved tv series ever. The creator of this great show being Franc Roddam and scripts wrote by the legends that gave us Norman Stanley Fletcher and friends in Porridge – Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement.
Each show needs characters to make it work and this one is centred around “the magnificent seven” as they called themselves. In the first scene we are introduced to the Geordie clan with the first one being Neville Hope – a young man heading to work abroad like all the other guys but Neville is the youngest and leaving behind his wife Brenda who he writes to a heck of a lot in the first season. He seems to be the wet blanket of the group, not going out with the guys as he needs to save for Brenda getting the bathroom tiled! He travels with Dennis Patterson. A wife, two kids and no money to support them. We find out that Dennis is going through marriage issues and gets a letter from his wife Vera while in Germany. He also becomes involved with Dagmar, the on site receptionist. The last of the Geordie clan is Oz, a loudmouth whose wife doesn’t know where he is. Spends all his wages on booze, booze and more booze. Never sends any money back home for his wife or his son Rod who he only knows his age as its the same year Newcastle got relegated.
Upon arriving at the German beco building site in Düsseldorf where they’re told they have to stay in a hut as they were late, they run into Brian “Bomber” Busbridge – a former wrestler who when asked if he speaks English replies with “it’s my mother tongue, my dear” a very loyal friend although the maybe not a loyal husband! Barry Taylor – the motorbiking brummie is another one who joins the other members in the hut. Someone that knows everything about everything but seldoms gets to the point quickly. Think a very dry Sheldon from Big Bang theory! He has a love for his West Bromwich bank and is a bit of a radish. Next we have the lady killer – Wayne Winston Norris – a Londoner so of course Wayne and Oz seldom see eye to eye. Always on the prowl once he’s blowed dried his hair and sorted out whet music to listen to in his Walkman! Wayne gets married eventually to Christa, Dagmars assistant who he is very smitten by. Lastly we have Albert Moxey – an arsonist from Liverpool who came into the hut late and the only reason he was let in was because he had a dartboard…. He didn’t have any darts for it!
The guys spend 9 months in a hut which with filming created cramped conditions for the actors and the crew. Whether it’s a case of storyline they want to paint it or have got some unwanted guests like Magowan played by Michael Elphick of Boon fame or Colin – a soldier gone awol played brilliantly by a very young Ray Winstone. Julia Tobin plays Brenda – Neville’s wife and is the only ever present female through the series. The 7 guys call the Germans Eric’s so they don’t think they are talking about hem. Some of the storylines include Neville finding a bomb and being on TV after he stopped a digger from diggin it up, oz trying to smuggle porn vhs tapes back home in coffins, Neville being accused of rape or Wayne trying to teach Barry how to pick up,ladies. Barry asks them “you wanna come back to our hut?”
The season finale sees some people wanting to stay like Wayne, some going home like Neville and the uncertain as Dennis can stay with Dagmar or go home to his wife Vera who admitted she made a mistake in filing for divorce.
Barry is taking his bike apart for his trip to Saudi Arabia when Wayne who is drunk puts out a cigarette in the hut causing it to go up in flames with the passports etc in it. The Geordie Mafia go home and we see them on a boat in the final scenes.
Season 2 begins as Barry wants to finish his house for his intended wife Hazel and himself but tried to enlist the help of his former workmates. Neville who is unemployed and Brenda is a nurse, Dennis, a glorified gopher for the villainous Ally Frazer (played so well by Bill Patterson) Bomber who would rather do anything than having old ladies stubbing fag ends near his arse, Moxey who is planning his escape from prison, Wayne who says that his wife is visiting family but she’s in Germany and Oz who was the only British man ever thrown off the Falklands!
They come to Barry’s aid, but Hazel doesn’t know if they should get married so he joins the other guys to Thornley Manor, a property needing fitted as a time sharing unit then an old folks home acquired by ally Fraser. The lads stay in a b&b owned by the “welcoming” Arthur Pringle who chucks them out after Wayne is caught sleeping with his daughter!
After finishing Thornley manor, ally Fraser gets them to go to Spain to work on his pool but of course, doesn’t have any paperwork so they have to do it without being noticed. It’s while filming in Spain that we see Wayne mentioned but not appearing an awful lot – sadly Gary Holton who played Wayne died of an overdose in 1985. The second series didn’t have the same charm that the first one did and it could be that the guys had to keep filming after Holton had passed away. My father was lucky to speak to Tim Healy who played Dennis at one stage asking if there would be a third season, he replied that they were thinking about it until Holton passed away.
The theme music for the series – Breaking Away for the start of season 1 , That’s Living Alright for the end of season 1, Get It Right for the start of season 2 and Back With The Boys Again at the end of season 2 where sang by the terrific Joe Fagin.
Auf Wiedershen Pet is a timeless classic very much like their other work where I can sit down and watch the episodes at any time. It’s the terrific acting that brings this together and you do feel for the characters, whether it’s oz making you laugh, Barry boring you or wanting to tell Neville to grow a spine, there’s something here for everyone and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. There is even an auf wiedersehen pet convention held in Newcastle which they did last year I believe for the 30th anniversary of the show.
If you’ve not seen this show, I would highly recommend it. I even sent this to a friend years ago in America and he loved it. I thank you for reading this and Auf Wiedersehen.