Thread revival I've recently re-watched Series 3-4 and the ‘Special’ so thought I could do a proper review on them. Generally my opinion of the BBC made series hasn’t really changed if anything I’m more negative to it.
It’s passable if perhaps uninspiring. If a remake had to be made should have left it here.
As others have mentioned the changes in Oz/Barry don’t ring true. Barry perhaps could have touched lucky and got involved in a successful import/export business. But the way Tim Spall (perhaps intentionally) plays him is like a pompous/obnoxious git who quickly unravels when things go wrong. Also the Kadi/Tatiana situation was very irritating too and couldn’t stand the Tatiana character being honest. Ironically the same actors appear in the an episode of The Vice in the late 90’s and they’re much better than in AWP. As for Oz he seems too morphed into a loud mouth version of Spender and the Jeffrey Grainger thing is a load of tosh too. The writers might as well have called him Jeffrey Archer. Not a chance he’d end up doing time in a normal prison with guys like Oz and no way Grainger would come off second best to Oz/the lads if he was scamming them in real life. Generally Neville, Dennis, Moxey and Bomber were more or less the same as before if perhaps older, weirder and more world weary than before. Did feel though that Neville’s sexual tension thing was a bit boring/overdone and what happened to Brenda (Julia Tobin)… Considering Moxey the whole Mickey Startup thing (even the name feels wrong) just didn’t work. Yes Moxey would be involved in a black-economy job but not for a gangster like ‘Startup’. He’d be laughed at if he existed in Liverpool/Northern England’s underworld which is led by much rougher, harder and smarter individuals and also felt the Liverpool stereotypes where a bit clichéd/tiresome to be honest. Considering the very thin Boys from the Blackstuff references here perhaps the writers should have watched it before employing Michael Angelis and Alan Igbon who seem completely wasted here. They also should have watched Ally Frazer from series 2 for a good gangster character too. I was sort of indifferent to Wyman (Noel Clarke) who has moments at times/a bit of a makeweight in others and the Arizona bridge deal could be believable. But again when they get to Arizona they get into scrapes – drug smuggling, conflict with the Native Americans/locals etc. that become a bit farcical/tiresome at times.
At the time I was excited a new AWP was being made but looking back Series 3 is poor and seems a missed opportunity. The lads past from Series 2 is pretty much ignored with no explanation of how they escaped the boat situation with Kenny Ames and little reference to how Dennis squared things with Ally Frazer who I think wouldn’t have left things there. The writers perhaps inevitably made Series 3 overtly PC and relevant to the times (early 2000’s) too. The Eastern Europe/people smuggling angle, Tatiana/Kadi, a seemingly pro-‘New Labour’ angle and out-of-touch name dropping of virtually everything from popular culture at that time seems forced and in retrospect has dated it and the subsequent series a lot more than Series1-2 from the 1980’s.
Overall and I’m being generous I’d rate it 6/10.
Where do I begin as from St Petersburg onwards it all goes downhill from here.
I know it’s comedy but again considering the situation with Tatiana/Kadi not a chance Barry would have secured a job for the lads working for a Russian Mafia type. Nor would he be allowed to leave the country after that individual is assassinated. Also the lads getting involved with the OED is far too simplistic and just doesn’t happen in real life. Oz and Moxey’s criminal records wouldn’t have allowed them to be involved so don’t really get Oz’s hostility towards Dennis when he (wrongly) thinks he’s been disloyal to him. Although (as mentioned in previous posts) it does allow Oz to be more like his character of Series 1-2 than the Spender-lite Oz we got in Series 3. Then we then get to the main reason why Series 4 is absolute rubbish the idea of Neville being recruited as a spy. I just don’t see him having the capability or nerve to carry it off without coming to a sticky end. Add to this the Man United thing of his assignment Michael Goy it all feels like slapstick, clichés and stereotypes. No doubt once he delivered what was required of him the likes of Tarquin Pearce or others in the secret service would bury him and it’s all too convenient that the Tarquin character is a double agent and that Neville is rescued by the lads/the Pru character. Add to this Oz’s unbelievable relationship with Ofelia (possible but unlikely), Barry’s scrapes in jail (done before in Series 3) and a over-reliance of irritating public school type characters within the UK Embassy AWP becomes a shadow of it’s former self. Even with the locations in Cuba I was glad to finish Series 4 off to be honest.
3/10 at best and glad I never saw it when originally broadcast in 2004.
Stretched thinner than Moxey’s plaster the ‘Special’ carry’s on with everything that was wrong with Series 4 with the lads escaping Africa after the embassy is stormed by insurgents and Oz taking some shrapnel up the . Seconded to work for the Australian embassy in Laos the lads complete the job successfully and have some downtime in Bangkok. Barry has a reunion with Tatiana who seemingly has changed her ways and is having his child and they and Neville decide to take the Orient Express. However and again this is where it all goes wrong Tarquin Pearce is on the scene again and arranges for Barry to be kidnapped by Thai outlaws for a handsome ransom. The lads try and free Barry but are also kidnapped. They sort of win the trust of the kidnappers by building the village where they’re being held a washhouse and by chance Neville raises UK secret service who bring in the same Australian team they’d been working for to rescue them… even Agatha Christie couldn’t write a script like this!
So it all ends with Moxey emigrating to Australia to live with Alena, Barry and Tatiana reconciled, Wyman a successful DJ in Ibiza. However the only saving grace is Oz, Dennis and Neville return to where it all began with a OED posting to Germany, a tribute to Pat Roach who is missed here and as Gene mentioned previously ‘Breaking Away’ of Joe Fagan is a nice tribute to what AWP was rather than the monster it became in the early 2000’s.
2/10 and that’s due to the ending.
Overall the BBC remake just doesn’t work. Yes it has moments and the characters have flashes of what made them special. But it just doesn’t have that balance of real life and comedy which AWP had in Series 1-2 which made it compulsive viewing in the 1980’s. Too much of the comedic aspect was played up in the BBC series which most of the time didn’t really work, seemed forced and/or went over the top and if these series were the only reference to AWP I wouldn’t really care or be interested in it being honest. Will I be watching these series again. Maybe but I don’t think so for a while but if there’s one good thing about these BBC series it’s wetted my appetite for watching Series 1-2 again which I should be watching over the Spring after I wade through other DVD’s etc.
Spot on Dirty Epic I agree that more should have been made of how the came to be where they were from the boat chase at the end of the second series; did Oz get his lottery winnings for example.
I was pleased when the third series was announced but although people can change, they do tend to keep some of their traits and Oz was so different. He went from buying a crap second hand tv/radio to being akin to a dragon from dragons den!
This Sunday (21st February) at 9pm marks 30 years since series 2 was originally broadcast. I have recently finished watching series 1 and have gone straight into series 2, Return Of The Seven, brilliant