103 of 106 people found the following review helpful
If you saw this went it originally came out, loved it and are wondering how much it has dated in the past decade before buying or renting the DVD - don't worry, its still brilliant! The series is made up of nine episodes (three set in the sixties, three in the seventies, two in the eighties and one in the nineties) and is essentially the story of four characters from Newcastle set to a backdrop of labour politics and rock'n'roll. If that sounds a bit boring it isn't, it's actually the one of the BBCs best and most memorable moments and packed full of A-list actors from today (although it has to be said no-one would have guessed Daniel Craig would ever have been Bond after seeing him as the lovely but tragic Geordie!). In the end "Our Friends" is about how people fade in and out of our lives, how we misunderstand those around us and the endemic sadness of lost ideals and distant friends. The series closes to Oasis "Don't Look Back in Anger" and was actually aired on the day that classic went to No.1 in the UK; at the time it seemed like a brilliant and moving moment in my life. Watching back all these years later it's still a special moment, but now I am that little bit older it's tinged with melancholy sadness. Worth watching every year.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2004
As a Geordie who wasn't around in the 60's during T Dan Smith's vision of a 'Brasilia of the north' for Newcastle, it was interesting to see how the city was corrupted by greedy politicians. Alun Armstrong's tremendous performance as Austin Donohue compares well to video footage of Smith that I've watched, and you're left feeling that they completely believed in what they were doing, and the pay-offs were just a by-product of building a better city.
First time round, I thought this was complete fiction, but watching it 8 years later I know that, in places, it's too close to the truth for comfort.
Down side? Too many fake accents. But don't let that put you off!
141 of 154 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2002
When it was first screened in 1996, Our Friends in the North reflected back the social decay of the sixties and seventies, at a time when a further big change, the rise of New Labour and Tony Blair's seemingly inevitable journey to Downing Street was providing the pivot for mid-nineties, pre-millennial self-examination. Tracing the lives of 4 friends from Newcastle, bonded by often clumsy and socially awkward situations, the epic piece of drama that unfolds remains one of the standout recent works in it's genre.
It's an overtly political piece, but in a way that demonstrates how political changes inform social change. Nicky (Christopher Eccleston) is consumed by involvement in the grubby and incestuos world of sixties north-east Labour politics, dominated by the exotic Austen Donohue. As Donohue's corruption unfolds, and the hopes formed by the election of a Labour government at the end of the first instalment fade away, Nicky turns to radicalism and protest, spending the seventies as a political and social photo-journalist, eventually marrying his childhood companion, Mary - herself bruised by a violent and turbulent first marriage to their mutual friend Tosker, which decays with the passage of the seventies. Geordie meanwhile is drawn into the Soho strip-clubs, run by Malcolm McDowell's grimy, fragile Benny Barrett.
Throughout, their lives are underpinned by their 'friends in the north' - fixers like Eddie Wells, whose life of solid political service to Labour masters is blown away in the storms of 1987, as the political tide reaches the high watermark of Thatcherism. Geordie's escape from the vice dens of Soho is complicated by ongoing investigations into vice and corruption in the Met. Nicky and Mary's marriage collapses under the weight of Nicky's independence and Mary's prospective career as a Blairite new Labour MP. Tosker's business and home are sacrificed at the altar of free market capitalism that he previously worshipped. Returning to the Newcastle in the nineties for the funeral of Nicky's mother, they survey a landscape still scarred by the miner's strike, but hope and optimism about the future. Crossing the Tyne Bridge, they step into the next phase of their lives, as Newcastle itself prepares to cast off it's former image with ambitious social building programmes, and a Labour government prepares to take office in London. The symmetry of their lives is complete.
Taking such a broad sweep across political, social and economic landscapes whilst retaining a cohesive and compelling narrative is a challenge fraught with potential hazards. Our Friends in the North achieves all those aims. It is often icily uncomfortable, but it more than does justice to the themes and the times that it depicts. With some magnificent central performances, it remains both memorable, and essential viewing.
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2006
One of the best dramas to appear in the 1990s, whether on TV or film. A hugely ambitious project to chart the life and loves of a group of friends from Newcastle in the 60's - the 90's, it manages to achieve it's aim by concentrating on a few specific times rather than skipping quickly from one event to the next; it makes to want to start the next episode just to you can work out not just what happens immediately after the end of the previous one but in the next few years.
Good casting, combining actors who are familiar with some who have since become more well known, with not a weak link among them.
If you're looking at building up a DVD collection or just a fan of very high quality drama, get it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2010
Tyneside has suffered from an atrocious array of dramas attempting to tap into the spirit of the place. Nothing has come anywhere near this apart from one amazing BBC drama, magnificently written by Peter Flannery - Our Friends in the North.
It spans the years 1964-1995, its nine episodes focus on the four main characters, Geordie, Tosker, Mary and Nicky as they mature from fresh-faced youths to middle age. It's a fascinating study of the nature of friendship, ambition, love, adventure, idealism and despair. All the while it is primarily set against the backdrop of the rapidly changing face of UK General Elections. This is very definitely a drama where politics take centre stage and it offers a great glimpse into the changing nature of the politics of the left and the changing nature of the 60s working class right up to the 90s 'sub' working class. It pulls no punches whatsoever.
Tyneside is vividly protrayed and the characters are absolutely authentic. I've known dozens exactly like them and Geordie's despicable father brought back particularly unpleasant memories of some of my friends' fathers from my childhood. I've never seen that type of person written (and acted) so well before. One of my close friends virtually IS Tosker, we all knew a few Nickys, were friends with a Mary or two and stood Geordies one for old times on many an occasion.
I'd say it's pretty much required viewing for anyone who wants to understand how Tyneside was during that period and it's a perfect example of how the BBC should work. Licence Fee revenue spent wonderfully well and long may it continue. Heaven forbid the end of the BBC and the removal of the possibility of magnificent dramas like Our Friends in the North being made.
If you haven't seen this before then I envy you - it is superb and you ought to enjoy every minute of it.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2003
This series was developed out of a Royal Shakespeare Company production and it shows in the writing, acting and research. Although it's 'about' four friends, the real star of the films is England and its fight to get out of the mini dark ages that marred the middle of the 20th century. The first episode is a bit slow and can be skipped, thereafter each episode repays repeated viewing: the details are very well observed.
In this first set of tapes the main themes are the rise of Soho as a red light area, corruption in the police force, corruption in local government, slum housing and how to deal with the above in a political environment.
The friendship of the four friends often takes a back seat to history, it's much less of a soap opera than it's sold as on the box. I've seen the whole series several times and it doesn't pall: just don't be put off by the pacing of the first episode: it has the pace of a thriller by the fourth.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2007
You will never see better acting, scripting and direction than this gritty serial from the North-East covering several decades, notably the Sixties. Politically astute, it skilfully analyzed the corruption that threatened the hopes of the most idealistic generation we have known. The four young stars were relatively new to TV and deservedly went on to become major stars. Daniel Craig as Geordie, the loose cannon, was outstanding - entertaining and moving by turns. Landmark TV.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2005
I missed this the first time round on tv. Which I bitterly regret. 4 of us sat glued to the tv every Saturday night over a 2 month period, desparate to see where the fantastic plots and story would take us next. Even the very last scene is vreath taking in the way that it was filmed.
If you want a drama series with some magic, some history and a damn fine story, then I would say this was the one!
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2008
When people now wonder where the BBC is going and what happens to the licence fee in a world of millions of satellite and cable channels (most of which are rubbish) let it be said that this series is the epitome of what the BBC stands for. It is supposed to inform, educate and entertain. This series does all three magnificently. The concept, the scripting, the casting, the producing, the editing - all of it is brilliant from start to finish. Another reviewer, Rob of South Shields (a Newcastle suburb) notes he grew up later than the period in which this is set - but I was a child at that time in that very same Newcastle. The emotion is all so real that it is like being punched in the stomach - the corruption, the infighting and everything that grew out of it.
When the BBC produces its most superlative work, as here, no other broadcaster in the world can touch it.
Now consider, in the light of the recent scandal of imbecilic presenters ringing up and insulting an actor. One of those presenters is paid in a year almost what this whole series cost to make. (At the time there were raised eyebrows at how much of BBC 2's drama budget had gone on just one production.)
The presenters in question are grotesquely overpaid.
The millions which went into Our Friends in the North, in contast, were money exceptionally well spent.
For people who lived through the era in question, who relate to the political world and the community around them as we all should, and who also know Newcastle upon Tyne and the peculiar socio-political history of the Northeast, this is far more than a play and far more than television. It is not escapism but life itself in the most tangible sense.
Much television in recent years is junk.
This, on the other hand, while painfully raw and brutally true to life in parts, is the best of the best, written by the best, starring the best and broadcast by the best. Would that the BBC never ever strayed from this path.
Do yourself a favour - buy it, watch it - and, in due course, watch it again. Then please post your own review.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I watched this series when it was first broadcast, seeing it again did not disapoint. A hugely ambitious project to chart the social and political history of Britain over four decades it only occasionally feels contrived and gets better as it develops. Sadly is difficult to imagine British t.v. embarking on anything similar today. The closest we'll ever get to a British 'Heimat'.