|Auf Wiedersehen, Pet|
|Created by||Franc Roddam|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||4|
|No. of episodes||40|
|Running time||50 mins (1983–86)
60 mins (2002–2004)
|Production company(s)||Central Television for ITV
Witzend Productions for BBC
|Original channel||ITV (1983–86)
BBC One (2002–2004)
|Original run||11 November 1983 – 29 December 2004|
Auf Wiedersehen Pet is a British comedy-drama series about a group of seven British migrant construction workers: Wayne, Dennis, Oz, Bomber, Barry, Neville and Moxey, who, in Series 1, are living and working on a German building site.
It was created by Franc Roddam and mostly written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who also wrote The Likely Lads, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? and Porridge. Stan Hey also contributed writing a number of episodes. The first two series of the show were co-produced by Clement and LaFrenais's Witzend Productions and Central Television for ITV (the assistance of ITV was necessary at that time to gain access to the network) and broadcast in 1983/84 and 1986 on ITV.
The first series, co-produced by Witzend Productions and Central Television for ITV in 1983, is the story of seven out-of-work builders from various parts of England who are forced to look for work in West Germany, although it focusses primarily on three men from Newcastle upon Tyne making the journey to Europe, with the others being introduced along the way.(The title refers to their farewells to their wives and girlfriends - "Auf Wiedersehen" being German for "Farewell", and "Pet" being a North-East English term of endearment).
They find work on a German building site in Düsseldorf but despite promises of hotel accommodation, are forced to live in a small hut that reminds them of a POW camp. The rest of the series is driven by the interactions and growing friendships between the various characters: for instance, Barry, an electrician from the Black Country, is an obsessive bore; Neville, one of the Geordie bricklayers, is an insecure young newlywed; fellow Geordie Oz, another bricklayer, is aggressive and jingoistic; and London carpenter Wayne is a womaniser. The third Geordie is Dennis, a bricklayer who, being older, more experienced and generally more mature than the others, becomes the de facto leader of the group. The others are Bristolian bricklayer Bomber and Liverpudlian ex-con plasterer Moxey. Over the course of 13 episodes the "Magnificent Seven" enjoy lots of comic and romantic adventures, until a change in German tax laws forces them to return home.
The series was extremely well-received, with praise for the writing and acting.
The "building site" used for most of the filming was a set created on the backlot of the former ATV studios at Borehamwood (then owned by Central) and sometimes referred to as one of the Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. After its sale to the BBC in 1984, the "Albert Square" set of EastEnders was later built there. Such was the attention to detail that the producers imported thousands of bricks from West Germany as these were slightly bigger than those used on British building sites.
The show was one of the first to use lightweight video cameras on location in drama production. Previously used in Electronic News Gathering they were more versatile and cheaper to use than studio-based cameras. Interior scenes (such as those in the bar) were shot in studios at Borehamwood. Some location filming was conducted in Hamburg, despite the fact the series was set in Düsseldorf. Spotters will notice that in these scenes all the cars' registration numbers begin with HH denoting Hamburg.
In 1989, TVS decided to repeat the first series in an unusual style. This was to cut down the episodes to 30 minute shows - when removing advert breaks (25 minutes) - this meant in the end that they had 26 episodes to transmit. The shows were heavily edited and often had no purpose to the storyline - leaving many viewers confused. The episodes were transmitted at pre-watershed 7.30pm on a Sunday night viewing. The edited 26 shows were then shown in all regions. TVS never did the same editing for Series 2.
The second series of 13 episodes in 1986 saw the boys reunited, initially to help Barry complete some building work on his house. Dennis is working for a crooked businessman, Ally Fraser (played by Bill Paterson), after building up large gambling debts to him. Dennis encourages the rest of the gang to help renovate a country manor house owned by Fraser, but end up falling foul of the suspicious locals. When things become a little too hot for Fraser, he flees to Spain and invites the boys to follow suit and redecorate his Spanish villa. Once in Spain, the gang are mistaken for criminals themselves, and the series ends with them fleeing the Spanish police in a motor yacht, together with Barry's fiancée, who had only expected a wedding at sea.
The second series received mixed reviews; some thought it was much better than the first series but others felt that it was not as good, as the characters' chemistry changed in the absence of the first series' claustrophobic setting.
Actor Gary Holton died before the Spanish indoor scenes were filmed, and the scripts had to be reworked to explain Wayne's absence from these indoor scenes. Examples of this include various characters enquiring about Wayne's whereabouts, only to be told that he was chatting up a girl in the next room or that he had gone away for the day. A double was used in other scenes, such as one where Bomber manhandles Wayne away from Ally's girlfriend in a nightclub. These reworkings may not be overly apparent if the viewer was not aware of the situation but are easily noticeable watching the series back. The transmission of the final episode of Series 2 (Quo Vadis Pet) saw an introduction by Tim Healy dedicating the episode to Holton.
Location scenes in the UK were shot around the villages of Caunton, Nottinghamshire and Redmile, Leicestershire. Roundhill Primary School, Beeston,_Nottinghamshire was used as the location for 'Walker Street Middle School'. Some scenes were also filmed in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. Studio scenes were filmed at Central's new studios in Nottingham, replacing those at Borehamwood.
In 2002 the show was revived, this time as a 6-part series made by Ziji Productions for BBC One. The original writers and all of the surviving cast returned, joined by Noel Clarke as Wayne's son Wyman. The characters all appeared to have moved on; Moxey was a no longer a wanted criminal, Oz had given up drinking; Neville and Barry were both successful businessmen. Dennis, however, was employed as a drug dealer's driver. The series' storyline revolves around a plan by a corrupt politician (played by Bill Nighy), whom Oz had met in prison, to demolish the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge (a real-life industrial landmark) and sell it for reconstruction elsewhere. Persuading Oz to get the old gang back together to dismantle the bridge, he then plans to cheat them out of their share of the profits, until a Native American from Arizona (played by Gordon Tootoosis) turns up to announce that he would like to buy the bridge for the benefit of his tribe's casino, and flies them to his reservation to reconstruct the bridge.
Each episode except the first featured a re-cap of the previous episode's events in a voiceover from Dennis, a feature not continued in the fourth series.
The special effects depicting the demolition of the bridge were so realistic that many people believed it was really being demolished, forcing the BBC to add a caption to the last episode reassuring them that it was still there.
Despite some initial scepticism that the reunion would not work, the show was an immediate hit.
Some of the cast made an appearance on Comic Relief's Red Nose Day 2003, in which they find a suitcase full of money in a Miami hotel room and assume it belongs to a drug dealer who wants to shoot them - but actually it belongs to U2, who invite them to their penthouse.
A fourth series of 6 episodes was aired on BBC One from 4 January to 8 February 2004. The characters now work as building subcontractors for the British Embassy, and are posted to Havana, where Neville is reluctantly recruited as a spy for the British, Oz falls in love with a local ballet dancer, and Barry finds himself in prison on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Despite extensive negotiations between the BBC and the Cuban Government, it was not possible to obtain permission to film in Cuba, so the series was actually shot in the Dominican Republic. Some fans thought the storylines of this series to be somewhat far-fetched and detached from the core appeal of the show, in particular Neville's recruitment as a British spy.
Two one-hour episodes were shot in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in July - August 2004 and broadcast on BBC 1 on 27 and 28 December. Shooting in Bangkok took place partly in the red-light district Soi Cowboy. Pat Roach, although suffering from cancer, had hoped to appear in the mini-series, but was not well enough and died in July. In a touching scene, Dennis reads a letter from Bomber to the rest of the group while they are all dining in a restaurant, where he explains his reasons for not having joined them. The group lift their glasses and drink a toast; "To Bomber!".
The story sees the remaining six working in a British Embassy somewhere in central Africa that is about to be overrun by rioters. Most of them escape uninjured, except for Oz who sustains a painful injury to the rectum protecting a female staff member (while they are having sex) from a bomb.
The boys then move on to Laos and later Thailand, where Barry's Russian ex-wife turns up to announce that she is carrying his child following a brief "reconciliation". Barry is then kidnapped and held by guerrillas in a village in Laos. When the others follow they are also captured, but Dennis has an idea (inspired by the film The Bridge on the River Kwai) of working for the villagers to prevent the guerillas from moving them on. Eventually they are able to steal the guerilla leader's mobile phone and send a call for help. It turns out that the man who set them up to the guerillas was actually Neville's corrupt spymaster (from Series 4). Deprived of their hostages, the guerillas decide to kidnap him instead.
In the final scenes Dennis, Neville and Oz ask the Embassy to give them an assignment in a nice peaceful country - and find themselves heading back to Germany once more. When Neville is asked what Brenda said to him before he boarded the ferry, he replied that she said "Auf wiedersehen... pet." Following a dedication to Pat Roach, the closing credits of the final episode are accompanied by the opening theme tune from Series 1.
The Wives, Girlfriends and Exes
The main supporting cast from all four series
The opening and closing credits for the first two series were each accompanied by songs performed by Joe Fagin. In series one "Breakin' Away", written by David Mackay and Ian La Frenais, accompanied the opening credits. Ken Ashby collaborated with Mackay on "That's Livin' Alright'", a song that closed each episode. The songs were released as a single, with "That's Livin' Alright" as the A-side, and reached number three in the UK singles chart in January 1984. It was released again in 1996 when the show was repeated on Channel 4. With additional lyrics by Jimmy Lawless, Fagin released a new version of "That's Livin' Alright" for England's 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign. "That's England Alright" was released on 5 June 2006.
Mackay and La Frenais also collaborated on "Get it Right", the song used for the opening credits of series two. Like the first series, Ken Ashby collaborated with Mackay for series two's closing credits song, "Back With the Boys Again". The two tracks were released together as a double-sided single, but only reached number 53 in the UK charts in April 1986.
The tradition of using two separate songs was broken when the BBC revived the show. Instrumental music opened each episode of the third series. However, the closing credits were accompanied by Mark Knopfler's song "Why Aye Man", taken from his album The Ragpicker's Dream. Incidental music was used for the fourth series and for the special. However, when the character of Dennis reveals a photograph of all of the original group taken in Germany, "Breakin' Away" begins and continues over the final credits of the show.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983–2004) is a popular British comedy-drama series about a group of seven British migrant construction workers: Wayne, Dennis, Oz, Bomber, Barry, Neville and Moxey, who are living and working on a German building site.