This is England ’86 – The Pilot.

The follow up to 2006, “kitchen-sink” hit ‘This is England’ was highly anticipated, and for good reason. The film, through its hard-hitting realistic storyline and loveable characters, created a genre of its own which left a lot to live up to. Unsurprisingly therefore, when the TV series started tonight, the blogosphere was awash with comments of disappointment and dissatisfaction. But this begs the question; can we ever be pleased with round two? Especially when round one brought so much that was new and unexpected?

In my opinion, Shane Meadows’ latest venture has not let us down, but delivered an equally real, equally tragic and far more comedic piece of drama, which this time was unfortunately met with high and unattainable expectations.

The return of the old skin-head gang to our, this time small, screens was not short of the charm and endearment which the film delivered. The group’s dash to get old Meggy to hospital and their rowdy hospital room celebrations are just two of the ways in which the series displays the warm, communal and ultimately pleasing sense of camaraderie that the skinheads seem to be all about. I really feel the audience are fed the idea that, regardless of DNA, the odd group of mismatches are family. And this, for me, definitely provides a sense of endearment towards the, initially; ‘grim’ take on 80’s culture in England.

Admittedly my being born in 1991 means I have little to no real knowledge on life in the 1980’s, however the range of characters seem to represent the stereotypical groups of the day. As well as the obvious skin head epidemic, new character Flip (Perry Fitzpatrick) in particular represents the stereotypical “scooter” boy, bullying Shaun, while providing huge comedy value (“What the fuck you doing ginge!?” was one of my favourite lines of the show!) He seems to epitomise the realistic, natural comedy we first met in the film and although playing a bully displays charm and likeability which seems to be common to nearly every character of the story.

As well as the charming closeness of the tight-knit group and the kitsch comedy value they all bring, the series also delivers the first glimpse of a potential romance; between peculiar looking Smell and school leaver Shaun. Even for those who missed the film (where have you been?!) the chemistry between the pair, who are reunited when Smell notices Shaun in a hospital room, is unarguably obvious. This teaser is just one of the many ways in which I feel Meadows has successfully transformed a film storyline into a television series, creating fresh storylines and hooks which have definitely persuaded me, for one, to return next week.

So my advice for all those who haven’t yet viewed the pilot would be this; rather than hoping for a repeat of the novelty and shock which ‘This is England’ delivered, instead expect further insight into the lives of the well loved skinheads with yet more gritty and comedic entertainment: because you will not be disappointed.  

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