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56 Up – The Show That Was Pre Reality TV To Screen On SBS

Every seven  years you get to see old friends on screen in the the 7 up series that was started forty nine years ago by Mike Apted. Now the next instalment is here in 56 UP.

The UK director came up with the idea  to follow a group of people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds over the course of their lives and to examine how their class impacted upon them.  All the participants were white except for Tony who had a black father.

It has been fascinating to see the ups and down of their lives and see what factors have influenced them.

This series could have contributed to my love of reality TV and in fact is a pure form of the genre, however it is a documentary even though there have been criticisms about the editing. I have watched each series multiple times and have a huge emotional attachment to it. It has indeed been a privilege to follow the journey of their lives.

My favourite from the beginning is Neil who was the effervescent and happy boy at seven and ended up having a profound mental illness that has effected his life. It was great to see in the last few series him living in a council flat dabbling in local politics. Interesting another participant Bruce helped him to get on his feet.

This time around all the original participants bar one are involved. Charles a private school boy, and ironically a documentary maker himself.

Even if you have not seen the previous series they cover the previous years well so each series can stand alone. Highly recommended.

56 UP will screen in three parts on Tuesday 30 of October at 7.30pm on SBS.


1 A.P { 10.24.12 at 2:53 pm }

I will watch this as it started when I was 7 like the kids were and I remember watching it with my mum every 7 years as I grew up. Its interesting to watch those kids my own age and how they and I all turned out!

2 Reality Raver { 10.24.12 at 2:55 pm }

AP – apparently this one is quite reflective.

3 A.P { 10.24.12 at 3:10 pm }

RR, Realised I’ve just given my age away!
I’ve tried to comment twice on BB but it hasn’t gone through for some reason.
Did you check the Survivor post to see if the Christian Group have put a spoiler up, I’m scared to look as we are only up to ep 2 and I don’t want to know.

4 Reality Raver { 10.24.12 at 3:21 pm }

will check spam and the survivor thread and get back to you.

5 Reality Raver { 10.24.12 at 3:39 pm }

The Christian site has only done a ping back I did not see any spoiler or am I missing something.

6 planb { 10.24.12 at 4:14 pm }

It’s being repeated on SBS Two at 9.30 each night this week. Last night was 7up, the first installment. Tonight is 14up. Thurs 21up. Friday night 28up – where Neil is living in a caravan and very isolated. Sat 35up, and Sun 42up. I guess Monday will show them aged 49, aka 49up. So people can catch up before 56up.

Neil’s my favourite, too. I do wish Charles would pop in for a cameo as he was such a spunk, I’d love to see how he’s aged!

7 Mahlia { 10.24.12 at 4:18 pm }

I love the series. I’ve seen 56 Up. It’s so interesting to see them grow and change. Most often they are a carbon copy of us all at the same age.

8 Reality Raver { 10.24.12 at 4:27 pm }

PlanB thanks for the info. If you know Charles last name you could google him chances are he might be on the internet. What is amazing that most of them stuck with it. There is one that has not been on the last three but is coming on this time.

9 A.P { 10.24.12 at 6:38 pm }

PLANB, thanks so much for that, I didn’t know it was being repeated, its been years since I saw it, wish I’d seen it last night but I will watch from tonight for sure.

10 brain dead dave { 10.24.12 at 6:49 pm }

What’s the final series called, I wonder?


They were up to 21 up when I saw it at Uni. I’ll probably opt for Embarrassing Bodies , myself.

11 Samantha { 10.24.12 at 6:58 pm }

Thank-you! I have always wanted to watch this show. Now I know where my hour of television will be going over the next few nights (BB does not count as my hour, that is my daughter’s!)

12 Stacey { 10.24.12 at 11:00 pm }

Never even heard of this but it sounds awesome

13 Calliegirl { 10.25.12 at 9:04 am }

Love this show. And the ABC are now doing a variation of this show. It is called Life at 7 and is on ABC1 on Tuesday nights at 8.30pm

14 Culinary Boner { 10.25.12 at 4:30 pm }

I’ve missed some of the recent instalments of this great (and now historically significant) show – mainly the ones when they were in their forties.

I’ll be trying to make the effort to see this latest one.

The early ones showed just how class-riven UK society was – and how the class the you were born into was seen back then as determining your future (or worse still, your worth).

Moving through the series this seemed to dissipate to a large extent and I felt (though as an opinion rather than on the basis of real knowledge or experience) that the class-system was breaking down and the society these people inhabited was becoming more like that of Australia.

Neil’s plight – the descent from cute and enthusiastic kid into mental illness, social withdrawal and poverty in his 20s and then his stilted and nervous rebound back into society – remains one of the saddest but inspiring real-life stories ever shown on TV.

15 7up fan { 10.28.12 at 8:53 am }

Can’t wait for 56 up – I have loved this series since I first saw it in high school 15 years ago.

One slight correction to the article above – Symon is the only participant of mixed race, not Tony.

16 A.P { 10.28.12 at 10:05 am }

I was so sad to see how Neil has turned out so far, he was such a cute little kid with his Liverpudlian accent, can’t wait to see him at 56.
John hasn’t changed much with his posh toffee nosed accent ( he sounds just like Prince Charles ), his life has been so mapped out for him, not surprised that he’s a successful barrister.
England is not like this any more, thats for sure!
Those three girls could have been me really (except I was a Yorkshire girl), same age, marry young, have kids etc, it just shows you how quickly the years pass.
I can relate to the boy who emigrated to Australia the same age as me, our lives seemed to have followed a similar path.
Can’t wait to see 56up.

17 Georgie { 10.28.12 at 10:31 am }

A.P, how special this series must be for you, sharing their age and British heritage. I can see why you would feel an affinity with it.

18 Reality Raver { 10.28.12 at 10:43 am }

AP and Georgie it is interesting to see how the different life stages can mirror our own lives at times.

Interesting how the three working class women had to overcome class and gender, some with greater success than others.

Seriously looking forward to seeing it.

19 A.P { 10.28.12 at 10:46 am }

Thanks Georgie, yes, its a great series, I can vaugely remember watching the first one in England with my parents and thinking how posh that John was but of course I wouldn’t have recognised the significance of it back then.
After coming here I probably forgot about it and have only seen bits and pieces so its good to see the whole thing at the same time.
Hey , how safe did that “Adventure Playground” look?
Looked like an old bomb site to me, no such thing as workplace health and safety in those days, its a wonder we all survived!

20 smauge { 10.30.12 at 8:26 pm }

Having watched back all the old ones I am 100% sure Neil is an undiagnosed Aspergian, and Nick as well, albeit with better social skills. I always love seeing how our “Aussie” Paul is going.

21 A.P { 11.01.12 at 4:27 pm }

Aussie Paul seems to be doing quite well for himself and even Neil seems to be getting himself on the right track now, guess its never too late to change. His friend, who we hadn’t seen since 28up was only there to promote his band.
It will be intersesting to see parts 2 and 3.