Auf Wiedersehen Pet was an absolutely integral part of my growing up. The first series of 13 shows, broadcast between 11 November 1983 and 10 February 1984 was a Friday night institution. In those days of course we only had three or, if you were lucky, four channels to choose from. As a result the onus was on everybody to make good quality programming. There was no requirement for filler. BBC and ITV vied with each other to produce the very best programming and this show more than stands up to scrutiny. In addition, we all sat and watched the TV together so it had to have broad appeal and I do not mean that it was dumbed down in any way shape or form.
On first impressions, it looks very much like Auf Wiedersehen Pet was filmed on location on a real West German building site. This was not the case, although the bricks used on the site were genuine, imported especially from the continent. The ‘city’ scenes were filmed on location but in Hamburg rather than Dusseldorf where the series was set. The drama majored on the inevitable conflicts between seven effectively single men living, playing and working together. The character set with Geordies Dennis, Neville and Oz; Barry from the Black Country; Bomber from Bristol; Moxey from Liverpool and Londoner Wayne were as wonderful a collection of comic creations / unappealing group of grotesques* as you could ever hope to meet. Or wish to avoid for that matter.
The thing that marked Auf Wiedersehen Pet out for me was the camaraderie between the lads in the hut. Regardless of the garbage heaped upon them by life, Thatcherite Britain; German bosses; German workers; thuggish fellow Brits and so on and so forth, they all pulled together to get each other through. Of course, within this they all play predefined roles:
- Oz is the loudmouthed oaf who always seems to be at or near the centre of trouble;
- Wayne is the jack-the-lad hit with the ‘birds’;
- Neville is the seemingly shallow whinger with hidden depths;
- Dennis is the fixer of everybody’s problems, save from his own;
- Bomber is a seemingly strong man who is actually running away from life;
- Moxey is the ex-con plasterer who is actually trying not to run away anymore and finally;
- Barry is the sap who always seems to get lumbered, and absolutely finally,
- Auf Wiedersehen Pet is proof positive that they don’t make telly like they used to.
*delete as applicable