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Thursday, February 10, 2005


The land where time stood still

BBC2's dramatisation of Jonathan Coe's novel The Rotters' Club ended last night but the mysteries were not confined to the plot.

The series was sympathetically written and acted, and it made poignant viewing for anyone like me belonging to more or less the same generation as the schoolboy protagonists. To make it believable, however, the main challenge for the producers was to get the 1970s setting right.

We now live in a knowing and self-referential age, with memories of the decade warped by TV nostalgia-fests such as
I Love the 70s and repeats of contemporary editions of Top of the Pops. The era is also being given an ironic makeover by the TV pastiche Look Around You and movie remakes of 70s TV series like Starsky and Hutch.

It would have been tempting for the producers of The Rotters' Club to go for a riot of 70s kitsch, with tank tops, space hoppers and cheese-and-pineapple on a stick in every shot. As it was, the level of authenticity was pitched just right, with a near-perfect attention to detail that managed not to intrude on the drama.

The big mystery was where the producers had found suburban locations with no satellite dishes but plenty of Austin Allegros. The answer was in the end credits: "Filmed on location on the Isle of Man".

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