Reality TV with an attention span: From Seven Up! through 42: Forty Two Up, the Up crew has checked in on the same group of British men and women every seven years since 1963. Spread over six films, each encompassing bits of its predecessors, the series is a time-lapse portrait of 14 men and women (minus a few dropouts): the wear and tear of age; marriages made and unmade; dreams that seem to have died, only to resurface years, even decades, later. Conceived as a class-system polemic, The Up Series is equally a study in self-knowledge. At 7, working-class Tony says he’d like to be a jockey; at 14, a cab-driver. He proves right on both counts, as do the wealthy 7-year-olds who confidently state their university of choice. (Cambridge, naturally.) Like life, The Up Series has its twists and turns, notably the case of Liverpudlian Neil, who goes from an ebullient 7 to a despondent 28. By the time 42 rolls around, you’re just hoping he’s still alive. The greatest compliment you can pay The Up Series is that after nearly 10 hours, you’re sorry it’s over. Luckily, 49 Up is scheduled to air in the U.K. next September — but can we hold out another seven years for 56 Up?
EXTRAS Director Michael Apted, who’s been there since the beginning, offers commentary on 42 Up, and even reveals which shot he mimicked from his own Coal Miner’s Daughter.