|Auf Wiedersehen, Pet|
|Created by||Franc Roddam|
|Written by||Ian La Frenais (1983–1986, 2002–2004)|
Dick Clement (1983–1986, 2002–2004)
Stan Hey (1983–1986)
Bernie Cooper (1984)
Francis Megahy (1984)
|Directed by||Roger Bamford (1983–1986)|
Baz Taylor (1983–1984)
Anthony Garner (1986)
Paul Seed (2002)
David Innes Edwards (2004)
Maurice Phillips (2004)
Sandy Johnson (2004)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||4|
|No. of episodes||40 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producers||Allan McKeown (1983–1986)|
Franc Roddam (2002–2004)
Laura Mackie (2002–2004)
|Producers||Martin McKeand (1983–1986)|
Roger Bamford (1986)
Chrissy Skinns (2003)
Joy Spink (2002–2004)
|Cinematography||Tim Palmer (2004)|
|Editors||Dave King (2002)|
Les Healey (2004)
|Running time||50 minutes (1983–1986)|
60 minutes (2002–2004)
|Production companies||Witzend Productions (1983–1986)|
Central Independent Television (1983–1986)
Ziji Productions (2002–2004)
|Original network||ITV (1983–1986)|
BBC One (2002–2004)
|Audio format||Dolby Stereo (1983)
Dolby Studio (1984)
Dolby Mono (1986)
Dolby Surround (2002)
Dolby Digital (2003)Dolby PRO LOGIC (2004)
|Original release||Original series:|
11 November 1983 –
16 May 1986
28 April 2002 –
8 February 2004
28 – 29 December 2004
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (German pronunciation: [ʔaʊf ˈviːdɐˌzeːən ˈpɛt]) is a British comedy-drama television programme about seven British construction workers who leave the United Kingdom to search for employment overseas. In the first series, the men live and work on a building site in Düsseldorf. The series was created by Franc Roddam after an idea from Mick Connell, a bricklayer from Stockton-on-Tees, and mostly written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who also wrote The Likely Lads, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? and Porridge. It starred Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Jimmy Nail, Timothy Spall, Christopher Fairbank, Pat Roach and Gary Holton, with Noel Clarke replacing Holton for series three and four and the two-part finale. The series were broadcast on ITV in 1983–1984 and 1986. After a sixteen-year gap, two series and a Christmas special were shown on BBC One in 2002 and 2004.
In 2000, series 1, set in Germany, was ranked number #46 on the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes in a list compiled by the British Film Institute. In 2015, the 1980s series was voted ITV's Favourite TV Programme of all Time in a Radio Times readers' poll in order to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the station. The show was the subject of the first episode of the BBC documentary series Drama Connections in 2005.
The first series, co-produced by Witzend Productions and Central Television for ITV in 1983, is the story of seven out-of-work construction workers from various parts of England who are forced to look for work in West Germany, although its initial emphasis is on three bricklayers from Newcastle upon Tyne making the journey to Germany, with the others being introduced along the way. (The title refers to their farewells to their wives and girlfriends - "Auf Wiedersehen" being German for "Farewell" or "Goodbye", or more literally "See you later", and "Pet" being a North-East English term of endearment).
They find work on a German building site in Düsseldorf but despite promises of hostel accommodation, are forced to live in a small hut that reminds them of a World War II POW camp. The rest of the series is driven by the interactions and growing friendships between the various characters. Barry (Timothy Spall), an electrician from the Black Country, is an obsessive bore; Neville (Kevin Whately), one of the Geordie bricklayers, is an insecure young newlywed; fellow Geordie Oz (Jimmy Nail), another bricklayer, is aggressive and jingoistic; and London joiner Wayne (Gary Holton) is a womaniser. The third Geordie is Dennis (Tim Healy), a bricklayer who, being older, more experienced and generally more mature than the others, becomes the de facto leader of the group. The others are Bristolian bricklayer Bomber (Pat Roach) and Scouse ex-con plasterer Moxey (Fairbank). Over the course of 13 episodes the "Magnificent Seven" enjoy comic, dramatic, and romantic adventures, until a change in German tax laws forces them to return home.
The "building site" used for most of the filming was a set created on the backlot of the former ATV studios at Borehamwood (then owned by Central) and sometimes referred to as one of the Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. After its sale to the BBC in 1984, the "Albert Square" set of EastEnders was built there. Such was the attention to detail that the producers imported thousands of bricks from West Germany as these were slightly bigger than those used on English building sites.
The show was one of the first to use lightweight video cameras, including the Philips LDK 14S, on location in drama production. Previously used in Electronic News Gathering they were more versatile and cheaper to use than studio-based cameras. Interior scenes (such as those in the bar) were shot in studios at Borehamwood. Some location filming was conducted in Hamburg, despite the fact that the series was set in Düsseldorf. In these scenes most of the cars' registration numbers begin with HH denoting Hamburg (HH = Hansestadt Hamburg).
The location sequences in Hamburg and Düsseldorf actually only lasted 10 days. The Intercontinental hotel which Dennis, Wayne and Barry visit in episode 7 titled Private Lives, was the same hotel in which the cast and crew stayed while filming there.
In the last episode of the series, "When The Boat Goes Out", the hut on the site where the gang live accidentally catches fire and burns down. The ruins shown on the end credits were the actual ruins of the hut that was used for filming.
In 2000, the first series was ranked #46 on the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, in a list compiled by the British Film Institute. It is the only series of the show to make the list.
The second series of 13 episodes in 1986 saw the boys reunited, initially to help Barry complete extensive building work on his new home in Wolverhampton. Dennis is working for a crooked businessman, Ally Fraser (played by Bill Paterson), to whom he owes money. Dennis encourages the rest of the gang to help renovate a country manor house owned by Fraser, Thornely Manor, but they end up falling foul of the locals. Fraser then invites the boys to Spain to refurbish his swimming pool at his Spanish villa. Once in Spain, the gang are mistaken for criminals themselves and the series ends with them fleeing the Spanish police in a motor yacht, together with Barry's new wife, who had only expected a wedding at sea.
The second series had several on-set problems. Actor Gary Holton died before some of the final indoor scenes were filmed, and the scripts had to be reworked to explain Wayne's absence from these indoor scenes. Examples of this include various characters enquiring about Wayne's whereabouts, only to be told that he was chatting up a girl in the next room or that he had gone away for the day. A double was used in other scenes, such as one where Bomber manhandles Wayne away from Ally's girlfriend in a nightclub. The transmission of the final episode of Series 2 (Quo Vadis Pet) saw an introduction by Tim Healy dedicating the episode to Holton.
Executive producer Allan McKeown fell out with Jimmy Nail during filming, as he felt his ego was out of control at this time and would often ask for his lines to be changed. In his autobiography, Nail said he was glad to be done with filming not just because of Holton's death but because he felt the second series lacked the gritty edge of the first series, something Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais later said they agreed with. On the audio commentary for series two, Clement said the series was much more contrived in getting and keeping the gang together, and La Frenais said he felt the gang weren't trapped together enough like they were in Germany in the hut. In particular, he felt the Spanish episodes were too luxurious for the gang: instead of sleeping rough, having arguments, and clashing with the Spanish locals, they were often seen relaxing in summer clothes, and occasionally had female partners tagging along, which reduced the impact of the series.
Despite these concerns, the ratings remained high throughout. The episode titled "Marjorie Doesn't Live Here Anymore", which Clement and La Frenais described as their favourite in the second series because it was "drab and grey looking", and "added some meat to Oz's character", was not only the most watched episode of the show's run but drew in the highest audience percentage out of all the channels on the night of its screening, with sixteen million viewers.
Location scenes in the UK were shot around the villages of Caunton, Nottinghamshire, Redmile, Leicestershire and Denton, Lincolnshire. Roundhill Primary School, Beeston, Nottinghamshire was used as the location for 'Walker Street Middle School'. Some scenes were also filmed in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. Location shooting in Newcastle lasted for four days at the end of August 1985. Studio scenes were filmed at Central's new studios in Nottingham, replacing those at Borehamwood.
In 1988, ITV decided to use Auf Wiedersehen, Pet against EastEnders, the BBC's twice-weekly soap that had grown considerably in popularity since its launch in 1985. The original episodes had been shown in a late evening slot and hence were very adult in content; ITV wanted to show them during family viewing time, and also in a 30-minute slot. Consequently, they cut each 50-minute episode into two 25-minute ones, thus turning the 26 episodes of the first two series into 52. The shows had to be further edited to remove adult language and sexual references to make them suitable for the desired family-viewing timeslot, and hence the plots often became confusing as key scenes were removed and much of the humour was lost. From 5 April 1988, the edited shows began an ITV network run, slotted on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm in direct competition with EastEnders on BBC-1. There were viewer complaints about the editing, and after a few weeks Thames and TVS both opted out of the run and instead showed the original uncut episodes at 10.30pm on Mondays. The majority of ITV regions stayed with the edited run until its natural end in September.
The Dennis and Oz characters were reunited for a one-off educational sketch for Tyne Tees in 1986. Made at the height of the AIDS epidemic, it consists of two known authorities discussing HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention in a TV studio, but cuts back and forth to a skit set in a pub, where Dennis and Oz are watching the broadcast, and are themselves discussing the issues over a pint of beer. In the conversation, Dennis becomes increasingly frustrated at Oz's typically ignorant views towards sexual fidelity, safe sex practices, homosexuality and drug abuse. Eventually the two experts enter the pub for real and then explain the issues to Oz directly, who eventually takes heed.
Sketches written and performed for the Sunday for Sammy charity concerts inspired Clement and Le Frenais to revive the series. In 2002 the show was revived, this time as a six-part series produced by Ziji Productions for BBC One. The original writers and all of the surviving cast returned, joined by Noel Clarke as Wayne's son Wyman. The characters all appeared to have moved on: Moxey was no longer a wanted criminal; Oz had given up drinking; Barry ran a seemingly successful business exporting out of date food and Lada cars back to Russia (in reality smuggling drugs into the country, a fact Barry was unaware of); Neville and his wife Brenda, ran a building company called Nevenda Homes supplying pre-built homes from Scandinavia to DIY home builders. Dennis, however, was now a taxi driver whose biggest fare was on Tuesdays and Fridays driving a drug dealer around the area. The series' storyline revolves around a plan by corrupt politician Jeffrey Grainger (played by Bill Nighy), whom Oz had met in prison, to dismantle the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge (a real-life industrial landmark) and sell it for reconstruction in the Far East. Persuading Oz to get the old gang back together to dismantle the bridge, he then plans to cheat them out of their share of the profits, until a Native American from Arizona named Joe Saugus (played by Gordon Tootoosis) arrives to buy the bridge for the benefit of his tribe's casino after seeing an advert placed online by Oz. The lads fly to his reservation to reconstruct the bridge.
Each episode except the first featured a re-cap of the previous episode's events in a voiceover from Dennis, a feature not continued in the fourth series.
The special-effects depicting the dismantling of the bridge were so realistic that many people believed it was really being removed, forcing the BBC to add a caption to the final episode reassuring them that it was still there. Middlesbrough Council also issued a press release stating that the bridge remained in situ.
Despite some initial scepticism that the revival would not work, the show was an immediate hit. It won the National Television Award for Best Drama, and a British Comedy Award for Best Comedy Drama. In a later television documentary, original executive producer Allan McKeown stated that he had been deeply disapproving of the series' revival and requested that it not be titled Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. However this was refused and he fell out with La Frenais as a result, though they later reconciled.
Some of the cast made an appearance on Comic Relief's Red Nose Day 2003, in which they find a suitcase full of money in a Miami hotel room and assume it belongs to a drug dealer who wants to shoot them but actually belongs to U2 who invite them to their penthouse.
A fourth series of six episodes was aired on BBC One from 4 January to 8 February 2004. The characters now work as building subcontractors for the British Embassy after a building job in Moscow goes badly wrong and are given a tip off from a friend of Oz who tells them about specialised embassy work. The team are posted to Havana to completely refurbish the British ambassador's new residence. They also carry out some unofficial building work for Oz's Cuban girlfriend's family.
Neville was reluctantly recruited as a spy for British Intelligence before they left UK and was duped into working for Tarquin Pearce, the press liaison officer at the Embassy, Oz falls in love with prima ballerina Ofelia Ortiz, Barry finds himself in prison on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Moxey becomes a guinea pig trainer and Dennis ends up in a relationship with Wyman's mother.
Despite extensive negotiations between the BBC and the Cuban Government, it was not possible to obtain permission to film in Cuba, so the series was actually shot in the Dominican Republic.
Two one-hour episodes were shot in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in July - August 2004 and broadcast on BBC 1 on 27 and 28 December. (The episodes had no on-screen titles, but were listed as "Au Revoir" on the official BBC episode guide.) Shooting in Bangkok took place partly in the red-light district Soi Cowboy. Pat Roach, although suffering from cancer, had hoped to appear in the mini-series, but was not well enough and died in July. Instead, Dennis reads a letter from Bomber to the rest of the group while they are all dining in a restaurant, where he explains his reasons for not having joined them. The group lift their glasses and drink a toast: "To Bomber!".
The story sees the remaining six working in a British Embassy somewhere in central Africa that is about to be overrun by rioters. Most of them escape uninjured, except for Oz who sustains a painful injury to the rectum protecting a female staff member (while they are having sex) from a bomb.
The boys then move on to Laos and later Thailand, where Barry's Russian ex-wife, Tatiana, turns up to announce that she is carrying his child following a brief "reconciliation" back in the UK. After working for the Australian embassy Neville accompanies Barry and Tatiana for a journey upon the Eastern and Oriental Express in which they meet, by coincidence, Tarquin Pearce. During a stopover on this trip, Barry is kidnapped and held by guerrillas in a village in the jungle. When the others find out and follow they are also captured. They end up being imprisoned in a bamboo hut but are treated kindly by the local villagers. Eventually, Dennis has an idea (inspired by the film The Bridge on the River Kwai) to build a washhouse for the villagers to keep their minds occupied during their ordeal. After obtaining the guerrilla leader's satellite phone while he is asleep Neville manages to send a call for help to Brenda, his wife and as a result the army and the Australian embassy locate them. It turns out that the man who arranged their hostage taking by the guerrillas was Neville's corrupt handler, Tarquin Pearce (from Series 4). Deprived of their hostages, the guerrillas decide to take Tarquin hostage instead.
In the final scenes Dennis, Neville and Oz ask the embassy to give them an assignment in a nice peaceful country - and find themselves heading back to Germany once more. On the ferry from England, Neville is asked what Brenda said to him when he told her he was heading off to Germany, he replied that she said "Auf Wiedersehen... pet." Following a dedication to Pat Roach, the closing credits of the final episode are accompanied by the opening theme tune from Series 1.
Further information: Breakin' Away / That's Livin' Alright
The opening and closing credits for the first two series were each accompanied by songs performed by Joe Fagin. In series one "Breakin' Away", written by David Mackay and Ian La Frenais, accompanied the opening credits. Ken Ashby collaborated with Mackay on "That's Livin' Alright", a song that closed each episode. The songs were released as a 7" single, and reached number three in the UK Singles Chart in January 1984. It was reissued in 1995 when the show was repeated on Channel 4. With new lyrics by Jimmy Lawless, Fagin released a special version of "That's Livin' Alright" for England's national football team's 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign. "That's England Alright" was released on 5 June 2006.
Mackay and La Frenais also collaborated on "Get it Right", the song used for the opening credits of series two. Like the first series, Ken Ashby collaborated with Mackay for series two's closing credits song, "Back With the Boys Again". The two tracks were released together as a double-sided single, but only reached number 53 in the UK charts in April 1986.
The tradition of using two separate songs was broken when the BBC revived the show. Instrumental music opened each episode of the third series. However, the closing credits were accompanied by Mark Knopfler's song "Why Aye Man", taken from his album The Ragpicker's Dream. Incidental music was used for the fourth series and for the special. However, when the character of Dennis reveals a photograph of all of the original group taken in Germany, "Breakin' Away" begins and continues over the final credits of the show. A CD is now available entitled 'The Best of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet One & Two' and contains 29 tracks of vocal music and instrumentals.
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet is available on DVD in the UK and US as boxsets and single discs with three episodes on each. The show was largely repeated on ITV1 and ITV4 but the show has not been re-run on these channels since 2008. The programme was shown on Men & Motors for a while, but the channel has since closed. In June 2012, Digital Channel Yesterday picked up the rights to repeat the first three series of the show; these were then shown at 10 am and 4 pm on Weekdays. Yesterday had to edit the third series' episodes to fit into their timing schedules; therefore instead of them being 60 minutes in length they were reduced to 45 minutes. This was not apparent with the repeats of the first two series. In January 2013, Yesterday bought the fourth series but, again due to timing, these were also edited from 60 to 45 minutes, meaning several parts of the storyline been cut. From July 2013, Drama picked up the rights to rerun the series as part of its schedules. In January 2017, it was repeated on Yesterday again. In January 2021, series 1 and 2 were added to the UK’s BritBox and series 3 to 5 were added to the BBC’s iPlayer.