Heads Up: This is England '88

A new take on the Nativity: 'Tis the season to be brutal

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A new This is England...instalment from director Shane Meadows, in what is turning out to be quite the ongoing project.

It started with the 2006 film, This is England. Then there was the four-part TV series This is England '86, and now '88 is a trio of Christmas-themed, hour-long outings about the gang shown on three consecutive nights.

Elevator Pitch

A Nativity as you've never seen before, but this is still England.

Prime Movers

As with '86, Meadows directs and has co-written the scripts with Jack Thorne, who has also written for Skins and The Fades as well as stage plays including Bunny and Greenland.

The Stars

Thomas Turgoose, who so impressed in the original movie, is back as Shaun; and taking centre stage again will be Joseph Gilgun as Woody (also currently starring as the new kid in Misfits) and Vicky McClure, who won a Bafta for her performance as Lol in This is England '86.

The Early Buzz

Meadows has described it as "kind of like a very brutal Nativity play... I just remember Christmas being shit... I wanted to make a sort of broken Nativity play, but there's a real positive outcome, I hope." Website CultBox says: "It's a festering festive story very much of its time... the opening instalment is ablaze with the same threads of dirty good humour, gritty warmth and violent pathos that have run through the series since the opening scene of the original film."

Insider Knowledge

Another series, This is England '90, is also currently in development. Channel 4 wanted Meadows to go straight to tales of the gang in the rave era, but he felt he needed an in-between instalment, hence the festive '88 outing. Camilla Campbell, head of drama for Channel 4, says: "It is set to pull together a lot of story threads from '86, leaving the way clear for This is England '90."

It's great that...

It should provide some Christmassy telly which is not too saccharine or sentimental.

It's a shame that...

Channel 4 has gone for that "show the whole series on consecutive nights" scheduling approach again, as with the recent Top Boys. Don't they know it's Christmas party season? Yes, there's always 4OD, but it can still feel a bit one-night-out-and-you'll-miss-it.

Hit Potential

Meadows has some hardcore fans already excited, and if it's anything like its predecessors, it will please the critics, too.

The Details

This is England '88 is on Channel 4, 13 to 15 December.