Up and away – how '7 Up' went global

As the last episode of Britain's '56 Up' airs, the first episode of '28 Up', from the former USSR, starts. Then there's the US, Japan, Germany...

Even as the final episode of 56 Up airs tomorrow, another incarnation of Britain's first reality TV programme will hit our screens. Eight people, 10 time zones and the seven-yearly updates made famous by the UK's original 7 Up series – but with a twist: ITV's new show has been shot in the world's largest country and each participant was born under a political structure that has disappeared into history's annals.

Anton, a 28-year-old magazine editor living in Moscow, is one of the original group of seven-year-olds picked to star in Born in the USSR: 7 Up, back in the time when they called the Soviet Union home. Now, more than two decades later, the journalist is one of the eight people who, in the words of Michael Apted, the British Up series director and producer, helped "dramatise the break-up of an empire".

The little boy, who famously predicted a "coup" when he was first filmed, now lives in a tower block in Russia's capital city with his family. His grandfather wrote speeches for Mikhail Gorbachev; he is now deputy editor of Men's Health.

While he is critical of modern Russia – "corruption is so deeply spread in our culture" – he has enjoyed being part of the show. It helped him "think about the basic things in life. Every seven years, I have had time to stop and think about different things. I look back at what has changed, what I have done, where I am going," he says.

As far as Mr Apted is concerned, this one man's development is testimony to the huge success of the documentaries, which started out with a simple mission: to document Britain's class culture. The series, which has run for almost half a century, was such a huge success in Britain that it was decided it should be franchised out to the world's superpowers – the US (where Mr Apted also worked behind the scenes as executive producer) and the USSR. In the latter case, in 1990, children were plucked from across the Soviet Union's huge landmass – including places such as Siberia and Kyrgyzstan.

The Up format also made it to South Africa, Japan and Germany, inspiring shows in more than half a dozen other countries and a new British series, 7 Up 2000, for the 21st century. The reason is simple, says Mr Apted: behind all the programmes,"the human face was the big currency".

"It was the realisation that the shows dealt with universal human issues, and politics were just the context for it," he says. "It has simple, basic, humanistic underpinnings. This is what made it successful and watchable; it is about stuff we all have to go through, irrespective of where we land."

Of course, some shows have had more context than others. Three of the original contributors to 7 Up in South Africa had died of HIV-related illnesses by 21 Up, while one participant in the USSR series, Andrei, was adopted after the first show, and moved from his children's home in Siberia to Florida. He opted out of the latest filming.

For Jemma Jupp, producer of Born in the USSR for more than 20 years, the programme is akin to putting a "time capsule underground". For Mr Apted, it is a format that could work "almost anywhere".

He adds: "I wish I could have done it in Northern Ireland. It would have been fascinating, a whole generation of children brought up in violence. I would also have liked to have done one in the Middle East. But, then, I think every country should do one. It's about the development and growth of the human face – that's the very powerful image behind all these films."

'Born in the USSR: 28 Up' is on ITV1 tomorrow at 10.35pm

The Up franchise

Some 13 countries have made shows replicating or inspired by the 7 Up format. They include:

UK Now at 56 Up. A later reboot started 12 years ago: 7 Up 2000

Australia Smokes and Lollies (began 1975)

Denmark Argang 0 (2000)

France Que deviendront-ils? (1984)

Japan 7 Up (1992)

South Africa 7 Up in South Africa (1992)

Sweden Från en barndomsvärld (1973)

US Age 7 in America (1991)

USSR Age 7 in the USSR (1990). Now airs as Born in the USSR: 28 Up

Born in the USSR: The other characters

Stas and Dennis At seven, the twins lived in an industrial suburb of Leningrad, now St Petersburg. Their father died at 14. By 28, they have fallen out. Dennis has been working in the navy, while Stas is a poorly paid waiter.

Tanya From a stable family, but at seven was unimpressed by the lack of goods in the Soviet shops and had no hope that they would ever appear. At 28, she loves the increased choice in post-Soviet Russia, but admits life is expensive.

Almaz At seven, he lived in a factory workers' hostel in the capital of Kyrgyzstan. He wanted to study in school and said he would buy exercise books if he ever had a lot of money. At 28, living in Novosibirsk, Russia, he is a market trader, buying goods to sell mostly from China.

Rita At seven, she was very lively and living in a wooden house on the shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world. Since the collapse of the USSR, her village has become touristy and Rita's father runs a pleasure boat for tourists.

Andrei Arguably, his life was changed most by the show. At seven, he was in a children's home in Siberia; at 28, he is living in Florida. He moved to the US at 14, after 7 Up was screened abroad, when he was adopted by an American family, who later changed their minds. Adopted by a second family, he appears this time only to say that he does not want to be filmed.

Asya At seven, she lived with her mother and grandparents in an apartment in Leningrad. At 28, she divides her time between St Petersburg and Pskov.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor