Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (German pronunciation: [ʔaʊf ˈviːdɐˌzeːən ˈpɛt]) is a British comedy-drama series about seven English migrant construction workers who leave the UK 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 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 the third to fifth series. The series were broadcast on ITV in 1983 to 1984 and 1986. A successful revival of the show saw two series and a Christmas special on BBC One in 2002 and 2004.

In 2000, the first series 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 men 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 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 later 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 British building sites.

The show was one of the first to use lightweight video cameras 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 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 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) after building up large debts to him. Dennis encourages the rest of the gang to help renovate a country manor house owned by Fraser, Thornely Manor, but 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 he felt the second series lacked the gritty edge of the first series, which is 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, and instead of sleeping rough, having arguments, and clashing with the Spanish locals, they spent far too much time just walking around in summer clothes and chilling out, and a few of the characters had their partners tagging along, which made the show much less edgy.

Despite their opinions on the series, the ratings remained high throughout, and 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 and Redmile, Leicestershire. Roundhill Primary School, Beeston, Nottinghamshire was used as the location for ‘Walker Street Middle School’. Some scenes were also filmed in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire. Studio scenes were filmed at Central’s new studios in Nottingham, replacing those at Borehamwood.

Series was broadcast in 2003

Series 4 was broadcast in 2004

Main cast

Dennis L. Patterson
Dennis (Tim Healy) is the co-opted leader of the “Magnificent Seven”. When introduced, he is being divorced by his first wife Vera. He later has an affair with a German on-site secretary named Dagmar, played by Brigitte Kahn. In series two, he is working for a Newcastle upon Tyne gangster, Ally Fraser, to whom he is in debt. Fraser has a notorious reputation throughout the northeast. Dennis has two children and can sometimes be short-tempered, but is basically a man of high moral standards and has good people skills. At the opening of the third series, he is driving a mini-cab for a living and supplementing his income by working as a drug-dealer’s driver.
Neville Hope
Neville (Kevin Whately) is under the thumb of his wife Brenda. He constantly worries about the welfare of his wife and three children, and his heart is in Newcastle. He married young and has no regrets, although by the third series he is suffering from a mid-life crisis. In series four Neville comes of age working secretly for British Intelligence in Cuba.
Leonard Jeffery “Oz” Osborne
In the original series, Oz (Jimmy Nail) was a loud, belligerent, abrasive, drunken Geordie lout who showed no fidelity towards his wife or concern for his son. He had a xenophobic attitude to Germans, and later to Turks and Spaniards. His major passions in life were drinking and supporting Newcastle United. At the end of the second series, he wins the Spanish lottery and spends much of his new-found wealth on presents for his friends, but has squandered it by the beginning of the third series, in which he re-unites his five surviving pals at his own phoney funeral as a ruse to reunite the entire team. By this time the character has reformed, becoming more mature and less violent, and is prepared to lead his friends off on new adventures overseas. His son, Rod, has grown up, is a singer and is gay, which at first horrifies Oz. After going to see him perform on two occasions, Oz’s maturity and new-found reformed nature wins through.
Barry Spencer Taylor
Barry (Timothy Spall) is a bashful, boring, bumbling West Midlander (he mentions connections with West Bromwich and Wolverhampton and has a poster of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. on the wall of his office) electrician with a large vocabulary and a motorbike. His tendency to be boring and to look on the bleak side of things are mocked by his mates, but they retain some affection for him. He has been married twice, first to a local girl named Hazel (played by Melanie Hill), who left him for another woman, which is found out in the third series. He then later marries the glamorous Russian Tatiana played by Branka Katic. Both marriages end in divorce, but at the end of the special two part series he is reconciled with Tatiana especially now that she is expecting Barry’s child, a result of an encounter back in UK.
Albert Arthur Moxey
Moxey (Christopher Fairbank) is the only character not introduced in the first episode. He is a Scouse plasterer with bad acne and originally a stutter, although he has clearly had it cured by the time of the third series. Despite his friendly exterior, Moxey has a dark side: he is a convicted – albeit reformed – arsonist and does try to explain that it is more of a mental illness and that he always tries to ensure that no-one is in the building to be burned (Series three). At the beginning of the second series, he absconds from an open prison, and is thereafter on the run under the aliases “Brendan Mulcahy” and “Francis Fogarty”. During series three it emerges that he is now free from prison but that the local police need Moxey’s help to gather information against Moxey’s corrupt employer, Mickey Startup. He emigrates to Australia in the final episode of the special two part series with his new Australian girlfriend.
Brian “Bomber” Busbridge
Bomber (Pat Roach) is a quiet 6’5″ West Country brickie, heavily built with a bushy beard, incredible strength and with a love of Bristol City although he is seen wearing a Bristol Rovers blue and white quartered shirt in series 4. He often ‘goes with the flow’ and lets others make decisions though is often the voice of reason and good sense. When the lads find themselves in trouble they often run to Bomber for help, even Oz.
Wayne Winston Norris
Wayne (Gary Holton) describes himself as a Jack the lad. He is a carpenter (or “chirpy chippy”) who is proud of his Cockney roots. His obsession with women often lands him and his friends in trouble. Initially without transport he relied on friends for lifts but by series 2 he has bought a red BMW 520. At the end of the first series, Wayne marries Christa, (played by Lysette Anthony), a secretary at the building site. According to his son, who knows little about his life, Wayne died of a congenital heart problem in 2000, and his part in “The Magnificent Seven” was replaced by his illegitimate son Wyman. Gary Holton died in 1985 after overdosing on drugs and before the filming of the second series finished. Often, Wayne’s absence in the second series is explained in dialogue with phrases like “He’s gone to town to look for girls”. The series was not filmed in chronological order so he is present in the final episode yet absent during earlier Spanish indoor scenes. The last episode is dedicated to Gary Holton.
Wyman Ian Norris
Wyman (Noel Clarke) is introduced in series three at the “funeral for Oz” where they find out Wayne died a few years ago. He is a DJ but then decides to join the gang to try to make some money on the bridge job and find out more about his father he never knew. In later episodes, when the gang work for the OED, Wyman works as a general labourer.

Supporting cast

The wives, girlfriends and exes:

  • Julia Tobin as Brenda Elizabeth Hope: Wife of Neville (Series 1–4 & Special)
  • Lysette Anthony as Christa Norris: Girlfriend of Wayne. Later wife, then ex-wife (Series 1 & mentions in Series 2)
  • Caroline Hutchison as Vera Patterson: Ex-Wife of Dennis (Series 1)
  • Brigitte Kahn as Dagmar: Girlfriend of Dennis (Series 1)
  • Sheila Reid as Patsy Busbridge: Wife of Bomber (Series 1)
  • Lucinda Edmonds as Tracy Busbridge: Bomber’s teenaged daughter (Series 1)
  • Su Elliot as Marjorie Osborne: Wife, later ex-Wife of Oz (Series 1 & 2)
  • Melanie Hill as Hazel Taylor: 1st Wife of Barry (Series 2)
  • Madelaine Newton as Christine Chadwick: Girlfriend of Dennis (Series 2). In the third series we learn that Dennis has had a second failed marriage, caused by the infidelity of his second wife. It is often assumed, although never explicitly stated, that this was Christine.
  • Lesley Saint John as Vicky: Girlfriend of Ally Fraser and then Oz (Series 2)
  • Branka Katic as Tatiana Taylor: 2nd Wife of Barry (Series 3–4 & Special)
  • Georgina Lightning as Lainie Proudfoot: Girlfriend, later common-law wife, of Bomber (Series 3)
  • Josefina Gabrielle as Ofelia Ortiz: Ex-Girlfriend of Oz (Series 4)
  • Zoë Eeles as Tina: Ex-Girlfriend of Wyman Norris (Series 4): was the assistant of Tarquin Pearce and a love interest for Wyman Norris. It is speculated that she has had a sexual relationship with Tarquin. Tina and Wyman’s romance ended when the Lads completed their work in Cuba.

The main supporting cast from all four series:

  • Michael Sheard as Herr Grunwald (Series 1)
  • Peter Birch as Herr Ulrich (Series 1)
  • Michael Elphick as Magowan (Series 1): A violent alcoholic thug who was always looking for trouble, yet was never fired for his antics as he was one of the best bricklayers on site. Most of the lads feared him, except Oz, who got on well with him and Bomber, who was too big for Magowan to intimidate. When he was evicted from the hostel for assaulting staff, Oz invited Magowan to stay in the hut, much to the dismay of the other lads. By the time the lads had left Germany, Magowan had finally been imprisoned for his aggressive behaviour
  • Ray Winstone as Colin Latham (Series 1): was a soldier who went on the run following a rough time with some of his fellow soldiers. He met the Lads when they visited the Country in Germany, and he went to work with them in Düsseldorf. Dennis and Neville later persuaded him to return to the army, and he remained in touch with Neville via letters.
  • Bill Paterson as Ally Fraser (Series 2): Dennis’ boss. Fraser is a businessman in the Newcastle area, with businesses including a sauna, casino and a nightclub. Fraser is widely regarded as a villain by the Geordie characters and it becomes known at the end of the series when he is residing in Marbella that he is wanted by the police back in the UK.
  • Val McLane as Norma (series 2): is Dennis Patterson’s older sister. She let Dennis live at her house when he divorced his wife Vera. She disapproved of her brother’s association with Ally Fraser. She was also close to Brenda and Neville Hope. She wasn’t happy when Moxey and Oz began sleeping in her front room. She was not seen nor mentioned after Series 2 in the series per se, however Val McClane appeared in character as Norma at the 2006 Sunday for Sammy charity variety show at The Sage, Newcastle upon Tyne . The character of Norma was quickly added to the scripts shortly after filming on the second series began to replace Dennis’ wife Vera, when actress Caroline Hutchison (who was originally set to reprise her role and had attended script read-throughs and rehearsals) was diagnosed with cancer and was subsequently unable to appear.
  • James Booth as Kenny Ames (Series 2): The former owner of Thornley Manor. Ames is living in exile in Marbella as he is wanted by the police for his criminal activities, which include a pornography empire. Ames is an associate of Ally Fraser.
  • Bryan Pringle as Arthur Pringle (Series 2): the snobbish, grumpy landlord of the lads’ local when they were staying in Derbyshire. He was often irritated by the lads, especially Oz and Wayne. He seems to dislike Wayne the most, due to Wayne seducing his daughter Carol, and as punishment, he bans Wayne and the rest of the lads from his pub. But after it is revealed that he once attended a sex party hosted by Kenny Ames, he is blackmailed into lifting the ban.
  • Catherine Rabett as Carole Pringle (Series 2)
  • Kevin Lloyd as Harry Blackburn (Series 2) A Plumber and Country & Western enthusiast. He is always dressed in cowboy gear and drives a Nissan Patrol
  • Ying Tong John as Big Baz (Series 2): Ally Fraser’s minder. Although he appears to be hard man, he has been beaten by both Bomber and Oz, with Bomber breaking his nose and hand and Oz stunning him.
  • John Bowler as Howard Radcliffe (Series 2): Architect on the Thornley Manor refurbishment.
  • James Bate as Malcolm Hallwood (Series 2). Ally Fraser’s solicitor. In early drafts of the scripts, the character was called Malcolm Harbottle.
  • Simon Smith as Trevor (Series 2): Barry’s apprentice.
  • Barry Hollinshead as Rodney Osborne (Series 2): Oz’s ten-year-old son.
  • Mark Stobbart as Rodney Osborne (Series 3): Now grown up and reunited again with Oz. Oz is pleased to discover Rod is a professional singer, but is shocked to learn he is a drag artist and is homosexual.
  • Eric Mason as Terry Leather (Series 2). The character was based, in part, on Ronnie Knight. Leather is a member of the criminal fraternity living in exile in Marbella.
  • Bill Nighy as Jeffrey Grainger (Series 3): A disgraced politician who met Oz in prison. Grainger is a member of the consortium responsible for the demolition of the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge. Grainger is shown to make media appearances to promote his autobiography in which he claims he is a reformed character, however, it is clear that his business dealings are dishonest.
  • Emily Bruni as Sarah (Series 3): Grainger’s personal assistant and later love interest of Oz.
  • Liz White as Lorraine (Series 3): Neville’s secretary whom he fantasizes over during his mid-life crisis.
  • Michael Angelis as Mickey Startup (Series 3): Moxey’s employer at his nightclub. Startup is a Liverpudlian criminal, involved in human trafficking and sexual slavery.
  • Zelda Tinska as Irena (Series 3): A young woman brought into the country illegally with her two brothers and several others. She is separated from her brothers by Mickey Startup who wants her to work in his brothel. She escapes to search for her brothers who are working on the demotion of the bridge.
  • John Kazek as Yorgo (Series 3): An eastern European gangmaster who supplies illegal labour for the bridge demolition.
  • Gordon Tootoosis as Joe Saugus (Series 3): A Native American chief who travels to the UK to procure the bridge, to be rebuilt on his reservation to bring trade to his casino.
  • Aleksandar Mikich as Dhori (Series 3): Irena’s brother.
  • Dragan Mićanović as Kadi (Series 3): Originally introduced as Barry’s brother-in-law and business partner, it is revealed he is in fact Tatiana’s lover and he has been using the business as a front for a drug smuggling operation.
  • Sandra James-Young as Chrissie (Series 4)
  • Caroline Harker as Pru Scott-Johns (Series 4)
  • Clive Russell as Gary Turnbull (Series 4)
  • Alexander Hanson as Tarquin Pearce (Series 4 & special)
  • Javier Alcina as Raúl Ortiz (Series 4)
  • David Cheung as Michael Goy (Series 4)
  • Hector Then as Neville’s Minder (Series 4)

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.

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