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There are lots of documentaries that claim to be groundbreaking. The Up series genuinely is. Following 14 British people since 1964, when they were just seven years old, the show has checked back in on each one every seven years – a process that has now spanned 56 years, over half a century. In that time, we’ve had Beatlemania, the Home Alone movies, Line of Duty, Donald Trump, and Pogs. Michael Apted’s series has given us a window into all of these kind of cultural shifts (ok, maybe not Pogs) and, more crucially, the way that any such shifts have affected their lives, as our 14 Brits mature from toddlers to adults with all of life’s complications and surprise. The result is somewhere between a science experiment and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and captures the latter’s sense of scale, universality and intimacy, as we see that kid who did that singing all those years ago or that farmer’s son all grown up. The documentary was originally meant to examine class background but has left that focus largely behind. At the age of 63, it’s not just the state of modern Britain that lingers in the background, but also the very real threat of cancer or the profound sense of perspective or humour that comes with living a rounded life full of joys and mistakes. What’s remarkable is how recognisable they still are from the clips of them when younger. “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man,” Aristotle purportedly once said, and while the documentary quotes it multiple times, it’s a maxim that proves to be true time and time again. Roll on the next seven years.
Available until: 6th July 2019 (Episode 1)
7 Up and Me
A companion piece to 63 Up on ITV, you’d be forgiven for writing off the indulgently titles 7 Up and Me as a puff piece of promotional telly. But the documentary is a surprisingly warm, honest look at celebrities who have watched the series over the last five decades, including Richard E. Grant and Michael Sheen. As they recollect following the same 14 people as us from all ages of their own lives, you get a real sense of how much the programme has brought people together to share in the same sense of connection and recognition – a cute, effective portrait of the country in its own right. Plus who wouldn’t want to watch Gogglebox with Richard E. Grant and Michael Sheen in it anyway?
Available until: 3rd July 2019
The Truth About Chlorinated Chicken
Put down your dinner – you won’t want it anytime soon. Not if you watch this episode of Channel 4’s always-excellent Dispatches, which shines a queasy light on the American chicken industry. Why? Because in the week that Donald Trump visited the UK, the fallout of a US-UK trade deal in the wake of a potential Brexit has become more starkly clear – from Trump’s interest in the NHS to the fact that they’d be keen to export their poultry to our shelves to shore up their own agriculture. It would be a dramatic shift from the EU, where chlorinated chicken is banned and other measures (limits on transport times) are in place to safeguard food from salmonella and campylobacter. In the US, they just shower their chicken with chlorine – something we do with our spinach, but something that, in the case of chicken, only takes care of 90 per cent of bacteria. That might sound like a high number, but in America, multiple salmonella-related deaths have been reported in recent years. In the UK, there haven’t been any. To understand how American chicken is made, then, is an important, eye-opening piece of journalism, dished up in a distinctly non-mouth-watering 30-minute course. Bon appetit.
Available until: 3rd July 2019