Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet
Created by Franc Roddam
Written by Franc Roddam (1983–86, 2002–04)
Ian La Frenais (1983–86, 2002–04)
Dick Clement (1983–86, 2002–04)
Stan Hey (1983–86)
Bernie Cooper (1984)
Francis Megahy (1984)
Directed by Roger Bamford (1983–86)
Baz Taylor (1983–84)
Anthony Garner (1986)
Paul Seed (2002)
David Innes Edwards (2004)
Maurice Phillips (2004)
Sandy Johnson (2004)
Starring Tim Healy
Kevin Whately
Jimmy Nail
Gary Holton
Timothy Spall
Pat Roach
Christopher Fairbank
Noel Clarke
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 40 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Allan McKeown (1983–86)
Franc Roddam (2002-4)
Laura Mackie (2002-4)
Producer(s) Martin McKeand (1983–86)
Roger Bamford (1986)
Chrissy Skinns (2003)
Joy Spink (2002–04)
Cinematography Tim Palmer (2004)
Editor(s) Dave King (2002)
Les Healey (2004)
Running time 50 minutes (1983–86)
60 minutes (2002–04)
Production company(s) Witzend Productions (1983–86)
Central Independent Television (1983–86)
Ziji Productions (2002-04)
Distributor ITV Studios
Ziji Productions
Original network ITV (1983–86)
BBC One (2002–04)
Original release Original series:
11 November 1983 –
16 May 1986
Revived series:
28 April 2002 –
8 February 2004
Christmas specials:
28 – 29 December 2004

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (pronounced [ʔaʊ̯f ˈviːdɐˌzeːn̩ ˈpɛt], "Farewell, Pet") is a British comedy-drama television programme about seven British migrant construction workers. In the first series, the men live and work on a building site in Düsseldorf.

The lead roles were performed by Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Jimmy Nail, Gary Holton, Christopher Fairbank, Pat Roach and Timothy Spall, with Noel Clarke replacing Holton in the more recent series.

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was created by Franc Roddam after an idea from Mick Connell came to light (Mick Connell was a bricklayer from Stockton-on-Tees and was very good friends with Franc). It was mostly written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who also wrote The Likely Lads, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? and Porridge. Stan Hey also contributed writing a number of episodes. The first two series were co-produced by Clement and LaFrenais's Witzend Productions and Central Television and the series were broadcast on ITV in 1983-1984 and 1986. A successful revival of the show saw two series and a Christmas special shown on BBC One (after ITV had failed to re-secure rights for the Network) in 2002 and 2004.

The show was the subject of the first episode of the BBC documentary series Drama Connections (2005).

Series 1: 1983–84

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 it focuses initially 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", 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 POW camp. The rest of the series is driven by the interactions and growing friendships between the various characters: for instance, Barry, 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, 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 and Scouse ex-con plasterer Moxey. Over the course of 13 episodes the "Magnificent Seven" enjoy comic 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.[1]

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 the series was set in Düsseldorf. Spotters will notice that in these scenes all the cars' registration numbers begin with HH denoting Hamburg (HH = Hansestadt Hamburg).

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 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.

Series 2: 1986

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.

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.

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 3: 2002

Sketches written and performed for the Sunday for Sammy charity concerts inspired Clement and Le Frenais to revive the series.[2] 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 ran a building company with his wife, Brenda, 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.

Despite some initial scepticism that the revival would not work, the show was an immediate hit.

Comic Relief sketch

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 it belongs to U2, who invite them to their penthouse.

Series 4: 2004

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 a prima ballerina ballet dancer 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.

Au Revoir: The two-part special

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. 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 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.



Supporting cast

The wives, girlfriends and exes:

The main supporting cast from all four series:


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.[3] 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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.

Commercial availability and repeat broadcasts

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.

DVD releases


  1. Trivia Archived 3 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Stephenson, John-Paul (13 October 2012). "Interview: Brendan Healy". Giggle Beats. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
  3. 1 2 "TV theme reworked for World Cup". BBC News Online. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  4. "That's England Alright". Archived from the original on 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  5. Guinness British Hit Singles, 10th ed.

External links

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