Shane Meadows' gritty-beautiful vision of This is England ‘86
With England’s footballing lemmings about to be slapped away in Mexico by the Hand of God, back home the fist of Thatcher is coming down hard on the everyday dreams of her nation’s common people. Three years on from the point where This Is England made its bloody exit, Shane Meadows has updated the tale of his non-Nazi skinheads with the four-part This is England ‘86 (Channel 4, Tue, 10pm). Here, Meadows shifts the focus away from Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), the impressionable soul sucked into an intolerant world he barely understood, using him mainly as a symbol for transition. His disastrous final exam day marks the shift from relative innocence to a world of adult responsibility in which Milky, Lol, Woody and co are now reluctant participants.
While there are enough baddies on show (a couple of abusive fathers to Flip the comically twisted scooterboy who enlivened episode one with his channelling of Paddy Considine), the real spectre of dread looms just off-screen. The first two episodes feature no physical sign of the 1986 version of Combo (Stephen Graham) but his malevolent presence lurks in the shadows, no doubt waiting til the majority of his former cohorts are happy before pouncing to destroy the aura of positivity. Until that terrible inevitability arrives, best just take in the gritty-beautiful vision of Shane Meadows and be thankful that his likes can still be drawn to making TV drama.