28 Up: Millennium Generation, review: who knew millennials are actually a hardworking bunch?

This spin-off from Michael Apted’s Seven Up! series was heartening, but the programme-makers might have hidden their agendas better

28 Up: Millennium Generation, review: who knew millennials are actually a hardworking bunch?

At an awards ceremony last year, several months before his death, Michael Apted won a prize for his Seven Up! series. He was unable to make the event and so his award was collected by Tony Walker, who first appeared as a cheeky boy with dreams of becoming a jockey, and later worked as a London cabbie. 

Walker’s speech was so moving that it had half the room in tears, as he explained the important role that Apted had played in his life. That speech came to mind as I watched 28 Up: Millennium Generation (BBC One), a Seven Up! spin-off which began in the year 2000. 

Because, however engaging the characters, this series lacks the emotional connection between programme-maker and subject. There was also a sense, when looking back at the early interviews, of the seven-year-olds being baited to talk about the producers’ pet subjects of class and wealth. Of course, Apted also asked such direct questions, but repeating it decades later in an attempt to ape his style had a cynical feel.

On to the subjects though, and the ones featured here had done well for themselves. It is too small a sample to draw any conclusions about social mobility in the 21st century, or the Blair government’s push for youngsters to gain a university education.

But some of the stories were heartening. Courtney, from Liverpool, had gained a law degree, learned Mandarin and taught herself Hebrew. Sanchez overcame the disappointment of narrowly failing to become a Leeds United player, and is now a radio DJ. 

All seemed relaxed about moving between careers, and none had started a family. When Apted’s series began in the 1960s, young people settled into steady jobs more readily. Now, Oliver – Eton, Yale, Oxford – could explain why he left a decent corporate position: “I didn’t hate it… but I didn’t get a huge adrenaline rush thinking, ‘Oh, I’m so grateful I wrote that report about a microchip company in Woking’”.  

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