This Life (1996)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Sex Comedy, Sitcom [TV]  |   Run Time - 45 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |  
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Often described as a more realistic alternative to Friends (or a less comprehensively gay Queer as Folk), this 1996-1997 British television hit tracked the sexual, personal, and professional misadventures of a quintet of young lawyers living together in a South London flat. Created by writer Amy Jenkins, who collaborated on the first three episodes with director Sam Miller, the show's high-drama, party-hard ethos brought the acid-house generation back into the TV fold and paved the way for a number of subsequent twentysomething soaps, from the aforementioned Queer as Folk to the Internet-themed Attachments. Although American audiences didn't get to see the show until it was broadcast in seemingly perpetual reruns on BBC America a few years later, only the program's Brit-pop- and trip-hop-heavy soundtrack seemed dated. The 11-episode first series, from 1996, chronicles the lives of brash, boozy junior barrister Anna Forbes (Daniela Nardini); Miles Andrews (Jack Davenport), Anna's posh, public-school arch nemesis/soul mate; Andrew "Egg" Cook (Andrew Lincoln), Miles' boyish, football-loving best friend; Milly Nassim (Amita Dhiri), Egg's cool, conflicted, control-freak of a girlfriend; and their therapy-addicted, working-class, defiantly gay friend, Warren Jones (Jason Hughes). Although these five characters share the same alma mater, it isn't until they all end up working at a pair of London legal firms that they enter the domestic constellation that will drive the program's drama. Some American audiences may not grasp the class and professional intricacies that add nuance to the characters' lust, envy, love, and friendship; others will savor the irony that crisp Milly is a more experienced solicitor than her inexperienced boyfriend; that hardworking "pouf" Warren is initially such a threat to likably laddish Egg; and that rich Miles and by-the-bootstraps Anna both long for the same exalted position as successful barristers. Indeed, professional intrigue, as much as sex, drives This Life's plot lines; Egg ditches his job in hopes of finding himself, leading to domestic tension with Milly and ultimately a new career; Anna angles for better cases any way she can, including a cozy friendship with a lesbian barrister; Miles finds himself on the opposite side of the courtroom from his manipulative father and feels threatened by Anna's burgeoning success; Milly indulges in a flirtation with her '60s-survivor boss and nurses a deep hatred of a beautiful blonde co-worker; and Warren finds his brash sexuality in conflict with his profession -- and with his desire not to scandalize his family. By the end of its first series, cult-favorite This Life had grown into a bona fide hit; but after 1997's 21-episode second series -- which featured heavier contributions from the supporting cast of Ramon Tikaram, Luisa Bradshaw-White, Steve John Shepherd, and Natasha Little -- the BBC decided not to continue. Some fans still trace rumors of a forthcoming third series, while others express gratitude that their favorite program went out on top. None of the principal participants besides Davenport (The Talented Mr. Ripley) has found further high-profile success, although Nardini, Jenkins, and Miller re-teamed for the similarly themed British film Elephant Juice.