This Is England… 1996
The Britpop war splits the gang in two, with Shaun, Woody and Harvey all firmly Team Oasis while Trev, Milky and Banjo come out in support of Blur (Woody: “I don’t gerrit, Milk. [Crying] Your were my best mate, mate!”). Lol, meanwhile, is working three jobs just to take a nine-year-old Lisa to Wembley to see the Spice Girls. A slow-motion car park pagger soundtracked to Don’t Look Back In Anger is a mid-series comedic highlight, before This Is England ’96 takes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Gadget, in full Gazza-in-96 bleach job, reacts badly to Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss and enters an enraged fugue state, eventually going to prison for strangling Terry Venables.
This Is England… 2000
It’s 1999, and Smell is worried about the rise of computers. “I just don’t get them, Shaun,” she says, as they laze around toplessly in bed. “How do they work?” Meanwhile, Lol is chainsmoking tabs and putting up “Happy New Year” bunting made out of overdue gas bills, a mid-series comedic highlight before This Is England 2000 takes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Woody, terminally disappointed by the special episode of Blackadder shown at the Millenium Dome, weeps alone in a bath. Elsewhere: Shaun, terrified of the impact that the Millenium bug might have on his fledging cybergoth e-shop, ceremoniously throws his Dell desktop two-handed into the sea.
This Is England… 2013
Margaret Thatcher is dead and Milky wants to throw a street party to celebrate, but Woody et al have aged into comfortable jumpers, cash ISAs and soft Toryism, so give it a miss after a tearful streetside set-to (Woody: “You used to be my best mate, mate! She had some good ideas!”). But Milky sat alone among flapping bunting and a thousand person-long trestle table filled with crisps and pop is a mid-series comedic highlight before This Is England 2013 takes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Harvey is crushed to death beneath an enormous “Keep Calm and Carry On” sign while the gang, as per the sign’s instruction, watch calmly on.
This Is England… 2015
Mr Sandhu runs for Ukip as one of those “We’re not all white!” novelty candidates, and the gang remembers that, oh yeah, didn’t they all used to be white supremacists or something? As a result, Woody gets back into his tattoos, getting “Common sense” etched on his forehead, leading to another temporary breakup with Lol, a mid-series comedic highlight before This is England ’15 takes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Shaun, now a balding 44-year-old divorcee, fills his time by going in the Daily Mail comments section and either deigning “She’s too young to be dressing like that” or “She’s too old to be dressing like that”, all while on a 500-yard sanction from any nearby playgrounds.
This Is England… 2035
Twenty years into the future, and the gang are now firmly at pensionable age, so there’s this whole sequence where – and I won’t go into it, because future critics all unanimously agree it’s a sign of Shane Meadows really losing his touch – they all get on the same bus using their freedom passes, and drink tins in slow motion while this one reggae song plays, and Woody makes this really stirring speech about heating allowances. But that’s a mid-series comedic highlight before This Is England 2035 takes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Banjo, Lol and Kelly’s triple funeral (they died doing what they loved: demonstrating chippy northern spirit by brassily doing karaoke together in a prefabricated building), where Gadget tearfully wets himself.
This Is England… 2983
One thousand years on from the first film, and things have changed in the anonymous Midlands town in which the series is set: they have contactless payments, now, and guacamole. Turgoose’s Shaun – a nightmarish vision of man-meets-machine, his fleshy human head spliced with a RoboCop-like armoured-body – slays Mr Sandhu with lasers for having the temerity to shag his mum, before Combo comes back from prison again – “I still love yah, Lol” “I love you too, mate. You saved me. But you’re a brain in a jar.” [Crying] “I know.” – to make everyone uncomfortable. But that’s a mid-series comedic highlight before This is England 2983 makes its characteristically dreadful turn. This time: Woody cries in a bath because he’s over 1,000 years old and technology won’t allow him to die.
This Is England ’90 starts 9pm, Sunday 13 August, Channel 4