In 1997, The Full Monty emerged amidst a wave of successful low-budget British films such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Secrets & Lies, and Brassed Off. These movies garnered attention on both sides of the Atlantic and surprised audiences with their distinctive approaches. Looking back, it’s evident why they resonated then and continue to do so today. The Full Monty, in particular, stood out by portraying the lives of ordinary men in a forward-thinking manner that tackled issues like body shaming, self-worth, mental health, and social injustices. This film provided everyday people with an opportunity to dream and experience a feel-good story, while also offering a deeper exploration of the class divide, a topic that has always captivated and concerned the UK society – and rightfully so.
Fast forward to 2023, and the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of society continues to widen. It is undeniable that our social fabric is tilting towards one end, leaving the majority of individuals to navigate their lives by seizing fortunate opportunities or simply by being fortunate enough to be born into privilege. Against this backdrop, the highly anticipated eight-part series, “The Full Monty,” makes a triumphant return, allowing us to catch up with the beloved characters from the past and discover their present circumstances, a quarter-century after their memorable strip show in Sheffield. Though their comedic performance brought both entertainment and personal growth, as is the case with any fleeting moment, the burning question remains: Did it propel them forward in life, or did they find themselves stuck in the same place?
The highly anticipated mini-series, brought to life once again by the original screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, reunites a remarkable ensemble cast including Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, Lesley Sharp, Hugo Speer, Paul Barber, Steve Huison, Wim Snape, and Tom Wilkinson. Joining forces with co-writer Alice Nutter, Beaufoy delves into the lives of these aging comrades, offering a compelling exploration of their current circumstances. Though they have managed to maintain a certain level of connection over the years, they continue to navigate the streets of Sheffield, each relying on their limited resources to the best of their abilities. However, their once-promising prospects have dwindled, leading some of them into desperate situations, even if they choose to conceal the truth from the outside world.
Set against the backdrop of a crumbling healthcare system, overcrowded classrooms with overburdened teachers, and a meager budget, the employment sectors offer little solace. Even with the earnest efforts of academy schools to educate and inspire the children, life remains an uphill battle. The addition of food banks to an already challenging existence further compounds the struggles faced by our protagonists. Despite their enduring spirit and vague optimism, The Full Monty 2023 finds our characters in a state of uncertainty. Equally disconcerting is the fact that the everyday lives of individuals in the UK, which were already far from ideal before 1997, have further deteriorated due to successive governments’ political chaos in recent years.
While the series retains its natural comedic elements and much-needed gallows humor, it also serves as a poignant reflection of the changing times. The storytelling approach feels uniquely valuable, presenting a direct portrayal of the realities faced by many individuals today. In many ways, it evokes the rawness reminiscent of the works of Jimmy McGovern, unflinchingly addressing the truths that surround us. Amidst the challenges, however, there are positive strides to be acknowledged, particularly in the realm of gender and sexuality. The series recognizes the progress made in this regard, highlighting the fact that Lomper (Huison) and Dennis (Paul Clayton), a gay couple, have been happily married for years. Their only concern lies in the secrets they hold regarding certain financial irregularities, a testament to the normalcy that such relationships should embody in today’s world.
One notable aspect of The Full Monty series is the introduction of a fresh cast, particularly the younger members who include the school kids and the children of the main characters. Mark Addy’s character, Dave, now works as a caretaker and takes young Twiglet (played by Aiden Cook) under his wing. Twiglet’s storyline tackles some genuinely challenging themes amidst lighter moments, emphasizing the importance of addressing such issues. The series also provides poignant moments for the elderly Gerald (Wilkinson), who finds himself perplexed by the world of technology. Additionally, Paul Barber’s Horse undergoes a meaningful character arc, caught between the realms of technology and traditional ways, possibly left out on both fronts.
Robert Carlyle’s Gaz, on the other hand, has a daughter named Destiny, portrayed superbly by Talitha Wing. Destiny plays a significant role in the future narrative, offering an intriguing reflection of Gaz while possessing her own unique qualities. Gaz must realize how to support and encourage her in a positive manner. Destiny’s character exudes strength and vitality, instantly capturing the essence of the present. The series also introduces other newcomers such as Miles Jupp, Sophie Stanton, Phillip Rhys Chaudhary, Dominic Sharkey, Natalie Davies, Arnold Oceng, and Tupele Dorgu, each contributing their own stories that shape the overall direction of the series.
This unexpectedly timely TV series captures characters navigating a world where their prospects appear bleak, while their emotions run high. Can they continue moving forward in the face of adversity with the support of one another? After all, it was their bond that brought them together in the first place, and now, 25 years later, family and friends may be more crucial than ever.
While I won’t delve into specific spoilers, I can say that the series may defy initial expectations, offering stellar performances and engaging in important discussions across generations. The Full Monty: The TV Series surprises in more ways than one, and it is definitely worth a watch. You’re in for a treat, my friend.