7 Up to 63 Up: Why people fell in love with Michael Apted's groundbreaking documentary film series

“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man,” is how the old adage goes.

And it's the inspiration behind the 'Up' instalments, a documentary film series following the lives of a group of children from their childhoods to golden years.

In 1964,ITV’s landmark 7 Up documentary aired, where a camera crew interviewed and filmed 14 seven-year-old children. Now in 2019, they returned fifty-six years later to let us back into their lives.

63 Up was the ninth instalment in the long-running documentary series, which many have considered to be one of the best social experiments of our time. Everyone involved in the series were selected from different backgrounds, and audiences were able to follow along their beliefs, ambitions, passions and dreams. The 'Up' series is one of the longest running real-life programmes on television, thanks to its dedicated director, Michael Apted.

“This series is a real gift," said Michael.

"By luck we were given this chance at the right time, at the beginning of the 60s. No-one’s ever done it before and no-one will ever do it again and so we have a very privileged position, and I hope we have got the best out of it. We have a responsibility.”

If you watch the documentaries in order, you literally get to see people grow up before your eyes. This latest series sees the present day mingled with black and white footage, our protagonists developing from angelic children to moody teenagers to nervous twenty-somethings, acquiring lovers and friends, jobs and property, and, in some cases, children of their own.Audiences are able to see how each participant changed over the years, and if they met their long-term goals.

For those who've tuned in to the 'Up' series from its early days, watching has been an emotional experience. A mirror to our own ordinary lives, it's impossible not to become invested in the lives of these strangers. A world away from the reality series of today, the 'Up' series has undoubtably evoked an emotional response from its viewers.

'I want to thank the University lecturer who made us watch#7Up! and#14Up! as part of our teacher training. I have followed it ever since. It usually fills me with joy and sadness every 7 years about what makes us human.#63Up!' said one twitter user.

'Neil's story breaks my heart every 7 years#63Up'said another.

'How wonderful is#63Up? Just been catching up with the OH. Some of the greatest TV ever. I've followed these people all of my life. Also, they bridge that#callthemidwifetime with today. The world and assumptions of then and now. Such a long time. x' wrote a third.

What inspired the ‘Up’ series?

The series was inspired by a simple quote. It comes from the Jesuit motto ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’. This explains why participants were chosen from the age of seven.

What is the ‘Up’ series about?

Many consider the documentary series to be a twist on reality TV, with audiences tuning in to see where their favourites ended up. The filmmakers were interested to see whether or not socio-economic background determines your future. In basic terms it’s the incredible story of ordinary lives, over several years.

Who was chosen to take part in the series?

A real effort was made by the filmmakers to represent the social classes in Britain, so those filmed all had very different life experiences. Participants came from different schools, ranging from a prep school in Kensington to a one-room school in the Yorkshire Dales.

The series focused on both genders, though only four of the participants are female. There were 14 initial participants, with 12 of these returning for the latest instalment.

Has the series influenced others?

Yes, in fact there are variants of this format across the globe. The ‘Up’ series has been examined in South Africa, United States, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands. The format has been very popular.


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Will there be a tenth instalment in the series?

Some of the participants have discussed the possibility of ‘seven to 70’, which they described as having “a good ring” to it. However, Sue Davis said “You’re going to get sicker and older. Both my parents are with me so I’m thinking, ‘Another seven years, who knows? Am I going to be here, are they going to be here?'" We'd definitely like to see more updates, but we'll just have to see where the participants and filmmakers are in a few years.

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Where can I watch 63 Up?

It aired on ITV1 on Monday 3rd June, but viewers can now watch the whole thing on catch up via ITV Hub.

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer specialising in TV, film and lifestyle content and has written for What's On TV, GoodtoKnow and Whattowatch.com. She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases. In her spare time, she writes film and television reviews for JumpCut Online and her own blog, Lucy Goes To Hollywood.