1 9 8 3 – 2 0 0 4 (UK)
26 x 50 minute episodes
In the first series, with jobs scarce in the recession-ridden UK, a crazy bunch of bricklayers make their way across Germany looking for work.
Oz the boozing, brawling Geordie (the first TV role for ex-convict Jimmy Nail), Barry the Brummie, Moxey the Scouse, Wayne the cockney Casanova, Bristolian ex-boxer Bomber . . . cliché’s one and all – and didn’t we love ’em for it!
They are taken on as labourers on a Dusseldorf building site where our seven heroes shared each other’s joys, hopes, despairs and worries while drinking and womanising through their tour of duty, edging from scrape to scrape and from scam to scam.
In the second set of 13 episodes (shown two years later) they renovate the Derbyshire mansion of Tyneside gangster Ally Fraser and then bugger off to Spain for more “Brits on the continent” high jinx.
Gary Holton (who had sung during the 1970s with the band The Heavy Metal Kids) died during filming, from a drink-and-drugs cocktail. Although a double was used to give the impression that Wayne was a part of every episode, Holton’s demise removed a vital screen presence.
A third series was made in 2001 with the gang relocating the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge from the River Tees in the north of England to the Arizona desert!
A fourth series of 6 episodes was aired on BBC One from 4 January to 8 February 2004. The characters now worked as building subcontractors for the British Embassy in Havana, where Neville was reluctantly recruited as a spy for the British, Oz fell in love with a local ballet dancer, and Barry found himself in prison on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Despite extensive negotiations between the BBC and the Cuban Government, it was not possible to obtain permission to film in Cuba, so the series was actually shot in the Dominican Republic.
Two one-hour episodes were shot in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in July – August 2004 and broadcast on BBC 1 on 27 and 28 December 2004.