The small screen sequel to the 1997 hit film is a sweet comedy-drama that ditches stripteases for challenging subject matter.
Plot: Taking place 25 years after the original British smash hit, the eight-episode series will follow the same band of brothers as they navigate the post-industrial city of Sheffield and society’s crumbling healthcare, education, and employment sectors. The comedy-drama will uncover what happened to the gang after they put their kit back on, exploring their brighter, sillier and more desperate moments. It will also highlight how the fiercely funny world of these working-class heroes – still residing in Sheffield – has changed in the intervening decades.
Review: In the late 90s, The Full Monty was a surprise hit film thanks to Simon Beaufoy’s script, which told the story of a group of working-class guys who devised a Chippendales-inspired plan to save their town. Capitalizing on Robert Carlyle’s growing popularity thanks to Trainspotting along with inspired performances from Mark Addy, Tom Wilkinson, and more, The Full Monty was a feel-good smash at the box office that would lead to a Broadway musical and now a sequel television series. Assembling the main cast almost three decades later, The Full Monty brings back the heart, humor, and drama of the Sheffield denizens still mired in economic depression and continuing with new challenges. While the striptease plot is no longer part of the story, this continuation of the lives of the ensemble is a welcome return to the North of England.
Set in the present day, The Full Monty focuses on Destiny (Talitha Wing), the daughter of Gary “Gaz” Schofield. On her way to school, Destiny crosses paths with the various main characters of the 1997 film, including her dad, Lomper (Steve Huison), who runs the local restaurant Big Baps with his husband, and Dave (Mark Addy), who works at the local school with his wife Jean (Lesley Sharp). Gerald Cooper (Tom Wilkinson) and Horse (Paul Barber) frequent Big Baps to hang with their friends, while Guy (Hugo Speer) appears briefly as the actor was let go from the series early due to allegations made during production. Destiny is her father’s daughter, often getting mixed up in schemes that pull her friends in with her, much to the chagrin of Gaz’s elder son, Nathan (Wim Snape). The early episodes cement that despite the passage of time, not much has changed in these characters’ lives aside from the advancement of their age. Right off the bat, Destiny gets stuck in a ransom situation involving a dog, Britain’s Got Talent, and her dad.
As I watched The Full Monty, I returned to a comfortable place with these characters. All the cast members slid into their original roles without missing a beat, especially Robert Carlyle, the most physical of the actors, after twenty-five years. Scripted by the film’s writer, Simon Beaufoy, along with Alice Nutter, this continuation comes with the dour economy of Sheffield having gotten worse. While there are hilariously funny moments throughout the series, Beaufoy and Nutter strive for an authentic look at poverty and class discrimination in a much different way than the movie did. While the striptease scheme that Gaz brings the gang into was an inspirational plot device, this new series is much starker. Themes of adultery, sexuality, malnutrition, homelessness, and unemployment may not sound very funny, but The Full Monty makes you laugh as much as it makes you think.
Aside from Destiny and Gaz, there is a substantial amount of time spent with the other characters, especially Mark Addy as Dave Horsefall. In the years since the movie, Dave and Jean have been stuck grieving, which has driven a wedge in their relationship. There is also a lot going on with Horse which offers Paul Barber one of the most powerful arcs of this series and one that is vastly different than the movie. There are multiple new characters introduced in this series which widens the Sheffield populace while affording the characters standalone subplots that drive the overall narrative of the series forward. As I watched each of the eight episodes this season, I found that while the stories all connect and have forward momentum, this is a very small-stakes series compared to the movie.
You may be asking why this series is even worth checking out without the striptease, and that is where this is a brilliant sequel. The whole gang comprises likable characters who exude a welcoming air that makes you feel right at home in their lives. In some ways, The Full Monty is like a darker version of Ted Lasso. I felt invigorated by the trials and tribulations the gang gets themselves into and rooted for them the whole way. Robert Carlyle has often been seen as a villain in his career, but Gaz has long been his best role. In this series, the Monty gang and their misadventures are a primary part of the story, but it also serves as a transition to the next generation led by Destiny and her friends. All of the distinct subplots come together in a touching and emotional finale that could be the end of the line for this series or just the pause before a second season. The Full Monty is written in such a way as to work as a standalone sequel or the start of a longer story.
Directed by Andrew Chaplin and Catherine Morshead, The Full Monty is bleaker than I anticipated. While the subject matter is darker and more realistic than the movie, it is approached with a sense of humor and a lot of love, making it a journey. All of the original cast are excellent and have grown since 1997 and have more growing to do, and it was a pleasure to go on that journey with them. The Full Monty is much more of a drama with some comedy than the other way around, but it is a worthy companion to the movie and the next chapter in the lives of the Sheffield populace. I am not sure if everyone will be as open to this series without the plot device that made the feature film a box office hit, but I enjoyed heading North one more time.
The Full Monty premieres on June 14th on Hulu.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-full-monty-tv-review/