ITV's long-running documentary series 63Up shines a light on the lives of us all, and it is a towering achievement

Neil, now a county councillor in Cumbria, in 63Up
Neil, now a county councillor in Cumbria, in 63Up

It’s rare for television series to last much longer than a few years. It’s mainly soaps that linger, occasionally getting the tabloids in a lather with a racy storyline.

But 63Up (ITV, Tue-Thurs, 9pm) has outlasted most of them, and the drama of this documentary series is the stuff of all our lives.

Director Michael Apted has followed a group of boys and girls – from the East End to Liverpool and from the poor working-class to the public school upper middle – since the age of seven in 1964, dropping back into their lives every seven years.

Tony, for example, wanted to be a jockey when he was a ragged-trousered urchin in his East End school.

However, over the 50-plus years of this series, he has had to give up his dream, doing The Knowledge to get on the cabs, chasing the mid-80s capitalist dream in Spain, before returning home to what is a slightly quieter, but no less content life.

Lynn, tragically, has died in the seven years since the last series, but her legacy is secured in the school library dedicated to her memory.

And finally there’s Neil, who, for reasons even he can’t seem to fathom, changed dramatically through his teenage years, ending up homeless and itinerant, before finding some sort of mission in local politics, all the while battling mental health problems.

But it’s Nick, now living with throat cancer, who best sums up this astonishing series: “It’s not a picture of the essence of Nick. It’s a picture of everyman. It’s how a person – any person – how they change.”

These people are ordinary people living ordinary lives. Going through disaster and success, grief and joy, births, marriages and deaths, just like us. They tell the story of our country, and how our childhood can hinder us, but we try our best to change. They are amazing. And so are we.

I may have reviewed it last week, but The Planets (BBC2, Tuesday, 9pm) is just jaw-dropping TV. Amazing images, beautiful music and Prof Brian Cox making cosmos-shaking events comprehensible.

I know you’re probably tired of venal, inept politicians by now, but BBC has just made The Thick of It available to stream on iPlayer. At the very least it will provide you with new and inventive insults.