Spoiler alert – turn away if you are still to catch on iPlayer – the phone implanted into the hand of Bethany, the environmental agenda of Edith, the humanisation of the asylum seekers, the financial downfall of Stephen and Celeste and the political rhetoric of Vivienne Rook – all issues that are too close to home.
What the BBC programme does brilliantly is to capture the themes of the moment – technology, political instability, financial uncertainty and weave around family storytelling. Using four offsprings of the same grandmother, plus their extended families they shed their skins and let us into their emotions, their deepest worries and their fears for the future.
As well as one of the best things on TV at the moment it is also pure storytelling at its finest and one which anyone working in content creation can learn from. There is enough diversity in the narrative for people to relate to – the fall of capitalism, the unfairness of the couple separated by deportation, the loss of jobs from AI, the teenager wanting to erase herself and replace her human shell with a robot. There are real, robust characters to carry that narrative – the middle-aged, middle class family of four, the gay couple, the eco warrier and the single mother of two. There is a pace and dynamism that takes us with it but doesn’t lose us on the way. And there is the nod to technology that will, undoubtedly, be integral into our lives over the next few years.
As anyone working in communications today will be aware, finding a voice in the increasing noisy atmosphere of the media is hard work, especially when there are as many creators of fake news as there are real news out there today. As Muriel the grandmother in Years and Years accepts the “fake news of today”, in real life, we need to sensecheck whether the Pope endorsing Trump as President is really the case? A recent newspiece claiming that US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was against daylight saving as it dramatically sped up climate change had, according to BuzzSumo, more than 21k engagements on Facebook and was shared 68 times on Twitter.
Add to this, the generation of more apps such as Deepfake, a “technique for human image synthesis based on artificial intelligence” which allows the users to seamlessly put words in the mouths that were not spoken. An advance in technology that can change the way we see the world and our interpretation of it. The use of AR and VR and XR (extended reality virtual and real), and immersive exploration means the future really can be beyond our wildest dreams. With Facetech and Hearables already part of our technological development, it won’t be long that we will be able to download our brains and live forever.
What storytelling does well is engage the audience by giving them experiences that they understand, that they have lived. What the makers of Years and Years does is take you one step further and place you and your family and friends in the future to experiences you might live. They make you think, to feel and most importantly to believe – pure genius.
Photo by Jorik Kleen on Unsplash