The ending of The Full Monty, which arrived in theaters in 1997, was undeniably hopeful. The climactic striptease felt like a moment of triumph for the film’s working class characters, each of whom was struggling with their own problems. Its relatable, charming plot, imagined by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, earned the film a BAFTA for Best Film and four Oscar nominations. It became cemented into pop culture, a well-known reference point for multiple generations, and later a Broadway musical.
Twenty-six years later, Beaufoy, along with writer Alice Nutter, have rebooted The Full Monty in the form of an eight-episode FX series and much of that conclusive optimism has been shattered. The film premiered at a moment in British history where things seemed to be turning around, but today England is in dire straits. The cost of living has skyrocketed, with energy prices unmanageable by most households, and the National Health Service is crumbling under the weight of austerity measures put in place by years of Tory rule. Brexit and Covid have only made things worse, as evidenced by the circumstances of the series, which picks up in the present day.
Beaufoy has admirably reunited the entire original cast and all of their characters remain in Sheffield. They continue to struggle, in their own ways, and the new generation of characters don’t have it any easier. Gaz (Robert Carlyle) works in a psych ward and continues to scheme up ways to make a buck. He’s lost his relationship with his now-grown son Nathan (William Snape) and his daughter Destiny (newcomer Talitha Wing) has a tumultuous home life and a questionable future. Dave (Mark Addy) is married to Jean (Lesley Sharp), but their relationship is in trouble. Lomper (Steve Huison) finds himself in debt despite being a married café owner, while Gerard (Tom Wilkinson) is generally dissatisfied.
But it’s the story of Horse (Paul Barber) that feels most devastating. The character, once a lively dancer, is barely mobile and keeps being denied disability benefits. He can’t afford to feed himself, which plays out subtly throughout the episodes (a scene where Horse leaves a grocery store without food because the automatic check-outs only accept credit cards is heart-breaking). Things are substantially worse in today’s England, and the government is failing all of the characters, but Horse most of all.
The story plays out over eight episodes, but many feel like standalone narratives, offering more specific glimpses into each character’s life. A chapter about Lomper’s gamble to acquire a racing pigeon to pay off his debts is delightful and sad in equal measure, and another, where Dave befriends a bullied kid at the school where he’s a janitor, is a poignant reflection on how our pasts shape our presents. There’s no stripping in this series, but it doesn’t matter—the original film wasn’t really about that anyway. Instead, this is an entertaining indictment of modern-day Britain from the perspective of the working class, which feels notably political on Beaufoy’s part.
It’s helpful to rewatch the film before starting the series, but these episodes exist on their own. You can jump in without prior knowledge and the plot and characters are still there. Beaufoy and Nutter have cleverly created a continuation of the film that feels genuine to the characters. But more importantly, they’ve reflected a societal crisis on screen without being heavy-handed or losing their sense of humor. The problems Gaz and his pals face in Sheffield aren’t unique to England, but the specificity of their lives offers a window of empathy into the difficulties so many are forced to deal with everyday. It’s almost like a call to arms, urging attention for those left behind by the government. If only they would listen.
All eight episodes of ‘The Full Monty’ are available June 14 on Hulu.