There are few feuds in television history as iconic as Tracy Beaker and Justine Littlewood’s – well, for those in their twenties who spent their childhoods glued to CBBC anyway.
The two Jacqueline Wilson characters, brought to life in 2001’s The Story of Tracy Beaker by Dani Harmer (Tracy) and Montanna Thompson (Justine), were the Dumping Ground’s Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, constantly trading low-level insults, fighting over the TV remote and subjecting one-another to disgusting dares. In fact, I still struggle to scrape the image of Tracy Beaker gobbling down a worm on Justine’s request out of my brain to this day.
The rivals’ constant squabbling was a main source of entertainment for most tweens in the early Noughties, but also many viewers’ introduction to complex TV characters. Despite the name-calling, joke-making and little acts of deception, Tracy and Justine couldn’t be more similar – having been left in a care home by neglectful parents who were often letting them down.
As fans grew up and migrated from CBBC to the vast chocolate box of UK channels, the iconic Justine Littlewood, with her trademark braided ponytail, huge hoops and tie-dye attire, was retired to a dusty part of the brain along with the frizzy-haired Tracy, only to occasionally pop back up when the beloved TV show was the subject of various Twitter memes.
However, when the BBC announced that a 30-year-old Tracy Beaker would not only be back on our screens, but she’d be bumping into Justine after 10 years, the internet went mad with this much-needed injection of nostalgia.
“I don’t think people fully understand how iconic it is that Tracy Beaker and Justine Littlewood are reuniting as adults,” one fan wrote on Twitter, while another posted: “An iconic feud. The shade. The drama. The constant beef.”
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the casts of many much-loved shows reunite via Zoom to entertain devoted fans and give out-of-work actors something to do, from The Vicar of Dibley, Parks and Recreation and W1A – and yet, the reunion most sentimentally-valued of them all has to be that of Justine and Tracy in My Mum Tracy Beaker.
Not only do we see how they turned out as 30-year-olds – Tracy as a hard-working mum and Justine as an educated suit-wearing saleswoman – but we also get another taste of their entertaining rivalry and memorable tiffs.
The series follows a grown-up Tracy as she raises her 10-year-old daughter Jess (Emma Davies) and embarks on a romantic relationship with ex-football star Sean (Jordan Duvigneau) – while Justine makes an appearance in the second episode.
However, unlike many reunion episodes which took place over 2020 and 2021, the series turns the drama up a notch – Justine doesn’t just make a cameo but she becomes an integral part to the show’s plot by committing the ultimate betrayal. We find out that Tracy’s boyfriend Sean has been cheating on her with Justine behind her back.
Suddenly their formerly childish bickering has been translated into the grown-up world and we see the pair in a harsher, real light despite the three-part series being aimed at kids. With their final confrontation culminating with Tracy full-on karate-kicking Justine onto the ketchup-covered floor of her cafe, My Mum Tracy Beaker takes their bitter feud to all new satisfying heights, keeping us entertained throughout lockdown as a result.
While no one would have thought Tracy Beaker and Justine Littlewood’s reunion would be a cultural event we’d get out of this year, it’s arguably the TV moment we needed during the pandemic – to remind us of better times when you could get within a few centimetres of a person to scream in their face, or force them to eat garden insects.
My Mum Tracy Beaker is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. If you’re wanting more Tracy Beaker content, check out our interviews with The Story of Tracy Beaker’s original cast on their favourite scenes. Take a look at what else is on with our TV guide.