Forget comedy TV shows for grown ups – because kids’ TV is where it’s at now. Hot on the heels of the multi-award winning Horrible Histories and the awesome Pythonesque Yonderland, comes CBBC’s The Muckers.
The show, about a family of teenagers who live on a farm in Cornwall, is directed and edited by the highly TVO-connected John ‘Willie’ Hopkins, one of the original Ealing Live gang, and features music by Dave Westlake of Boosh Band fame. John very kindly allowed us to wake him up a bit early one morning, so that we could chat about The Muckers. Mog reports:
Described by John as “The Rural Monkees”, The Muckers features a fresh-faced, likeable cast of 14 and 15-year olds who live on a Cornish Farm. But these are no stage-school luvvies, they’re a bona fide country-dwelling brother, sister, cousin and best friend. They started out creating their own youtube videos under the ‘Purely Cornish’ moniker, filmed by Sam (one of the featured siblings). Then, with the involvement of producer, Kate O’Drsicoll, comedy writer/actor, Ben Moor, and John to oversee the filming, The Muckers was born.
John was keen that his approach to filming suited the age and lifestyle of the cast: “I can’t big up those kids enough – they’re really lovely, sweet kids.” he says. “I wanted Sam to feel empowered by it all, rather than some bossy director hanging around and telling them what to do. I went down there for a recce for a few days and ended up spending two weeks with them. I just followed them around with a camera, to see what they did; we’d just talk and stop in places around the farm, and ideas would come out of them being naturally funny.”
The show has a lovely naive charm to it, driven in part by its beautiful rural setting, and also by the natural performances from the kids. The intention was to make it feel “homespun”. John explains: “It should feel like it’s them making it. It’s the alternative to the city urban life that we see so much of. These kids are sitting by a lake, or sitting on a gate and having a chat; it’s their equivalent of sitting at a bus stop eating Quavers and gobbing.”
That’s not to say that The Muckers harks back to those hard-to-relate to idyllic US kids’ TV shows of the 1970s, like Little House on the Prairie. With John as director, it was never going to be like that. The Muckers features large helpings of modern silliness and some impressive farting cows which, as everyone knows, is essential content for a successful kids’ TV show. “Kids’ comedy suits me…I’m quite puerile!” John says.
So what’s next for Mr Hopkins? He’s currently working on what sound like a very exciting project with another TVO artist, Joey Page through Wildseed Studios (an innovative production company that operates via a new funding model, in order to bring fresh creativity to our screens). The pair are creating an online sitcom set some time in the future, which goes under the working title of ‘Intergalactic Sausage’. From what John’s told us, it sounds pretty epic, so we’ll be bringing you updates as/when they’re available.
In the meantime, why not get a load of The Muckers – even if you think you’re a fully-fledged adult? It’s currently part of the CBBC Labs project, but the more people who like it, the more likely it is that the BBC will commission a full series. You can watch the pilot in full here, or take a look at the Pasty Song below. We promise you’ll be singing it tomorrow:
Many thanks to John for allowing us to wake him up to talk to us, and then being so utterly charming with it.