The big hub has closed. Tonight sees the broadcast of the final episode of Molly and Mack, perhaps CBeebies’ most charming – and cross-generational – show. It has run for 100 episodes, plus one wildly heartwarming Christmas special, over four years.
For those who have not yet had the pleasure, Molly and Mack are siblings – she eight when it started in 2018, he about 20 – who spend their summer days at a local community centre just under the Forth Bridge. Mack (Joshua Haynes) manages a vintage toy and record stall; Molly (Mimi Robertson), on school holidays, attends the kids’ club run by her widowed dad, James (James Mackenzie).
Most of the action takes place inside the hub, which is ruled with a rod of steel by manager Moira (Maureen Carr), forever waggling her rulebook at stallholders including allotment man Bob (Steven McNicoll), knick-knack seller Alice (Katrina Bryan) and Mrs Juniper (Alison Peebles), strong-minded owner of the Wobbly Coffee Pot cafe.
This is a model of community and collaboration, where everyone works together despite their differences.
Molly, meanwhile, is aided and abetted by pals such as Magnus (loves robots), Ruby (mermaids), Caitlyn (naughty), Euan (gentle) and Suki (wants to be a vet). None of the young cast grates; rather, they deliver lovely, undeclamatory performances – a real triumph of casting and coaching.
There is something comforting about the predictability of life at the big hub. There’s also something progressive about it. This is a model of community and collaboration, where everyone works together despite their differences.
Poverty is acknowledged (Euan is homeless) and grief confronted (the episode in which Molly and Mack make their father a clock out of an old record he played with their mother is moving). The characters are ushered through everyday concerns by friends of all ages. People come to appreciate points of view other than their own. Apologies are proffered. Bridges built. There are a fair few ceilidhs.
Every episode follows an identical narrative structure, bookended by sequences introducing key players and, later, showing Molly and Mack closing up shop for the night (with a bit of string). Moira blows her whistle and shouts “The big hub is open” and “The big hub is closed” to indicate lights on / kicking-out time.
Two songs – “I have an idea!” and “Oops, oh no!” – always feature, sung to camera by whoever has, that episode, been struck by inspiration or lost a key / misheard the name of a pony / accidentally canvassed too many people about their favourite cake. The rest of the cast act as a chorus during these songs, often in topical costume – as root vegetables, say, or huge babies.
Each story is told through the prism of an object on Molly’s special shelf that reminds her of the time when, for instance, Bob put his back out, or they tracked down the owner of a missing dolly.
These beats are handled with skill by the rolling team of writers. They never feel repetitive; rather, great anticipation comes from teeing up when “Oops!” will come, and who will sing it. There’s a glee to each episode, which encourages the viewer – even those only just learning to speak – to feel really in on the joke.
It even sometimes gets a bit meta. The inexplicable muteness of Mrs Juniper’s assistant, Sandy (Ryan Towart) is playfully acknowledged in this final series. Yet even that – presumably a hangover from some sort of Equity small print – is never resolved. It just remains the case: Sandy does not speak.
It is also quite soapy: for example, the head-butting between Moira and Mrs Juniper, the slow-burn romance of James and Alice (Bryan’s own pregnancy in series four is concealed using veteran telly tricks such as a big handbag and convenient bouquet).
So, Molly and Mack is cheerful and fun and helpful and normal. It’s easy to forget how important these elements were during the first year or so of the pandemic, if you were at home with a preschooler.
Then, such open interaction in a public place felt like a utopian dream – and seeing it became a useful reference for what mundane life (albeit with spontaneous mass singing) was like. For most of us, the real thing has now resumed. But I’ll still miss the world of Molly and Mack.