TV: New sitcom Here We Go is a breath of fresh air
Spending the better part of two years locked down and locked up with our nearest and dearest made many people take a deeper look at what they love, value, think is funny, or find infuriating about their family members.
For comedy writer and actor Tom Basden (Plebs, Fresh Meat, After Life), this close proximity and subsequent re-evaluation of family life inspired a brand new comedy, Here We Go, launching on BBC One on April 29.
Here We Go began as a one-off sitcom - Pandemonium - in 2020, based around the Jessop family's response to the pandemic.
The youngest son, Sam, is documenting the life of his family in lockdown as they "desperately try to find ways to have fun together, despite the world trying to make life hard for them".
The renamed full series follows a year in the life of the Jessops, filmed and edited "in a nuts and bolts way" by teenage Sam, focusing on the everyday catastrophes of family life, from the ordinary to the ridiculous.
Basden, 42, stars in the show as "in your face" uncle Robin, alongside a cast of comedy legends and promising newcomers alike, including Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) as mum Rachel, Jim Howick (Ghosts, Peep Show, Sex Education) as dad Paul, and Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey) as Paul's mother, Sue.
It's an inspired twist on the classic family sitcom, with plenty of familiar faces and outrageous plot lines to boot. But what more can Basden tell us about his latest comedic creation?
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO DO A FAMILY COMEDY?
"To be perfectly honest, I don't think I had wanted to do a family comedy before. I think it's getting older, having kids myself and beginning to find your parents and grandparents funny, rather than just annoying.
"There's a change that happens - you just have a slightly different perspective on family when you realise that you're turning into an embarrassing dad.
"The other thing is hitting on the idea of Sam filming everything - it convinced me there was a way of doing this show without just copying other things, without making something that felt too familiar, that we've seen before.
"Once I'd seen it from that perspective, and seen all the things you could do with the youngest son filming everything, I got really excited about it and felt like we could do something that feels very different."
YOU'VE ASSEMBLED A BRILLIANT CAST OF COMEDY ACTING LEGENDS. DID YOU HAVE ANY OF THEM IN MIND WHEN YOU WROTE IT?
"I did! I certainly had Katherine [Parkinson] in mind, and with Jim [Howick] and Alison [Steadman] I was hoping they would do it. When they agreed, they were both so fantastic, and so right for the roles - that it was a delight. Having made the pilot, I could write the series for their voices, and that made my life a lot easier.
"With the other roles, like [Robin's girlfriend] Cherry and [Rachel and Paul's daughter] Amy, when we were casting the pilot, I didn't know exactly how the characters sounded or what they were like. When Tori [Allen-Martin] and Freya [Parks] auditioned, I instantly got it. In some ways, I owe them quite a lot in terms of what the character became - they've definitely put their mark on it and brought out something really funny and distinctive."
WHERE DOES YOUR PERSONALITY COME INTO THE CHARACTERS?
"There are bits of me in all the characters: there's bits of Paul that I've said or recognise myself in, and there are definitely bits of Rachel in me when it comes to constantly trying to get my family out of the door and trying to take charge, but being quite inept at doing so. I think when you're writing stuff, you tend to carve up bits of your personality and to divide them among your characters a little bit.
"I'd say I have some similarities with Robin, but luckily not many! He's quite sensitive, he's very needy, he's the opposite of stoic: I think everything affects him quite a lot. He's a very loving boyfriend, but probably a bit of a nightmare to go out with. He's a bit 'in your face' as a character."
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FILM IT FROM THE YOUNGEST SON SAM'S PERSPECTIVE, AND TO HAVE SO MANY TIME JUMPS?
"I quite like being able to acknowledge the camera. I made the film David Brent: Life On The Road with Ricky Gervais a few years ago and that was the first time I got to do that - to play that game of acknowledging the camera and looking as if to say, 'Are you hearing this?' I think it can add a lot of extra humour, because you're able to play with what the character is and isn't aware of.
"I also wanted to get the sense that Sam really had made the show, and had filmed his family for a year and then edited a highlights package together to tell certain stories from different times of year. I wanted to create a sense of it being a year in the life of this family, where Sam has shot it in a slightly rough and ready way, and cut it together, so it feels like you're living it with them."
DO YOU WANT TO FILM A CHRISTMAS EPISODE? HOW WOULD THE JESSOPS FARE IN THE FESTIVE SEASON?
"It would be an absolute car crash, of course! I would love to do a Christmas episode for the family, because they would go big on their plans and they would also crumble around them, one way or another. I imagine Paul would be Father Christmas and traumatise some local children or something."
Here We Go, BBC1, Friday, 8.30pm