- 20 Dec 18
Itıs one of the great Irish giggle-fests of 2018 as well as a moving exploration of male friendship. A big round of applause for our Comedy of the Year The Young Offenders as we sit down with its stars to discuss unlikely success and what the future holds.
Every great city eventually gets the TV show it deserves. Friends had New York, London has just received a gritty makeover in Bodyguard, Dublin was acknowledged with Love/Hate (aka Howya Street Blues). In 2018 it was the turn of Cork as the BBC Three spin-off of Peter Foot's Young Offenders arrived to instant acclaim.
That might be considered a mild surprise. When a beloved movie - as 2016's The Young Offenders certainly was - transitions to the small screen, the results are not always as expected. Too often, what results is a bloodless retread. So enormous credit must go to Foott for making Young Offenders the TV series must-see viewing in its own right.
Taking up the story of northside - yes we have one in Cork too - ne'er do wells Conor and Jock, The Young Offenders functions as a hilarious exploration of male friendship and youthful naivety as well as touching on contemporary issues such as domestic violence and teen pregnancy.
And it does so with authentic Cork dialogue (how telling, Leesiders will feel, that the more accurate, non-lampooning depiction of Cork on screen should come not from Montrose-based RTÉ but from the BBC). All of which is our way of requesting that you give it up for The Young Offenders as we declare it the Hot Press Comedy of the Year 2018.
"It's really testament to Peter and his writing," says Alex Murphy, aka tearaway Conor (whose long-suffering mother, Mairead, is played by the fantastic Hilary Rose) "He managed to relaunch the whole thing and to have every episode more or less standalone but also with an artistıs through line."
"The funny thing is that the film came out and did very well in Ireland. But then, with the TV show, people in Britain started to realise that there's a film as well," chimes Chris Walley, who portrays Conorıs bestie Jock. "It's a vicious successful circle."
What is the BBC like to work with? Itıs hard to imagine Broadcasting House having a strong opinion as to the veracity of the Leeside lingo. Do they ever ring up to complain about inaccuracies in the depiction of the English Market etc?
"They're pretty good - they leave Peter largely to his own devices," says Walley from London, where earlier this year he appeared alongside Aidan Turner in a revival of Martin McDonaghıs post-paddywacking hit The Lieutenant of Inishmore. "That's the key to a successful independent project. Someone breathing down your neck can kill your creativity. They would step in every so often - but generally they leave him to get on with it."
The Young Offenders can be crude and hard-hitting - season one ends with Jock discovering h'ıs about to be a father - but with an ever-present sweetness. That flows, say the actors, from the fact that weıre laughing with Conor and Jock, not at them.
"Whether you like it or not, real life is funny," says Murphy. "There is no need to make gags about it. Conor and Jock have hard lives. Youıre laughing one minute and then you see something tough and it makes it more effective. Conor and Jock are rarely trying to be funny, theyıre never laughing at each other."
Murphy and Walley are both from Cork but neither speak in their characters' (entirely true to life) accents. This can cause some consternation to fans of the show.
"When weıre filming in Cork the kids will watch and they'll come up to you and be like [adapts Young Offenders accent], "Jesus boy, you talk really weird in real life." Shooting on season two is to begin shortly. The rumour is that Cork native son Cillian Murphy will take time out from Peaky Blinders to guest star. Are Murphy and Walley in a position to shed some light?
"Do you know Cillian Murphy?" they laugh. "If you do, could you text him and ask him does he want to be in The Young Offenders?"
As a Corkonian, your Hot Press correspondent was mildly surprised The Young Offenders was a hit beyond the county bounds, let alone internationally. What do the stars make of its global success?
"Even if you are watching a film in a different language, you can still see that it's a human story," they say. "We all experience emotion in the same way. Every country has stupid young people getting up to no good. Irish and Cork people, in particular, love to take the piss. But the things The Young Offenders is about are ultimately universal."
Robert Sheehan guest stars in The Young Offenders Christmas Special, which will screen on RTÉ 2 and BBC Three.