The family sitcom is a tried-and-true form of comedy, but Here We Go is a breath of fresh air, as Rachael Davis finds out from its creator.
Spending the better part of two years cooped up and locked down with our loved ones has prompted many people to take a closer look at what they like, appreciate, find funny or find infuriating in their family members.
For comedian and actor Tom Basden (Plebs, Fresh Meat, After Life), that closeness and subsequent reassessment of family life inspired a brand new comedy, Here We Go, which premiered on BBC One on April 29.
Here We Go began as a one-off sitcom – Pandemonium – in 2020, based on the Jessop family’s response to the pandemic.
The youngest son, Sam, documents his family’s life in confinement as they “desperately try to find ways to have fun together, despite the world trying to make life difficult for them”.
The acclaimed complete series follows a year in the life of the Jessops, filmed and edited “with a magnifying glass” by teenager Sam, focusing on the daily disasters of family life, from the ordinary to the ridiculous.
Basden, 42, stars as Uncle Robin ‘in your face’ on the show, alongside a cast of comedy legends and up-and-coming newcomers, including Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) as by mom Rachel, Jim Howick (Ghosts, Peep Show, Sex Education) as dad Paul, and Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey) as Paul’s mom, Sue.
It’s an inspired take on the classic family sitcom, with plenty of familiar faces and outrageous storylines. But what else can Basden tell us about his latest comic creation?
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO MAKE 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 old, I have kids of my own and I’m starting to find your parents and grandparents funny, rather than boring.
“There’s a shift happening – you just have a slightly different perspective on family when you realize you’re becoming an embarrassing dad.
“The other thing is having the idea of Sam filming everything – it convinced me that there was a way to do this show without just copying other stuff, without doing something that felt too familiar, which we have already seen.
“Once I saw it from that vantage point and saw all the things you could do with the youngest son filming everything, I was really excited about it and felt like we could do something very different.”
YOU HAVE ASSEMBLED A BRILLIANT CASTLE OF COMEDY LEGENDS. DID YOU THINK OF ANY OF THEM WHEN YOU WRITTEN IT?
“I did! I definitely got Katherine [Parkinson] in mind, and with Jim [Howick] and Alison [Steadman] I was hoping they would. When they accepted, they were both so fantastic and so good for the roles – it was a delight. Having done the pilot, I was able to 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 choosing the pilot, I wasn’t sure exactly how the characters sounded or what they looked like. When Tori [Allen-Martin] and Freya [Parks] auditioned, I immediately understood. In a way, I owe them a lot in terms of what the character became – they definitely put their stamp on it and came out with something really funny and distinctive.”
WHERE DOES YOUR PERSONALITY COME FROM IN THE CHARACTERS?
“There are pieces of me in all the characters: there are pieces of Paul that I said or recognize myself in, and there are definitely pieces of Rachel in me when it comes to constantly trying to bring my family out and try I think when you’re writing stuff, you tend to cut out pieces of your personality and split them a bit between your characters.
“I would say I have a few similarities to Robin, but luckily not a lot! He’s quite sensitive, he’s very needy, he’s the opposite of stoic: I think everything affects him a lot. He’s a little very affectionate friend, but probably a bit of a nightmare to hang out with. He’s a bit ‘in your face’ as a character.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FILM IT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE YOUNGEST SON SAM AND HAVE SO TIME JUMPS?
“I like being able to recognize the camera. I did the movie David Brent: Life On The Road with Ricky Gervais a few years ago and it was my first time doing that – playing this game of recognizing the camera and looking as if to say, ‘Are you hearing that?’ I think it can add a lot of extra humor, because you can play with what the character is and isn’t aware of.
“I also wanted to feel like Sam had really done the show and filmed his family for a year and then put together a highlight package to tell some stories from different times of the year. I wanted to create the feeling that it was a year in the life of this family, where Sam filmed it in a kind of raw and ready way, and cut it together, so it feels like we’re living it with them.”
WANT TO FILM A CHRISTMAS EPISODE? HOW WILL THE JESSOPS BE DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
“It would be a real car accident, of course! I would love to do a Christmas episode for the family, because they would realize their plans and they would also fall apart around them, one way or another. I imagine Paul would be Santa Claus and traumatize some local kids or something.”
Here We Go will air weekly on BBC One at 8.30pm from Friday 29 April and will also be available as a box set on BBC iPlayer.