Jager Shots, Sindy Dolls And, Um...Wolverhampton. This Is How Caitlin Moran And Her Sister Caz Made A Sitcom
The Debrief: Raised By Wolves follows the lives of Della's six children, namely Germaine, Aretha, Yoko, Mariah and the other two...
We're on a first class Virgin train taking us to Wolverhampton. And yes, we actually want to go there. Because this is our opportunity to see Caitlin Moran and her sister, Caz Moran, give a tour of their home town and then show us their semi-autobiographical sitcom, Raised by Wolves. The name is a nod to their Midlands hometown, which is pretty, but pretty low down in the list of ‘places people care about’ (even spell-check gives it a red squiggle). It’s also a tongue-in-cheek look at the ways in which working class families are treated. Caitlin and Caz were two of eight siblings growing up in a three bed council house on the outskirts of Wolves that may or may not have been earmarked to be knocked down a few decades before their parents even moved in.
But the sitcom doesn’t depict a rowdy bunch of miscreants (Shameless), or desperation (Benefits Street, or, we guess, Britain’s Benefits Tenants, showing on Channel 4 in the slot before Wolves). It shows the resourcefulness and quirks of life that come from one (bold, strong, superheroic) mother trying to raise three wilful girls- Germaine, Aretha and Yoko (all named after ‘powerful women’) and some just-about-quieter toddlers (one’s called Mariah, another is Cher) all in the same house, with no other parental figure about but a grandfather who means well but is a bit…gross.
Even better? The programme shows young women growing up and coming of age – periods, snogs, home-customised miniskirts – despite all the illogical information they're faced with – from the books they read, the TV they watch, the websites they visit, and, sometimes, from each other. Was your youth a bit more about a boy who makes it clear that he likes green vegetables more than you than, say, the Zack and Kelly romance of Saved By The Bell? This is the programme for you. The Debrief joined Caitlin and Caz on a commuter train hurtling up towards Wolverhampton, and asked them a few questions:
Did you collaborate when you were younger?
Caitlin: The thing you don’t understand when you’re the older child is that you just think you’re the best. You’re better at doing everything because you’re simply two years older. So you’re kind of like ‘Oh my God, still the nappy-wearing fucking lame-o over here…’
Caz: You thought you were better than the Maga Magazine, didn’t you? [this was a magazine Caitlin and Caz put together as children, shortly after their collaborative play, Jiminy Cricket Hey] You were like ‘I’m too busy having a life. I’m not writing you an essay on the fire-guard in the living room’
Caitlin: Yeah, I’ve moved on beyond that. I’m using swings now. We also played very long Cindy games with our box of Cindys. Most of it involved spending five hours dressing them up and arguing about who was taking who’s Cindy’s children into care. Quite dark storylines.
And how did that convert into the sitcom?
Caitlin: Though it’s a whole lot more complicated than that, that’s the basis of writing a sitcom together; just playing those games, you know, that’s how it starts.
Caz: And then doing a load of really hard work. And then the laughter stops
Caz: And the typing begins.
So when did you get the idea for actual Raised By Wolves?
Caz: Just before Cait got pregnant with her first daughter 14 years ago, we started kicking something around.
Caitlin: Yeah, we went for a very long pissy dinner and went ‘Let’s do something’. We called it The Genius Project.
Caitlin: We were very drunk on the way there and on the way back…Did I climb into a skip or was it just on top of a skip [a conversation ensues about how Caitlin found a see-through suitcase in a skip and took it home with her]
Caz: We started The Genius Project as a film
Caitlin: Well, first of all we decided against writing a private detective sitcom, which was basically Moonlighting and a lookalike sitcom called Cher And Cher Alike.
Caz: I can’t even remember how [Raised by Wolves] sort of started. We cut a film-length thing down to a pilot and had some meetings.
And what was working on it like?
Caitlin: I lunched the fuck out of this
Caz: And you brought the most to a room, fragrance-wise. Both good and bad. You stretch the gamut of fragrance.
Caitlin: I’m very gassy. I do have wind problems. But I also have a lot of very expensive perfumes which I will then use in the liberal manner of a Glade air freshener to make the room smell about a hundred pounds more expensive.
Caz: When the Encre Nior comes out I notice the first wave of something unpleasant. Oh, and no-one I’ve ever worked with will persistently tweet during the meetings like you do.
Caitlin: It was only if it was a really sure-fire zinger that had to go in that half hour windo.
Caz: She’s perfected being able to do this ‘Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah’ [she fakes typing] and I think she’s sort of typing down what we’re talking about then I’ll get home and look at her Twitter timeline and see that she’s sent 17 tweets.
Did you impose any rules on yourselves when writing the show?
Caz: Our main rules were ‘make it good’. It was preceded by the rule ‘work out what good is’ and then try to make it good. It feels like a moving target until you’ve kind of worked out what the world is that you’re writing for. But I think we’ve both got quite high quality standards. So that was very useful.
Caitlin: Mine mainly around lunch, but hers around the art of sitcom writing. I write about campagins and issues and topics and things that we need to tackle, because that’s extrovert. But Caz is very introvert and goes character, juju, GUTS.
Caz: I was excited by the idea of having more than one woman in something.
Caitlin: Because they can’t all be the token woman when they're four. It literally becomes normal. We sent an instruction the girls’ wardrobe to make them look like teenage girls do, like really smudgy eyeliner and cheap clumpy mascara on and wearing clothes like…you think there’s only two choices; you try to be sexy or you try to be not sexy and there’s this third option; just go weird!
Was there any special prep you did to get back into the Wolvo state of mind?
Caitlin: We went back to the old nightclub we loved, Blast Off, which used to be the Dorch [it appears in episode six of the series] to relive the old times and drank more Jagermeister shots than I thought was humanly possible for a human being.
Caz: We went out with all our mates. Someone’s mate was a nurse and she came over at 11 when we were all flagging and going ‘It’s a bit loud now and they’re not playing any of our favourite songs’ and she just went ‘As a medical professional I know what to do’ and she came back 20 minutes later with a tray of 50 shots, wall-to-wall.
Caitlin: And it all cost £7. Because that’s Wolverhampton. You can’t argue with those sort of mathematics. People go ‘How can this BE? They’re PAYING me to drink Jagermeister’
Were there any obstacles to you getting the sitcom done?
Caitlin: We had a meeting with some people who explained that even though they really liked it, they already had a female sitcom, so they couldn’t do it this year or next year but maybe in three years they would. Now, we’re culturally lucky. We’re post-Bridesmaids, Miranda Hart, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler; funny women are not that weird now.
Caz: There can be more than one kind of woman.
Caitlin: Some other people said: ‘We love the idea of your weird sisters who were taught at home in Wolverhampton but are there three things you could change? Could it not be set in Wolverhampton, could they maybe not be taught at home [Caitlin left school at 11, from then on she was home-schooled] and could they maybe just be friends rather than sisters?'
Caz: 'And could they work in an office?'
Caitlin: 'And could you write a role for some male, pretend Stephen Merchant'. They didn't actually say that - but all we’ve got is this version of our childhood.
Check out that version, because it's pretty funny if you ask us. Raised By Wolves begins tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm
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