The Young Offenders is to become a TV series

The BBC/RTÉ co-production to get a six-episode run - and the Cork accents are staying

Chris Walley and Alex Murphy   in The Young Offenders

Chris Walley and Alex Murphy in The Young Offenders

 

Here’s some news worth celebrating. Peter Foott’s The Young Offenders, a huge hit at the Irish box office in 2016, is about to become a television series for BBC Three in association with RTÉ.

Starring Alex Murphy and Chris Walley as incorrigible idiots Conor and Jock, the film was loosely based upon a true story concerning a stash of cocaine that washed up on the Cork coast. The Young Offenders premiered to cacophonous chortles at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh and – despite the chewy Cork accents – received excellent reviews in the US and the UK.

“It’s the most perceptive comic portrait of the adolescent male since The Inbetweeners, but with a naturalism that is unexpectedly disarming,” Wendy Ide wrote in the Observer.

The series, which reunites the original cast, comprises six episodes written by Foott. Hilary Rose, hilarious as Conor’s fishmonger mother, is also back on board. The show will shoot in Cork and, as Rose explains, will not be softened or Anglicised by the people at the Beeb.

“Not in the slightest,” she told me. “We were concerned they would be concerned about the accents, but they weren’t. They liked what they saw in the film. It is set in Cork and it will be shot in Cork. That’s such a relief. Their history of commissioning is great.”

The recent history of BBC Three, now an online service, is, indeed, impressive. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, which premiered there before screening on BBC Two, became the most positively reviewed British comedy of 2016. In its earlier traditional incarnation, BBC Three launched such shows as Gavin and Stacey and Sharon Horgan’s Pulling.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be able to work with the BBC and with RTÉ to bring these characters back to the screen,” Peter Foott said. “They have been so supportive of the project and will be a wonderful home for it. The public response to the film, and specifically the characters themselves, was just so overwhelming that we really felt there were a lot more stories to tell.”

The series goes into production this summer. “The BBC were all over it,” Rose said. “They wanted it done really fast.”

PJ Gallagher and Hilary Rose in The Young Offenders
PJ Gallagher and Hilary Rose in The Young Offenders

There is a long history of films that became successful TV series. In recent years, Shane Meadows’s This is England expanded from a film into a televisual history of late 20th century working-class culture. The TV series of Friday Night Lights received more acclaim than the film from which it was derived. The sitcom version of M*A*S*H famously lasted longer than the Korean War itself. It is, however, quite unusual for a film to shift media so quickly and with so few apparent alterations.

Veterans of The Republic of Telly, Foott and Rose (who are married out here in the real world) seem undaunted by the challenge.

“Yes, we come from a TV background. So it seemed like a natural progression,” she said. “We won’t need to change much. We have some great storylines planned.”

  • The Young Offenders is currently available to view on Netflix. Read our review here. and our interview with Alex Murphy and Chris Walley here