Raised by Wolves, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews
Raised by Wolves, Channel 4
Raised by Wolves, Channel 4
Caitlin and Caroline Moran reinterpret their unconventional childhood for the small screen
Among all the frank, hilarious bits that peppered Caitlin Moran’s bestselling book How To Be a Woman, it was the early chapters – the ones that dealt with the author’s unconventional upbringing in the suburbs of Wolverhampton – that seemed most ripe for repackaging for television. Whether Raised by Wolves lives up to its promise as a coming-of-age comedy drama for any teenage misfit that ever had an annoying sibling remains to be seen. So far, only this pilot episode has been produced. But on the strength of this sample Channel 4 could do worse.
Although co-penned by Moran and her sister Caroline and drawing obvious inspiration from their childhoods, Raised by Wolves is clearly not intended to be autobiographical – something that's obvious as soon as you realise the show is set in the present day. The setting is a clever conceit: it sets up some tremendous one-liners, and presumably creates enough ambiguity about characters inspired by real-life individuals to let the writers off the hook. Plus, Rae Earl’s My Mad Fat Diary already covered the market for fat, feisty females growing up to a nostalgic soundtrack. So Caitlin becomes Germaine (Helen Monks), complete with loud mouth and unruly hair; and Caroline the introverted, red-haired Aretha (Alexa Davies). The pair are the oldest of six, squeezed into a two-bedroom council house with Aretha’s books, Germaine’s raging hormones and their mother, Della – her daughters are named after strong female role models and her sons after characters played by Kevin Costner.
This first episode is, unsurprisingly, a chance to set the scene: the kids are home-schooled and bullied by the loutish neighbourhood kids, the worst of which Germaine lusts after from afar (“He’s actually really sensitive – I saw him shoplift an Adele CD once”). Aretha dreams of a conventional education, while Germaine uses her mum’s numerous daytime absences as an excuse to watch horror movies all day and trains her smaller siblings to pull bedsheets over their heads at the scary bits. Della (Rebekah Staton) is preparing for modern society’s inevitable breakdown, chain smoking through the window and hauling home a water butt in order to get one over on Wolverhampton City Council – and provide what are easily the funniest butt jokes I’ve heard in a sitcom all year. There’s a deadbeat Grampy (Philip Jackson) who pops in from time to time, usually through the window while drunk and/or doped.
Comparisons with My Mat Fat Diary and even Shameless are easy, but Raised by Wolves has enough laughs – if maybe not quite as much heart, at least not yet – for it to stand on its own even one episode in. Besides, it’s not as if the TV schedules are groaning under the weight of honest portrayals of either teenage girlhood or non-London life. There’s plenty here to make a successful series out of. Here’s hoping the powers that be agree.
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