HOPING to capture a sense of teenage life in Ireland today, TG4’s irreverent new comedy/drama series Eipic is the first Irish teen drama to be broadcast after the watershed, a timeslot traditionally reserved for challenging and explicit narrative material.
Of course, at this point, many readers — teens and adults alike — may be squirming a little at the idea of a show that’s “down with the kids”. However, Eipic has pedigree behind it, having been written by Mike O’Leary, one of the writers of Channel 4’s immensely popular teen series Misfits, the launching pad for the career of Robert Sheehan.
O’Leary, a native of the Cork suburb of Blackrock, is well aware of the challenges of writing for a teenage audience.
“It’s a hard tone to hit, particularly that comedy/drama genre,” he says. “But I think it’s something that this age group respond to especially well, because they want meaty storylines, but with moments of levity in it. And I would hold Misfits up as the paradigm that really nailed that blend. The worst thing you can do with that age group is pander to them or second-guess them and I would never commit something to a script that I didn’t find funny myself.”
The six-week show centres on a young man, Sully (Fionn Foley), who tries to escape the confines of his surroundings — a rural town on its last legs, aptly called Dobhar — by entering an online music competition. (The show features Irish language versions of songs by FKA Twigs, LCD Soundsystem, and The Smiths, among others.)
“He rallies together a disparate group of oddballs to form a band,” says O’Leary. “And they start squatting in a former post office, as there’s no opportunity for them to practice anywhere else. So they try to escape through music, all while getting to know each other and encountering the usual shite that teenagers have to encounter.”
The post office carries obvious overtones with the role of the GPO in the Easter Rising, and O’Leary says that his young characters share certain qualities with the protagonists of the Rising, who were also “young and idealistic, and rejected the jaded cynicism of their parents’ generation.” The show’s chief objective, however, is to capture the real idiosyncrasies of what it is like to be a teenager in Ireland today, he says.
The tone of the stories and language used in Eipic required a post-watershed slot. “We’re not cursing up the Wazoo or anything but we try to keep it real,” says O’Leary, who wrote the script in English before it was then translated by the production company, Magamedia.
Ideas are already being batted around for a second series. Significantly, such was his own satisfaction with seeing his script translated into Irish that London-based O’Leary is now taking Irish classes there.
The Corkman originally went to London to pursue a Masters at the National Film and Television School there. He was only out of the place a few months when he was recruited by the Misfits producers.
Misfits, he says, perfected that tricky blend of comedy and drama. “It had the perfect ratio of jokes to drama. But there was also a very clear allegory in the show. If you look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example, they started with the concept ‘High school is hell’. And that was a clear allegory. And what made Misfits so enticing for that age group was that they gave powers to the most disempowered. Also, there was some standout talent involved. And the cast on Eipic are the same. All of these shows — from Misfits to Skins — they live and die by the gang element of it. That’s something I worried about before I saw Eipic. But in terms of the chemistry and journey they go on, the actors have really done a knockout job.”