Writer Caz Moran: 'Life on our estate was pretty boring'
A new sitcom aims to depict what working-class life is really like. Writers Caitlin and Caz Moran tell Jeananne Craig what inspired them
Just moments into Caitlin Moran's guided tour of her home town and the award-winning columnist and author is dangling a lacy black bra in the air. Don't panic - it's not hers. The item belongs to one of the stars of her new sitcom, who's removed it for comfort as we head off on a no-holds-barred bus trip around Wolverhampton, along with show co-creator, Moran's sister Caroline (Caz).
Raised By Wolves is a six-part Channel 4 series, following a successful pilot episode that aired in 2013. It's a modern-day re-imagining of the pair's wonderfully chaotic teenage years in a large and unconventional working class "Wolvo" family.
The action focuses on "verbally incontinent" home-schooled Germaine, her introverted sister Aretha (based respectively on Caitlin and Caz, played by Helen Monks and Alexa Davies) and their siblings, as they deal with hormones, boredom and underage drinking in a roost ruled by single mother Della (Rebekah Staton).
Uncomfortable undies off and microphone switched on, we're ready to begin our tour of the haunts that inspired the show.
With Caitlin at the helm and quieter Caz on hand to offer her insights, we pass Beatties department store ("our Harrods"), Charlie's Fish Bar (where one customer had a box of Ferrero Rocher battered on Christmas Eve), and Wolverhampton's Central Library.
"This was the place where my very first period started as I was walking around with my dad," Caitlin recalls. "I had to hide behind a rotating rack of Ruth Rendell paperbacks and tell him I had stomach ache."
The bus passes the now-closed Dorchester Nightclub, the "citadel of dreams" where the How To Be A Woman author first "got off" with someone.
"Once you were 12 and could stuff your bra they would allow you in," she says, pointing out the "Steps of Truth" where bouncers would ask revellers what year they were born in.
After passing some other notable attractions - the local skate park, a Hells Angels' club, and the school Monty Python's Eric Idle attended - we approach the three-bedroom council house Caitlin and Caz shared with their parents (who stayed together, unlike the family depicted in the series) and six siblings.
The family relied on benefits and, like their Raised By Wolves characters, were home-schooled, which mainly consisted of "watching classic MGM musicals while eating lumps of cheese on a stick," Caitlin says.
As the coach pulls up outside the house and neighbours look on in bemusement, Moran explains her parents shared one particular belief - "that people might try and come and get us".
"So we had very large rose bushes planted on the outside to stop people getting in, and the house would always have a very broken Volkswagen caravanette parked up on the front drive."
She points to the porch. "When I heard my grandmother had died, I was very upset, and I ate a whole Soreen malt loaf. Then I vomited out of the upper window while singing Yesterday by The Beatles in a very sad voice."
Funny anecdotes aside, it's clear the Morans have a deep-seated affection for the city and its "dry, wry sense of humour".
"It may not have looked glamorous, but it was a place where you could live and grow and pursue your interests," says London-based Caitlin, who became a columnist for The Times at the age of 18.
Raised By Wolves gave the sisters the chance not only to celebrate Wolverhampton, but to challenge the representation of the working class on shows such as Benefits Street and Shameless.
"You never see the working classes turning inwards and having a rich inner life [on TV]," says Moran. "You saw what our council estate was like and there aren't mad, feral rat children parading around setting fire to cars, screaming and shouting and dealing drugs off tiny bicycles, and having sex with each other around the back of nightclubs. Although that stuff happens, that's not how most working-class people are."
"Our experience growing up on the estate was that it was mainly quite boring," Caz adds. "I would have loved for someone to be burning a mattress on the street corner. We used to watch Crimewatch to get a bit of drama in our lives."
The pair also want the show to be an antidote to TV crime shows where a woman's only purpose is to be bludgeoned to death.
"I'm just so bored of seeing dead women," says Caitlin. "You just realise how rarely you watch something where you see women getting on with their lives, having a really nice time, being funny and literate and just enjoying being themselves."
- Raised By Wolves, Channel 4, Monday, 10pm
Extra time: coming of age comedies
- The Inbetweeners - Geeky teen Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) and his three pals were thrown into all sorts of awkward situations in this E4 sitcom, which ran from 2008 to 2010 and spawned two hugely successful movie versions.
- My Mad Fat Diary - Based on author Rae Earl's My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary, this E4 comedy-drama follows Rae (Sharon Rooney), an overweight 16-year-old who is struggling with mental health issues. A third series is in the pipeline.
- The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air - Will Smith got his big break playing a teenager from West Philadelphia sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in this US sitcom, which aired from 1990 to 1996.
- Blossom - The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik played Blossom Russo, a floppy hat-wearing teenager living with her dad and brothers, in this popular US comedy which ran from 1990 to 1995.
- Boy Meets World - Cornelius "Cory" Matthews (Ben Savage) went from curly-mopped schoolboy to married man in this sitcom, which hit screens in 1993 and aired until 2000.