Starlings. Copyright: Baby Cow Productions
Starlings

Starlings

  • TV comedy drama
  • Sky One
  • 2012 - 2013
  • 16 episodes (2 series)

Sky1 comedy drama about a dysfunctional family living in Derbyshire. Written by Matt King and Steve Edge. Stars Brendan Coyle, Lesley Sharp, Steve Edge, Matt King, Alan Williams and more.

Matt King and Steve Edge

Starlings. Copyright: Baby Cow Productions
Starlings. Image shows from L to R: Uncle Loz (Matt King), Fergie (Steve Edge). Copyright: Baby Cow Productions

Matt King (Peep Show) and Steve Edge (The Great Outdoors) talk about Starlings, the show they have written together...

What is Starlings about?

Matt: Starlings centres around a mum and dad, Jan and Terry Starling, played by Brendan Coyle and Lesley Sharp, and their brood around them. Their flock of Starlings, if you will. They live in Matlock in Derbyshire. Steve and I set out to write a comedy-drama that was completely lacking in anything bleak, anything cynical, anything depressing. We just wanted to write something really uplifting, funny and warm, and about a family: a real family.

Of course there's some extended family, too: the series begins with a couple of what you might call long lost relatives arriving, and the Starling dwelling soon becomes a very full and fraught household. There's a caravan in the garden, which they've had there for years, which sort of becomes another room in the house. Steve's character, Fergie, lives in there.

Steve: Most 'TV families' you see are over-exaggerated caricatures. TV families have always got massive idiots or alcoholics, drug addicts or freaks, but most people don't grow up in that environment. Starlings is largely based on us growing up. What we were looking for here was the drama within a normal family - the things that affect everyone's lives, and how they all group together and deal with those things. It's a comedy with heart, but it has bite to it. It has - we think - lots of very funny lines, and a lot of very funny character-based comedy, but there are a lot of tear-jerking moments too; a lot of really warm, genuine, human stuff.

How did you choose Derbyshire as the setting?

Matt: Steve and I grew up in very different parts of the country, but we had quite similar backgrounds in as far as the size of the towns and their location in the suburbs. I grew up in a place called Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, which is right on the Essex border...

Steve: And I grew up in Cannock in Staffordshire, so an overspill of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the Black Country, but near Matlock. And that's the other reason we set it there - we quite liked the idea of setting it in the Midlands, without setting it in the heart of the Midlands.

Starlings. Image shows from L to R: Fergie (Steve Edge), Uncle Loz (Matt King). Copyright: Baby Cow Productions

Matt: We didn't want to make another rural English show of rolling hills and old pubs and stuff. We wanted a genuine combination of rural and town life. We also visit Derby as well in the show, so there's a real mixture of locations.

Steve: We were trying to avoid the obvious as well - setting it in Manchester or in London or Leeds, where everything is always set. We just wanted somewhere a little bit different. And it's a beautiful part of the world.

Can you tell us more about the format of the episodes?

Matt: Initially we wrote half-hour episodes in the classic sitcom format: you start in one place and you end in that place, and you show what happens in between. But a TV half hour's about 22 minutes, and it's hard to get drama into that. As soon as you double it to hour-long episodes, you can have the funny stuff, but you can have scenes too: nice long scenes that can breathe.

Steve: Yeah, you can let them breathe, and you can build up character, which is really what this is all about. It's about eight people, normal people, not in any way cartoonish or caricatures.

Matt: And I think that's probably harder to write. Or rather it's a lot easier to write somebody falling over, or being a bit stupid or getting the wrong end of the stick. This format does give you the opening to the dramatic things, and a chance to explore the minutiae of what affects people and how that affects everyone else.

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