When Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, the authors of the best-selling schoolboy comedy Intermediate, had the idea of a sitcom taking place in a high-level football club, the inspiration was not, as you would expect, an incident on the ground but rather a chance meeting by plane almost a decade ago.
“I found myself sitting next to a footballer named Damien Delaney on an 11:30 am flight and we had a fascinating conversation about the reality of footballers’ lives,” said Morris of the meeting which triggered the genesis of The first team, which debuts on BBC Two on Thursday.
“He said,” I am single in London with hours to fill, what should I do with my time? “And I immediately thought there was a whole world of interesting things to explore. Additionally, we wanted to write about masculinity and the law and it was as if football was one of the last places you work with a particular type of male environment. “
The result is a raucous comedy that the two football excesses – the rabid fans who are still complaining, the superb cars and the impeccably barely inhabited mansions – and is surprisingly sympathetic to the three young men (a rising star, graduate of an academy youth) hoping to break through and a new American transfer not quite sure why it was signed) at its center.
“They are still idiots like the characters in Intermediate but the difference is that even if these characters could say almost anything because nobody cared about these guys, it’s the opposite, “said Beesley. “These are young men who make the kind of mistakes that all young men make, but they don’t have the anonymity like all of us, so it’s really sink or swim.”
Aware that the show itself would sink or swim according to its accuracy – “we wanted it to feel as authentic as it was funny” – the duo, with the help of Matty Lawrence, the former defender of Millwall and Crystal Palace, talked to everyone about past and present players, including top internationals, club doctors, coaches and press officers, managers, presidents and CEOs.
“We are not allowed to say exactly who we spoke to in case people assume that certain scenarios are based on them, but Tom Werner, the executive producer of the series, is also the president of Liverpool, so this is a pretty big clue, “says Morris.
It was the interviews, however, that provided the most information on the ridiculous side of the beautiful game. “We spoke to a footballer who said that the reason why footballers get married early is because the kids are filling up of time, ”says Beesley. “Before, when he was single, he didn’t know what to do with himself but now he had two children and it was great because he never got bored. “
There were also darker stories, especially of former footballers who played “during this ideal time when wages were good but social media was not so widespread that they could behave like rock stars without get caught, ”says Beesley.
These stories fed the character of Petey, the aggressive king of the club, played by Theo Barklam-Biggs with all the boastfulness of a man who was never said “no”. “It is a fusion of all the monsters we have heard of from older generations,” adds Morris.
And while the crude jokes – visual gags involving dog poop to a story revolving around toilet paper – flow as thick and fast as Intermediate fans hope, The first teamThe real strength of the company lies in the warmth of its central relationships.
“The difference between this show and previous soccer shows is that they tended to focus on big, explosive moments like winning the league or the cup,” says Morris. “We rather wanted to highlight the little comedies of life. It’s not really a football show, but a sitcom where the characters are footballers. “