British Comedy Award winner Kayvan Novak (Four Lions, Facejacker), Rhys Thomas (Bellamy’s People, Star Stories) and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Worried About the Boy) star as a team of world-weary paramedics forever forced to deal with humanity at its stupidest in Channel 4’s Sirens. The six-part comedy drama series, was created by Brian Fillis (The Curse of Steptoe, An Englishman in New York) and inspired by EMT paramedic Tom Reynolds’ book, Blood, Sweat and Tea.
To the outside world Stuart (Thomas), Ashley (Madden) and Rachid (Novak) look like angels of mercy; to their colleagues, they’re a trio of pedantic know-alls; and to the career alcoholics and late night revellers on the swarming streets of Leeds, they’re nothing more than glorified taxi drivers with one drop-off point – Accident & Emergency.
Rhys Thomas, best known as spoof talk radio presenter Gary Bellamy on BBC2’s Bellamy’s People, plays Stuart. At the end of a shift, Stuart just wants to go home, lock the door and keep the other naked apes out. Those misanthropic tendencies are the source of ongoing friction with Maxine (Amy Beth Hayes – Misfits), a sergeant in the West Yorkshire police force and, to all intents and purposes, Stuart’s only friend. Unbeknownst to her, and against his better judgement, Stuart secretly finds himself wanting to re-join the human race. To be with someone. But surely not Maxine?
Kayvan Novak, who picked up the Best British Comedy Performance in a film for his role in Chris Morris’ Four Lions, is Rachid – a man with a naughty past that’s always threatening to catch up with him. Behind the sexual conquests and non-stop boasting about his prowess, Rachid’s biggest worry is the niggling self-doubt that the girls he sleeps with only ever view him as an exotic sideshow and never the main event.
Richard Madden is Ashley. Young, handsome, and a bit of a lad, he thinks he has it sussed, knows how to play the game, and always keeps his cards close to his chest. His only problem, as a gay bloke who doesn’t actually like other gay blokes, is that he’s never in the biggest game of them all.
Swept along by an endless tide of bodily fluids rarely their own, our trio bicker, fight and shag their way through the darkly funny maelstrom of their lives. Behind the uniforms, the sirens, and the incredibly fast driving, they are three ordinary blokes trying to make it through yet another shift. But once they’ve finished saving other people’s lives, will they be able to salvage their own?
Hal Vogel, executive producer, explains: ‘David Aukin and I had always talked about producing a satire to do with the health service. Then I heard this acerbic, misanthropic character on the radio reading excerpts from his blog about life as an ambulance driver in London and thought it might offer a really original way in. Tom Reynolds, the author of the blog, has a very wry, irreverent tone and his anecdotes about life on the front line are the kind of material you just can’t make up.
‘We wanted to make an anti-procedural show; bold, funny, moving, insightful. Our take was to use the medical aspect as a backdrop against which to follow the lives, loves and misadventures of our three heroes as they grapple with much more serious issues – like how to get laid in the middle of the day after a tough shift, or who out of the three is actually the Alpha Male in the gang, or having an existential crisis after finding a suicide – universal themes that aren’t specific to ambulance drivers but are actually finally about things that concern us all; sex, power, fear of death. The aim was to make a darkly comic show about the human condition from the point of view of three utterly original, funny, loveable paramedics – confronted with a view of humanity as seen from the gutter.
‘We met the writer Brian Fillis after seeing Fear of Fanny. Brian had spent ten years working as a school teacher so understands life in the public sector. This, coupled with his unique take on the world, gave us a sense that he might find a really original way in. We gave him the blog and he just ran with it. What was important to us was that it should be comedy coming out of real observation, real comedy and real drama undercutting each other; making it laugh out loud one minute and moving the next.’
Sirens, Mondays from 27 June 2011, 10pm, Channel 4