Mammoth's 1970s wardrobe is my wardrobe... | Mike Bubbins and Sian Gibson on their new BBC comedy © BBC Studios/Simon Ridgway

Mammoth's 1970s wardrobe is my wardrobe...

Mike Bubbins and Sian Gibson on their new BBC comedy

Mike Bubbins’s sitcom Mammoth comes to BBC Two next week, three-and-a-half years since it piloted.  The comic devised the show and wrote it with Paul Doolan, as well as starring as the title character, a PE teacher presumed killed in an Alpine avalanche in 1979 but discovered and brought back to life in the present day. Here he and co-star  Sian Gibson, who plays his wife Mel, talk about the show, the 1970s, and filming in their native Wales.

Mike Bubbins

  Tell us about Tony Mammoth?

He is a man’s man and a woman’s man, all rolled into one, or at least he thinks he is. He is a 45-year-old man who never grew up, and a 90-year-old man that never got old. He rarely thinks things through, he acts first. 

He has a wonderfully egalitarian approach to people; everyone, regardless of background or station, is either alright, or a dick. He loves his friends and family, almost as much as he loves Tony Mammoth. He is loving getting a second chance at life, even though he’s pretty sure he absolutely nailed it the first time around.

Where did the inspiration for your character come from?  

I grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s. I knew quite a few people not troubled by self-doubt, very much including my dad. Also, TV seemed to be full of larger-than-life characters.

How long has this character been someone you’ve been working on?

I probably first had the idea of Mammoth around ten or 12 years ago, but I’ve always found the frozen in time thing fascinating.

What were you doing in 1979, the year Mammoth goes missing?

I was living with my mum, dad and sister in in Barry, attending Mr Moore’s primary school class. Mr Moore drove a convertible MG, had big sideburns, and coached the school football team. Very much a proto Mammoth.

Is it true you used to be a PE teacher yourself? Did you draw on any experiences there?

Yes, I taught PE for six years. I drew quite a bit in that experience. The school we filmed the Mammoth pilot in was the school I was teaching in before moving into comedy.

If you got frozen and had to wake up in a different time period when would you choose?

Ideally in about a day’s time, because I wouldn’t want to miss out on my kids growing up.

You seem to love the 70s. What’s your favourite thing about the era that you think should be brought back?

I’d bring back proper cars, that all look and sound different. I’d bring back analogue; landlines, vinyl, books, TV. And proper collars.

What are your favouriteTV  characters from the 70s?

I loved, and still love, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, Columbo, The Professionals, Tom Baker’s Doctor, and Jim Rockford and Colonel Wilma Deering.

Tony Mammoth has a very distinctive 70s style…did you enjoy wearing his outfits?

Most of Mammoth’s wardrobe was from my wardrobe, and the stuff that wasn’t is now being ‘stored’ there. Mammoth also drives my car.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Genuinely the most fun I’ve ever had at work. Long days, and lots to get through, but it was a joy. Same with all of the crew.

What were the funniest moments on set?

Too many to list, but having a heart-to-heart with a horse took a lot of takes, and I will never forget a fluke rabbit-related incident.

What is your favourite thing about filming in Wales?

The best thing was working with some very talented Welsh cast and crew. And sleeping in my own bed.

How did the theme tune for the series come around?

I interviewed the king of theme tunes, Mike Post, for a BBC Wales radio show I did, and we just hit it off. He told me to get in touch if the TV show I was writing ever got commissioned. So I did, and now the Mammoth theme is the latest in a long list of Mike Post themes that includes; the A-Team, The Rockford Files, Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Magnum PI.

Sian Gibson

Tell us about your character

Mel is a single parent and working mother to her teenage son, Theo. Theo is her pride and joy and she will do anything for him and completely smothers him. She is a control freak, highly strung and is not afraid to say what she thinks, especially when it concerns Theo. She's a force of nature when she’s rattled. And Mammoth definitely knows how to get a reaction from her.

What can viewers expect from the series?

It's a laugh-out-loud, nostalgic, family sitcom that will make you roar with laughter, and marvel at Mike Bubbins’ fantastic wardrobe. First and foremost this is a comedy, but its also got plenty of heart with family and friendship at its core, and at the end of the day, we need stuff that cheers us up now more than ever.

Looking back at 70s fashion, is there anything you think should be brought back?

Did 70s fashion ever leave? Being very short, I think that platforms were the best 70s invention ever and should be compulsory day wear.

If you got frozen and had to wake up in a different time period when would you choose?

Definitely the 1990s. Take me back to my teenage years, what an amazing time to be alive. Everything was so much easier, the music was amazing, the fashion questionable and I could still fit in a size 8.

What were the funniest moments on set?

So many. Simon Hynd our director really set the tone for that. There was such a relaxed atmosphere on set and everyone was always up for a laugh. A particular highlight was a party scene in episode three where Mammoth rides into a bar on a horse. I mean, it writes itself doesn’t it? 

It was our last day of filming before Christmas so everyone was really giddy anyway but it was genuinely so funny I had the giggles all day.

Did you enjoy filming in Wales?

Of course. We filmed the series in Cardiff but I grew up, and still live in North Wales. I never get jobs in Wales because I think people mistake my North Wales accent for Manchester or Liverpool. 

I’m very proud to be Welsh and very patriotic so working in my home country made this job even more special.

• Watch Mammoth on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer from Wednesday 17 April
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Interview supplied by BBC Press.

Published: 9 Apr 2024

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