6th November 2023
Last Friday the entire nation celebrated VE Day in a red-, white- and blue-hued buntingfest, commemorating 75 years since Allied victory on the European front in World War II. Yet, it was preceded by a lesser-known, but still noteworthy event, that I’m choosing to call V(innie) and E(rin) Day; yes, that’s right – on 7 May 2020, Sky One dropped a shiny half-dozen brand-new episodes of their original comedy-drama Brassic, for your streaming pleasure.
Brassic charts the exploits of a group of inseparable, criminally-minded Northerners, spearheaded by bipolar shack-dweller Vinnie O’ Neil (Joe Gilgun), and hip, hoop-rocking, single-minded single mother Erin (played by Michelle Keegan). Their especial talents include petty theft (predominantly of ponies), low-level weed farming, and riling local landlords with a penchant for excising private parts. (Quite the C.V.) On paper these capers shouldn’t work; on screen they most definitely do.
Here’s another few reasons why you should sidle towards your sofa for some Brassic banter in the not-too-distant future…
Lockdown, schmockdown. The anarchy of the show is as satisfying as an extra-large serving of [Eccles] cake (see below). Relive the glory days when mats would hug, slap each other on the back, and cram themselves into disproportionately-sized vehicles to joyride through fields, on the hunt for tiny horses in an even tinier van (yep, that classic rite of passage). Ah, the good ol’ days…
… although the title ain’t. Derived from the Cockney rhyming slang boracic lint, meaning ‘skint,’ brassic is the permanent status of captain Vinnie and his motley crew. Hence the need for equestrian larceny or bare-knuckle gypsy bouts. Meanwhile, aside from their money-making ventures, there’s nothing the crew like better than swanning around their fictional town of Hawley, suburb of Manchester, greeting neighbours with a friendly ‘’Ey up!’, smugly content in the knowledge that chips taste better with gravy. (Whilst for morbidly obese mate ‘Cardi’(ac Arrest) everything tastes better with chips.)
Even in 2020, Southern settings still dominate television schedules, so it’s a novel pleasure to hear those dulcet Northern tones and see shots of haybales and getaway cars in (not so) tranquil Lancashire fields. Classic Lanc-y panky.
Northern Soul Mates: The gang reunite for shenanigans sequel-style in Brassic 2.
… for which we have Joe Gilgun and Danny Brocklehurst to thank. Brassic boasts a script that is by turns funny, touching (see point 6, below), and knife-block sharp. Wistful Erin bemoans her lot by likening her life to being ‘stuck on a karmic roundabout.’ Clueless Cardi (Tom Hanson) ends up adopting the somewhat familiar ‘Agent Orange’ as codename. The creativity of their group nicknames (cf. the aforementioned ‘Cardi,’ or ‘Dyldo’ for Dylan) makes you want to revisit your own paltry efforts. Plus, the local undertakers’ is called Abracadavers. Now that’s magic.
There’s small and silver screen star, and Bafta winner, Dominic West, as Vinnie’s knee-fetishizing GP (yep, any knee is enough to turn him weak-kneed), who just may need more psychological therapy than his actual patient, and brilliantly conveys this contradiction. The Crown actor Ryan Sampson swaps spats for shellsuits to become the weaselly strip club owner Tommo, whose sartorial motto is ‘If it’s not tight, it’s bright.’ Then there’s Michelle Keegan, with her enviable eyebrows and a performance so commanding that the Metro dubbed the show ‘Michelle Keegan’s Brassic.’
(Featuring the Tracksuit That Launched a Thousand Missguided Orders.)
Recognising the frenzy surrounding Erin’s first-series fashion choices, Sky released a special ‘Erin’s Wardrobe’ insight to coincide with Brassic 2’s debut. (There’s also an equivalent for the character of Tommo, if you’re feeling so inclined.) The look is mainly the latest in leisurewear, paired with some choice gold jewellery; pretty yet practical enough for the impromptu jaunt to rob the local circus. Meanwhile, with lockdown laziness causing a surge in sales of athlesia, it’s reassuring to know that a trawl through the pages of Missguided will yield a match for her zippered tracksuit top.
Erinstagrammable Fashion: Michelle Keegan rocks the luxe leisurewear look in a still from the show.
Both focal character Vinnie and his creator Joe Gilgun have bipolar disorder. The lyrics of the programme’s unofficial theme tune, Sir Joe Quarterman and Free Soul’s ‘(I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind,’ are doubly apt. For the show does serious just as well as silly.
‘A big part of the show is mental health, and I’m a frontrunner for that,’ announced Gilgun in interview with i, adding: ‘Genuinely, Vinnie’s mental health is exactly mine.’
It’s this sense of genuineness that so benefits the show, a sensitivity stemming from real-life experiences with the disorder. Plus it’s not a preachy add-on but an integral part of his character, something accepted by his friends just as much as Cardi’s stress-induced speech impediment.
Joe-ker of the Pack: Show creator and star Joe Gilgun, who even models the dosage of Vinnie’s medication upon his own.
So cheers, here’s to V & E Day! And fear not- after box set bingewatching, you will meet Vinnie and co. again. Sky One have just commissioned the show for another, eight-episode series: ’ey up!