There’s a new comedy out that will fill that Derry Girls void.
Comedy in Northern Ireland is on a roll at the moment and Soft Border Patrol is no exception. The first episode of the mockumentary went out on Friday, March 2, on BBC One Northern Ireland at 10.35pm.
A while back Soft Border Patrol cars were spotted at the side of the road in Ulster and people were not happy. As it happened these branded cars were actually being used in the filming of the new show. Brexit has meant a soft border.
The show follows this new team of Soft Border Patrol officers hitting the highways and byways of Northern Ireland with their very own special brand of ‘border patrolling’.
Producer Marie McDonald said: “What was really funny was one of the days we were filming along a really busy road and the cars we have lovely Soft Border Patrol branded cars and they were spotted by a couple of members of the public who tweeted that out. Saying things like ‘this is an absolute disgrace’, ‘we shouldn’t stand for it’ and ‘call the Nolan Show’.”
She said inspiration was taken from real stories from years ago, “getting your bags checked by customs and having farms that straddle both sides of the border so having to make sure the sheep are documented correctly and they don’t wander over the line”.
She added: “With the news at the moment it’s all very topical so the timing couldn’t be better and then Boris Johnston helping us out with his border quotes as well.
“We are definitely not short of material, it is definitely based on real life.”
In the show the border patrol search through the countryside and back roads in an attempt to discover anyone or anything unofficially crossing the border by land, sea or along the coast between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
If you’re a fan of Derry Girls then you may recognise Diona Doherty who has a new role in the show as road patrol officer Tracy.
— Soft Border Patrol (@real_SBP) March 3, 2018
“The way it works the actors are given break downs for scenes, you are given the base of the scene and note you need to hit, this is start, middle and end, this is the concept and then you just run with it,” she said.
“There’s no lines, no script, the entire thing is improvised. You can do a bit of work before you start shooting, thinking of a few things you may want to say or add in but basically it is very much on the spot.
“Some of the other actors I got to work with in scenes were amazing and it blew me away, it made me want to be better in the scene. I think the cast involved in this are outstanding.
“It’s not something I had done before, I know some had before, I think because most of the time you can’t shut me up that it worked out OK.”
Marie and Diona both grew up close to the border and said a lot of the stories were taken from past experiences.
“It is based on stories we have all grown up hearing, all the different smuggling methods for getting things across the border when there were different tariffs and taxes,” said Marie.
“It’s just looking at real life and having a laugh at it.”
She added: “Diona is from Derry and I am Moville, just up the road, so we are both very aware of what it was like growing up on a border.
“I am a bit older so I do remember the customs officers and getting your shopping checked.
“It is having a laugh at real life, what else can we do because no one wants to see walls, it is just our humour.”
— BBC Comedy (@bbccomedy) March 2, 2018
Marie hopes that this show will follow the success of Derry Girls.
“Lisa McGee has done such a fantastic job and it is such a great thing for here, putting out regional accents and regional comedy and just showing this part of the world to the rest of the UK and saying we are very funny and we do have good senses of humour and if anything we are good at laughing at ourselves,” she said.
“I am really grateful to her and everyone at Derry Girls for paving that path for us so hopefully people will get behind Soft Border Patrol and see there’s much more to come from here.”
Marie added: “It’s very exciting, it’s not just here, Soft Border Patrol seems to be making a name for itself all over. All the the UK and Europe are aware of what is happening here. One of the episodes is called Eyes of the World which are upon us so it’s very timely.”
There are only three episodes in the series so far but Marie hopes more episodes will be commissioned.
She said: “We will have to see how it lands, what numbers and reactions are like. Fingers crossed, I have high hopes but fingers crossed the BBC take another chance and want 10 more.”
Soft Border Patrol is produced by Marie, executive produced by Justin Binding for BBC Northern Ireland, and by Rab Christie and Gavin Smith for The Comedy Unit