How it’s New York: TV Series that takes place on McLean Avenue in the Bronx
How it’s Irish: Features Irish characters and written and produced by Irish-American writer Mike Farragher
Last week, at the Irish Arts Center, I got the chance to get a sneak peak at the new TV pilot from New York writer Mike Farragher, McLean Avenue. Based loosely on characters from his Your Brain on Shamrocks book series, the show is a hilarious take on the lives of a group of Irish and Irish Americans who populate this Irish enclave of the Bronx.
Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s during the pre-Celtic Tiger recession in Ireland, young Irish men and women flocked to New York in search of the American Dream. This series takes a look at some of those folks who are still here and how their lives have turned out.
The series pilot features the comedic talents of Gerry Glennon McKeever at Ma/Peg, Michael Quentin Foster as her son Sean, Frank Cronin as the Bartender and Joe Rooney, whom you may know from his turn as another rib tickling priest on Father Ted, as Father Frank.
Having been a fan of Mike’s writing for over 20 years now, and having benefited from his advice and mentorship as I embarked on my own writing career, I was beyond excited to see this show. It was everything I expected and more.
The packed house were roaring in their seats at the hysterical situations of a mother and son relationship with some interesting dynamics. The saga of the middle aged son, still living at home with his mother, who is finally dealing with her own sexual re-awakening. And both of them turning to their cousin the priest who always has a witty comeback or absolution to offer.
I got the chance to chat with the author Mike Farragher, and here are a few of his comments on the journey of bringing this show to this point:
NYIrishArts: What was your greatest challenge in taking your stories and adapting them for the series?
Mike Farragher: The biggest challenge for me is letting go of control. Novelists write words, go back and forth with the editor to clean up the prose, and a book is published. That’s the world I come from. In the world of screenwriter, you write words, the actors make them their own and create characters that may or may not look like the way you envisioned when you wrote those words. Now, after seeing the result in the finished pilot, I am comfortable being uncomfortable!
NYIrishArts: Are the characters fictional or taken from real people you knew back in the Heyday of the Bronx?
Mike Farragher: My characters are “Frankensteins” in that there are body parts and mannerisms from real people that have been stitched together to create an entirely new character. Peg, the mother in “McLean Avenue,” definitely has elements of my mom. My mom never buried a husband and hit the singles scene the way Peg does in the series, so I add a layer of an Irish shop owner who is roughly my mother’s age that found love online. I think there is a playful, mischievous streak in Ger Glennon, the actress that plays Peg, so I added that in as well to create the Peg you see on screen.
NYIrishArts: How did the priest come to be such a pivotal character?
Mike Farragher: I asked a friend of mine who knows Joe Rooney to show him the script and when he said yes, I have to say I was floored. So, I wrote more to fully utilize Joe, as he is such a comedy legend. In addition to that, a priest was a pivotal character in Irish American immigrant life in the Seventies. Everyone ran out into the street to say “Hi” to the priest if he strolled down the block and if he decided to drop by your house for a cup of tea, it was a big deal. He’d get the fine china and first cut of the Entenmann’s crumb cake, and you’d get the paper plates with crumbs!!
NYIrishArts: Given the short shooting schedule, were there things you had to cut or did you fit everything you wanted in?
Mike Farragher: Everything was fit into two days, which I am told was a miracle. I showed up with a 24 page script and the Assistant Director said that the most we could expect to shoot was 4 to 6 pages per day. We shot 12 pages a day. Everyone was intentional, prepared, carefree, and having fun. It was an easy, joyful experience.
NYIrishArts: How is the process if finding a distributor going?
Mike Farragher: We just finished editing in March and are fortunate enough to know people who are in a position to put this on the right desks of buyers at the streaming service. Another distribution platform exists where you get paid for every click view and we are looking at those as well. Having a premiere in New York, especially at the Irish Arts Center, allows us to get the word out and we’ve entered it into some short film festivals at either side of the Atlantic to put it in front of buyers, producers, agents, etc. We’ve been very encouraged by the response so far and it’s early days at this point.
NYIrishArts: Any little teasers as to what’s next?
Mike Farragher: Watching an Irish mammy of a certain age come into her own sexually this sort of late life reawakening is something I’ve not seen in a comedy before, so that journey will play out in future episodes.
With a musical score curated by and featuring the music of Larry Kirwan, it perfectly fills out the sound of the piece. The direction, cinematography and editing are all top notch and the panel told in the talkback of the amazing crew on location in Kansas City who helped them complete the momentous task of getting the shoot completed in only two days.
I also had a great chat with Gerry Glennon McKeever, the brilliant actress who plays Ma/Peg and you can hear part of that in our podcast to come later this month.
In the meantime, have a look at the trailer here: McLean Avenue Trailer, like their page on Facebook and tell all your friends to checkout the next screening coming up. We’ll be sure to post the dates as we get them.
Here’s hoping this is just the beginning for this comedic slice of life in the Bronx!