The Durrells creator Simon Nye is back with ITV’s new version of The Darling Buds of May.
The Larkins is set in the late 1950’s and follows the golden-hearted wheeler dealer Pop Larkin and his wife Ma, together with their six children, as they bask in their idyllic and beautiful patch of paradise in Kent.
Bradley Walsh (Law & Order UK) and Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It) lead the cast as Pop and Ma.
Watch the trailer:
The official synopsis reads: “Fiercely loyal to each other and their community, each Larkin family member has a strong work ethic, alongside a disinterest in authority.
“In the idyllic and beautiful Kent countryside, known as the Garden of England, The Larkins have achieved a small patch of paradise where nothing is wasted and they enjoy life to the full.
“There’s an overwhelming sense of plenty in their lives and a lot of joy and raucous laughter, as Ma Larkin provides a seemingly endless supply of delicious, hearty meals. And no matter what time of day, The Larkins and their guests aren’t averse to enjoying the odd cocktail or two!”
Simon Nye began his TV career in 1990, adapting his first novel Men Behaving Badly into hit sitcom.
He went on to write a number of TV movies, including The Railway Children, Pollyanna, Tunnel of Love, and My Family & Other Animals.
In more recent years he adapted Just William as a series, wrote an episode of Doctor Who for Matt Smith’s Doctor, and wrote all 26 episodes of ITV’s The Durrells.
Now he’s returned to ITV as the writer and executive producer of The Larkins.
Here Simon Nye discusses filming in Kent, if viewers are ready for a break for serial killer dramas, and whether The Larkins is a remake or not…
Is The Larkins a remake of 1990’s series The Darling Buds of May?
“No, we’re based on the HE Bates’ novel of that name. There are elements in the books that are worth investigating from our contemporary perspective, and I hope we’ve shed a new light on some of the joys of H.E. Bates’ novel.
“It was written in 1958 but doesn’t come across as stuffy at all and feels quite modern.”
Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘elements worth investigating’?
“Well at a time when we are all overly aware of what we say and do, the Larkins are free spirits and live by their own rules and values. Pop doesn’t care what anyone thinks about them.
“I guess it’s easier on a farm to be your own person because they are self-sufficient but at the same time intensely sociable and really care about their community.
“He and Ma are fearless, the kids are too and throw themselves around the farm – it’s a health and safety nightmare, frankly. But I think viewers will enjoy being transported back to a more reckless and outdoorsy time.”
Do you think viewers want feel-good drama as opposed to dark thrillers?
“We will see! But yes, this is a timely series for people who want to forget about the nightmare of the last year and a half.
“I’m always surprised how much viewers love a serial killer and rush towards doom and gloom. At the very least The Larkins is a show you can watch as a family, though we’ve tried to avoid being twee or anodyne.
“I think we have lots going on and dramatic jeopardy that stems from us wanting these characters to be happy – but overall yes, it’s a feel-good show and we’re proud of that.”
What have you enjoyed about the writing process?
“I love family stuff, the complex dynamics between characters and identifying the undercurrents and little wars going on all over the pace between family members.
“The novel The Darling Buds of May is the first of several books about these characters and our 6-part series only covers this first book – the others are waiting for us. We decided to call our show The Larkins because we’ve added stories into each episode and included more of the local community, but the core of the book still remains.
“It was a joy to add to the scripts and bring more detail and new characters to dance around these wonderful regulars from the book.”
Tell us about the location filming…
“We shot over the late spring in scenic Kent and to be honest the weather was pretty terrible. If it had been an actor we would have fired it. We spent a lot of time on one lovely farm but also travelled to surrounding areas of Kent including Margate for one episode.
“The countryside is timeless and beautiful, and as it’s set in 1958 it was an excuse to have some fantastic cars.”
Tell us about the characters…
“This is a drama but with a lot of comedy so I hope the characters bring a sense of delight and exuberance.
“Pop Larkin has a breezy optimism which lights up the screen. He cares about his family and village but will only worry if he really has to. He probably drinks too much, and all the Larkins eat like horses, but he works hard and knows a good deal when he sees one, so can afford life’s pleasures.
“Ma is an earth Mother, she’s all about providing for her family, she wants to look after them. She can be wary of people, more so than Pop, and is alive to the village’s snobbery – class is always an issue in Britain but was very much so back then.
“I hope they are that rare thing on TV: a happy couple whose relationship brings them joy. Let’s hope it’s infectious.
“Mariette is the beautiful eldest daughter and helps run the farm. Primrose is the sassy intellectual in the family. Victoria loves making things, and the twins are happy girls who enjoy playing on the farm and have the bruises to show for it. Montgomery is artistic, the only son surrounded by girls and perfectly happy about that.
“Out in the village we have judgemental, fingerwagging Alec and Norma Norman – every community has people like it who love to spread a little unhappiness. Pop and Ma take them on.
“We have a sweary Vicar who likes a drink. Edith Pilchester is a famous character from the books who respects Ma but quivers with love for Pop. The Brigadier is ex Indian Army who loves his adopted English village, unlike his sister Miss Chand who is the local school headmistress.
“Pauline is Mariette Larkin’s bitter rival – they used to be friends but now fight over everything including men…
“And at the end of the first episode we meet Charley – an outsider, a diligent tax inspector from the city. He resists at first but is slowly talked into the Larkin way of thinking and falls for Mariette instantly…”
The Larkins continues at 8pm on Sunday evenings on ITV, and will air in the US in 2022.
The complete original The Darling Buds of May series is available on DVD on Amazon.