Scotland's answer to The Simpsons: they're horrible, but you'll like them

IT IS being billed as Scotland's answer to The Simpsons, has a celebrity cast and has been devised by a well-known French animator. Welcome to the world of The Clan, a comedy set on the fictional Scottish island of Rhuck.

The show, commissioned by BBC Scotland, is the brainchild of animator Sylvain Chomet, Oscar nominated for his 2003 film Belleville Rendez-vous, which revolved around a French racing cyclist kidnapped by the Mafia.

The cast includes the actress Ashley Jensen, the Scottish co-star of Ricky Gervais in television's Extras, who plays a local radio DJ.

Jensen, 37, from Dumfries and Galloway, is fast becoming a celebrity in America after winning a lead role in Ugly Betty, a hit comedy being shown on network television.

Other voices will be provided by One Foot in the Grave's Richard Wilson, who plays the "evil Laird of Rhuck", and Michelle Gomez, of The Green Wing, who stars as an emotional regular at the island's pub, The Bald Arsed Stag, where she threatens other drinkers with violence or overbearing affection.

Other cast members include Scots comedian and actor Sandy Nelson, who has appeared in Rab C Nesbitt and Still Game, as well as performing a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Clan is being broadcast by BBC Radio Scotland as a one-off radio pilot. However, the network will look at the possibility of a TV series if it is considered a success.

Alan Tyler, BBC Scotland's head of comedy and entertainment, said: "The script for its radio pilot was strong and one that we were interested in developing. We therefore put some money behind it."

The inhabitants of Rhuck live in fear of visitors from the mainland, but their world is shaken up when Jamie, a trainee fireman and mainlander, is shipwrecked on the island.

Aside from the well-known cast members, the island offers kilt-wearing drunks, dirty old men and Hebridean beauties.

Edinburgh-based Mr Chomet said he was confident that the characters' bad behaviour would make them as loveable as The Simpsons.

He said: "It's taking a clich about the Scots and making it worse. Clichs are not really based on any reality. It's like saying all Frenchmen have berets and strings of onions.

"Like The Simpsons, they are horrible, but you like them with all their bad behaviour," Mr Chomet explained. "These characters are like that.

"It's like watching your neighbours, because the story just goes on and on."

The programme has been written by Moray Hunter, whose script credits include Alas Smith and Jones, The Lenny Henry Show and Smack the Pony, and Colin Edwards, who wrote BBC Radio Scotland's comedy series the Franz Kafka Big Band.

It is being produced by the Scots programme-maker Tern TV, which makes shows including Songs of Praise and Beechgrove Garden, together with other factual and entertainment programmes. The company is currently working on a 13-part series of The Clan.

Harry Bell, the executive producer for Tern Television, said he believed Mr Chomet's whimsical French touch would appeal to the Scots.

He said: "Sylvain made the characters affectionate, warm, but caricatures of themselves.

"Scotland can wear that kind of treatment."

And he added enthusiastically: "This is nothing less than a Scottish Simpsons."

• The Clan can be heard on BBC Radio Scotland on 27 December at 4:05pm.

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