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How king of the TV theme tunes collaborated with Welsh comedy star

13 Apr 2024 8 minute read
Mammoth starring Mike Bubbins (Credit: BBC)

David Owens

For television viewers of a certain vintage the ’70s and ’80s were the highpoint for TV theme tunes.

And at the forefront of those classic musical cuts was the undisputed king of the theme tune, American composer Mike Post.

The legendary music man is responsible for some of the greatest TV themes of all time. Amongst his glittering canon are such iconic shows as The A-Team, The Rockford Files, Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Magnum PI.

And now you can add to that star-studded list, new TV comedy Mammoth starring Welsh comic Mike Bubbins as a PE teacher presumed killed in an Alpine avalanche in 1979 but discovered and brought back to life in the present day.

The sitcom also stars familiar faces in Car Share star Sian Gibson and Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Joseph Marcell, who people will fondly remember as Geoffrey the Butler.

Call it synergy, fate or just good fortune, but it seems that the comedian with a penchant for all things 1970s was always destined to work with Post.

However, getting the now 75-year-old multi-millionaire who lives in semi-retirement in California to agree to write the theme tune for a sitcom filmed in Cardiff still took some doing.

The composer’s compositions were staples of TV in the UK from the ’70s to the ’90s – earworms for generations for whom they still evoke a certain sense of nostalgic reverence all these years later.

That was certainly the case with Bubbins – the comedian from Barry famed for his appearances on the much-loved hit podcast The Socially Distant Sports Bar, who grew up loving Post’s work.

So enamoured was he that when he came to host his own weekly ’70s-themed show on Radio Wales back in the summer of 2021, it was Post who he managed to secure an exclusive interview with for his first broadcast.

The comic recalls how it was a thrill to speak to one of his heroes and how it was a ‘dream come true’ when the composer agreed to pen the theme for Mammoth.

“I interviewed the king of theme tunes, Mike Post, for a BBC Wales radio show I did, and we just hit it off,” recalled the comic. “He told me to get in touch if the TV show I was writing ever got commissioned.

“So I did, and now the Mammoth theme is the latest in a long list of Mike Post themes that includes The A-Team, The Rockford Files, Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, LA Law, and Magnum PI.”

On a recent episode of the Socially Distant Sports Bar, the Welsh stand-up spoke about working with the composer.

“He’s this 75-year-old multi-millionaire California bloke who doesn’t take any bullsh*t and why would he. There is nothing anybody can tell him about writing a theme tune that he doesn’t already know,” said Bubbins.

“When he sent the music back to us, it was perfect. When I saw a playback of the first episode to see ‘Music by Mike Post’ on the credits, well it was a dream come true.”

Mike Bubbins and Sian Gibson on Mammoth

Mike Bubbins’s sitcom Mammoth comes to BBC Two this week, three-and-a-half years since it piloted. The comic devised the show and wrote it with Paul Doolan, as well as starring as the title character, a PE teacher frozen in an avalanche in the 1970s and brought back to life in the present day. Here he and co-star Welsh actress Sian Gibson of Car Share fame, talk about the show, the 1970s, and filming in their native Wales.

Mike Bubbins
Tell us about Tony Mammoth?

He is a man’s man and a woman’s man, all rolled into one, or at least he thinks he is. He is a 45-year-old man who never grew up, and a 90-year-old man that never got old. He rarely thinks things through, he acts first.

He has a wonderfully egalitarian approach to people; everyone, regardless of background or station, is either alright, or a dick. He loves his friends and family, almost as much as he loves Tony Mammoth. He is loving getting a second chance at life, even though he’s pretty sure he absolutely nailed it the first time around.

Where did the inspiration for your character come from?

I grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s. I knew quite a few people not troubled by self-doubt, very much including my dad. Also, TV seemed to be full of larger-than-life characters.

How long has this character been someone you’ve been working on?

I probably first had the idea of Mammoth around ten or 12 years ago, but I’ve always found the frozen in time thing fascinating.

What were you doing in 1979, the year Mammoth goes missing?

I was living with my mum, dad and sister in in Barry, attending Mr Moore’s primary school class. Mr Moore drove a convertible MG, had big sideburns, and coached the school football team. Very much a proto Mammoth.

Is it true you used to be a PE teacher yourself? Did you draw on any experiences there?

Yes, I taught PE for six years. I drew quite a bit in that experience. The school we filmed the Mammoth pilot in was the school I was teaching in before moving into comedy.

If you got frozen and had to wake up in a different time period when would you choose?

Ideally in about a day’s time, because I wouldn’t want to miss out on my kids growing up.

You seem to love the 70s. What’s your favourite thing about the era that you think should be brought back?

I’d bring back proper cars, that all look and sound different. I’d bring back analogue; landlines, vinyl, books, TV. And proper collars.

What are your favourite TV characters from the 70s?

I loved, and still love, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, Columbo, The Professionals, Tom Baker’s Doctor, and Jim Rockford and Colonel Wilma Deering.

Tony Mammoth has a very distinctive 70s style…did you enjoy wearing his outfits?

Most of Mammoth’s wardrobe was from my wardrobe, and the stuff that wasn’t is now being ‘stored’ there. Mammoth also drives my car.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Genuinely the most fun I’ve ever had at work. Long days, and lots to get through, but it was a joy. Same with all of the crew.

What were the funniest moments on set?

Too many to list, but having a heart-to-heart with a horse took a lot of takes, and I will never forget a fluke rabbit-related incident.

What is your favourite thing about filming in Wales?

The best thing was working with some very talented Welsh cast and crew. And sleeping in my own bed.

Mammoth starring Mike Bubbins and Sian Gibson (Credit: BBC)

Sian Gibson
Tell us about your character

Mel is a single parent and working mother to her teenage son, Theo. Theo is her pride and joy and she will do anything for him and completely smothers him. She is a control freak, highly strung and is not afraid to say what she thinks, especially when it concerns Theo. She’s a force of nature when she’s rattled. And Mammoth definitely knows how to get a reaction from her.

What can viewers expect from the series?

It’s a laugh-out-loud, nostalgic, family sitcom that will make you roar with laughter, and marvel at Mike Bubbins’ fantastic wardrobe. First and foremost this is a comedy, but its also got plenty of heart with family and friendship at its core, and at the end of the day, we need stuff that cheers us up now more than ever.

Looking back at 70s fashion, is there anything you think should be brought back?

Did 70s fashion ever leave? Being very short, I think that platforms were the best 70s invention ever and should be compulsory day wear.

If you got frozen and had to wake up in a different time period when would you choose?

Definitely the 1990s. Take me back to my teenage years, what an amazing time to be alive. Everything was so much easier, the music was amazing, the fashion questionable and I could still fit in a size 8.

What were the funniest moments on set?

So many. Simon Hynd our director really set the tone for that. There was such a relaxed atmosphere on set and everyone was always up for a laugh. A particular highlight was a party scene in episode three where Mammoth rides into a bar on a horse. I mean, it writes itself doesn’t it?

It was our last day of filming before Christmas so everyone was really giddy anyway but it was genuinely so funny I had the giggles all day.

Did you enjoy filming in Wales?

Of course. We filmed the series in Cardiff but I grew up, and still live in North Wales. I never get jobs in Wales because I think people mistake my North Wales accent for Manchester or Liverpool.

I’m very proud to be Welsh and very patriotic so working in my home country made this job even more special.

Watch Mammoth on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer from Wednesday 17 April


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

I’ve already decided that I’m not watching this .. on first showings. I’m going to binge watch it on the I player because I know I’m going to be desperate for the next episode. It’s brilliant. A guy from 1979 living now Ford Capri and all. It’s like ‘Life on Mars’ in comedy form and will take me back to places I knew the first time round. Mike Bubbins getting Mike Post to write the theme music is a stroke of genius as is the whole idea.

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