Satellite City is to Wales what ‘Father Ted’ is to Ireland, what ‘My Family’ is to England. It is captures the very essence of Welsh humour and is the epitome of typical valley life. Much loved and cherished by many, it is possibly the most talked about and fondly remembered Welsh sitcoms ever. Satellite City has lasting comedy appeal and still to this day its humour has the ability to make people genuinely laugh, Welsh or not.
Near a by-pass town at the top of the Rhondda Valley lies Satellite City a forgotten part of Wales where the only factory makes cardboard boxes, the only entertainment is the Cosmo Club, and the kids sniff so much glue that they answer the door in clumps.
In to this world comes Randy, a new-age liberal American in search of his roots who becomes the new lodger in the Price family household of Dad, his son Gwynne, and Gwynne’s wife Moira. The only catch is that not only does Randy share a room with Dad “because of tradition” but also through a lack of space he shares his hot water bottle and his bed!
Satellite City boldly goes where no Californian has gone before.
Satellite City…where the world is viewed through welder’s goggles not rose tinted specs, in the heart of the Rhondda Valley lies Pen-Y-Ceffyl. Where the Price family of pensioner Dad, son Gwynne and his wife Moira run a lodging house on the edge of town. Where Wales meets America in a double bed.
How it all started…
Satellite City was originally written as a play about the first Gulf War and had nothing to with what we now know as Satellite City. Ed Thomas (the director of the first TV Series and Executive Producer) suggested to Boyd Clack that it would be a good idea for a sitcom.
However, before the television show arrived on our screens in October 1996, the play was performed before a live audience at the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff in 1991, directed by Jack James. It went on to be recorded for BBC Radio. In an interview, Boyd reminisces about how it had a “theatrical quality”, although they were just standing there with props, the audience loved it and it gained a sort of “cult following”.
A friend of his once told him that he was in a butchers shop in the valleys one Saturday afternoon, with around half a dozen people waiting. The butcher said “hang on a minute” and he put the radio on and found the Satellite City radio show. Everyone in the shop stayed for the half hour and listened to it!
The reasoning for its phenomenal success in both the radio and television mediums no-one quite knows but Boyd puts it down to the fact that it was the “sound of our own voice” (the Welsh accent) that drew people to it.
The makers spotting its immense potential, the time came, after two radio series’ and a Christmas special, that Satellite City’s filmed pilot would compete for the right to be televised. Of course, it came out on top and was subsequently shown for the following three years across Wales to critical acclaim.
The setting was an imaginary small town in the South Wales valleys called Pen-y-Ceffyl (Horses Head). The plot centred on the arrival of Randy (Michael Neill), an American visitor, who was taken in by the Price family (but had to share a bed with pensioner Idris, played by Islwyn Morris). Randy soon formed a relationship with local girl Mandy (Shelley Miranda Barrett).
The reason for the title is explained in the first episode. The location is notable for the higher than usual number of satellite dishes in the area – hence Satellite City (indicating a working-class area).
The other main characters were Idris’s son, Gwynne (played by Boyd Clack, who also co-wrote the series), Gwynne’s wife Moira (Ri Richards), and Dai the barman (Rhodri Hugh). Satellite City is based around a strong family theme where troubles and tribulations befall the Price’s and their endeavor to overcome them. Indeed their endeavours to inform Randy, the outsider, of the “Welsh way”, forms a large part of how the show became such a success.
“For us valley folk it was the best series we have seen for years. I am praying that somewhere there is a DVD waiting to be born of the whole series.” – R. Evans, Bridgend