To some, they’re lovable urban denizens; to others, their appetite for backyard destruction is a source of constant frustration. But love them or hate them, raccoons aren’t going anywhere — and, as a new comedy series from CBC aims to show, they may in fact be deserving of, if not admiration, then at least grudging respect.
Created by Canadian director Mike Clattenburg (Trailer Park Boys) and recording artist Mike O’Neill (Moving Day, Trailer Park Boys, Don’t Legalize It), Crawford centres around a young man who, after a run of bad luck, moves back in with his parents and discovers that he has an uncanny ability to relate to the raccoons that have invaded his family’s home. While Canadian screen luminaries Jill Hennessy, John Carroll Lynch and Kyle Mac get top billing on Crawford, several four-legged actors also make a star turn in the series. The result is a quirky look at family dysfunction that also sheds light on our complicated relationship with the wild creatures with whom we share our urban environments.
Here, Clattenburg and O’Neill talk about what it was like filming with live raccoons, and why they hope Crawford inspires empathy for these green-bin bandits.
On the inspiration for Crawford
Mike C.: I guess the first inspiration for me was a love of raccoons. I worked with them on Trailer Park Boys, and I was just so taken by how sweet and cute they were. Years later, I watched a documentary called Raccoon Nation and Mike and I were very inspired by it. It really tells you just how intelligent these animals are, but the strangest thing is that through years and years of eating our compost, they’ve lost the ability to hunt. For our story, we did some research and thought, what’s the first thing you’d do if you caught a raccoon? Well, you’d take it into the woods and release it. But if you do that, that raccoon is helpless. That raccoon will absolutely starve to death. We thought that conundrum was interesting.
Mike O.: We actually let the facts guide what we wrote. Raccoons are a huge problem in Toronto, of course, and people have tried to come up with solutions, like putting locks on green bins, but what isn’t presented is the effect of doing that — that raccoons will starve if they can’t get into green bins. Writing a show about the problem and keeping it comic and using facts to guide you and finding creative solutions, it’s very fun, and you can also educate people about raccoons while you’re doing it.