The return of Cold Feet, slap bang in the middle of the BBC’s season of reheated sitcoms, prompted much anguished hand-wringing about TV’s desperate attempts to recapture former glories, the creeping curse of nostalgia and yadda yadda yadda.
But why shouldn’t viewers be allowed to catch up with old friends? It’s what we do in real life, isn’t it? And there’s surely no more fertile ground for dramatists than the passage of time: the little disappointments and quiet abandonment of dreams that make up middle age. That’s the reason, after all, that The Likely Lads is good, but Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads? is great. Right?
In Cold Feet, then, we are reacquainted with familiar faces who are older, but not necessarily wiser. As Adam, James Nesbitt now looks more like The Joker’s less homicidal kid brother than ever – and it seems that wolfish grin has lost none of its allure as, 17 years after the death of poor Rachel, he’s tied the knot with a younger woman, the surely too-good-to-be-true Angela (Karen David).
Karen (Hermione Norris) and David (Robert Bathurst), are long divorced, but he clearly prefers her company to the current Mrs Marsden (Lucy Robinson), which is hardly surprising, as she has all the natural warmth of a waterlogged tent. Pete (John Thomson) is working two jobs, and resisting all attempts by Jenny (Fay Ripley, still stealing the show) to jump-start their flatlining sex life. ‘Do you remember when we used to play games?’ she asked, coquettishly. ‘What like, Buckaroo?’ he responded, doltishly.
The secret of Cold Feet’s success is that, though ostensibly a comedy drama, it rarely goes for a laugh at the expense of the story. And what a lot of story: by the end of this week’s second episode, Pete had sunk into full-on depression, Karen was being pursued by Art Malik’s billionaire businessman, Adam’s teenage son had slept with one of Karen and David’s twins and, worse than that, had told his dad he didn’t much care for Manchester United.
As a bonus, we did find out whatever happened to one of the Likely Lads, as the cast now also includes jowly national treasure James Bolam.
In summary: Cold Feet, warm heart.
British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves
This lovely documentary made a convincing case for sitcom as television’s greatest shared experience, serving up more memorable landmark moments than any other genre. More than that, it ventured, the sitcom has consistently reflected – and occasionally shaped – changing attitudes to gender, race, sexuality and, above all, class. Richard Curtis even argued that recent British sitcoms have experimented more with ‘shape, texture and form’ than their more feted US contemporaries. It all made for a fitting, faintly stirring end to the BBC’s Sitcom Season.
Joanna Lumley’s Japan
Joanna Lumley would be a great person to show your holiday snaps to: during this voyage through the Land of the Rising Sun, she responded to everything from ancient pagodas to vending machines with the same gosh-wow, head girl enthusiasm.
These days, Japan is a country so peaceful, the army spends its days building giant snow sculptures. But it’s not without tragedy, as we discovered during a visit to the eerily deserted ghost town of Tomioka, abandoned overnight after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Even Lummers didn’t gosh-wow at that one.
Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 15, 2016
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