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Monday, 5 September 2016

Cold Feet:Oh it's good to have you back!

Contributed by Matt Donnelly

It seems to be the in-thing at the moment for big shows from the last couple of decades to make a comeback. This is particularly true of the current output on Netflix who have reunited the casts of Full House and Gilmore Girls for brand new series. On these shores the reunion show has been less successful with such examples as the underwhelming Auf Wiedersen Pet reboot and the truly disastrous This Life +10 springing to mind.


The problem with these reboots is a lot of these programmes are of their time and it's hard transplanting the feeling of a certain series into a new decade. I was a massive  Cold Feet fan, but I was worried about whether it would feel right seeing our friends in 2016. Revivals/reboots, whatever you want to call them make me nervous.

Our resident Cold Feet obsessive and editor of the site Luke was little over excited at the news of the return and sent writer and creator Mike Bullen a gushing email about how important the series was to him. Happy to have had contact I don't think he was expecting a reply but Mike Bullen, who at the time of the receiving the email was busy on the set sent back "I'm very conscious of the place Cold Feet holds in the hearts of many people, yourself included, and I wouldn't have agreed to bring it back if I didn't think we could do justice to that legacy". It is clear from this stunning opener that Bullen knows exactly what journey to take his characters on for its sixth outing.


It seems to be a common theme of these reunion type shows that writers get too bogged down in bringing their characters back together, but again we should never doubt Mike Bullen who quickly puts this worry to bed making the clear our tight group of friends have stayed in continual contact since the series came to end in 2003.

At the screening I recently attended the cast members in attendance were keen to hammer home the fact that this wasn't a reboot but rather the long-awaited sixth series. 


Obviously some things have changed over the intervening years most notably that Adam (James Nesbitt) no longer lives in Manchester and since Rachel's death has been travelling the world as an IT specialist. His son Matthew (Ceallach Spellman) was travelling with him until he made the decision he wanted to attend boarding school with Karen (Hermione Norris) acting as his guardian in the UK. Karen herself has little time for romance but it appears as if ex-husband David (Robert Bathurst) still harbours feelings for her despite being trapped in a loveless marriage to his former divorce lawyer Robyn. Although Karen and David haven't reunited Pete (John Thompson) and Jenny (Fay Ripley) did shortly after the end of the last series with the pair still seemingly in love with each other. Sadly though, all isn't as rosey as it might first appear.  Pete has fallen on hard times and is having to work both as a carer and as a taxi driver with the latter profession managing to create plenty of comic moments throughout the first episode. 


The first episode revolves around Adam's brief return to the UK in order to convince Matthew to attend his wedding in his current home of Singapore to the much younger Angela. Obviously scorn is poured on this decision by the rest of his friends who feel he hasn't known Angela long enough and that she's far too young for him. Pete is also put out by the fact that he won't be able to afford to go to Singapore and therefore won't be able to be Adam's best man this time round. However fate intervenes causing Adam to have an accident which in turn brings Angela to Manchester and decides to marry him there instead. I have to say I was quite surprised that this opening installment ended with the wedding itself as Adam had a moment of doubt after learning about Matthew's unhappiness at school. 

The flawless script from Mike Bullen mixed with the fact that the cast are clearly relishing the chance to explore their characters means this first episode never misses a beat and the thirteen year gap is barely noticeable at all.

Cold Feet began as a comedy pilot for ITV in 1998

There is a certain rhythm to the dialogue which adds a realistic nature to every scene. The reason Cold Feet resonated with so many was because it always felt real. These weren't characters in a television dramas, these were fleshed out ordinary people that we have grown with. Bullen's balance of light and shade hasn't disappeared as there were numerous laugh-out-loud moments as well as at least two scenes in which I swear I had something in my eye. I personally found the most emotional moment to be when Adam and Matthew were standing outside the house that they lived in when Matthew was first born. Hearing Adam talk about Rachel was quite an emotional moment and I don't think I'll be the only one getting a bit teary-eyed when this scene airs on ITV.  It has since come to light that Bullen had sent the first scripts to Helen Baxendale in hopes she would return in some shape or from as Rachel which Baxendale turned down. I have to say I'm pleased Rachel is mentioned regularly but seeing her after thirteen years could have stopped the show moving forward and prevented it feeling as fresh as it does.



The chemistry between the cast is still as strong as ever and it was clear from listening to them talk after the screening that they have a great relationship off screen as well as on. It's certainly clear that they're comfortable in each other's presence and I believe the reason the dialogue works as well as it does is due to the brilliant relationship that the five actors have maintained. With Cold Feet being an ensemble show it's hard to praise one cast member and although James Nesbitt is on screen more than the rest of the group it's fair to say he's at his strongest when interacting with his old friends in Manchester. This is clear from a scene in a Chinese restaurant where the male characters are airing their regrets and praising their friends for the great job they've done in their professional or personal lives. Nesbitt, John Thompson and Robert Bathurst all prove what strong performers they are here and this scene still sticks in my mind as one of the episode's best. 


One cast member I will single out though is Ceallach Spellman.  It must have been incredibly hard for Spellman to be involved in a programme where the rest of the cast know each other so well but I think he earned his place in the show beautifully. The scene in which an emotionally-wrecked Matthew turned up on Karen's doorstep having been expelled from school beautifully demonstrated Spellman's range. The only negative of seeing Matthew as a strapping teenager is that it makes me feel awfully old as it did seeing how much the other children in the cast have grown up since we last saw them on screen. 

Ultimately, judging from the first episode alone, it's clear that any worries about Cold Feet's return were unwarranted as this new series seems to maintain all of what made the original so great. It's great to see a snapshot of what these characters we spent so much time with a decade and a half ago are up to now. Even though they're older it seems that they still have the same doubts and issues as they did when we first met them and everything that happens to them seems awfully believable. More than anything else Bullen doesn't seem to have altered what made us fall in love with Adam, Jenny, Pete, David and Karen the first time around and coupled with great performances from the ensemble means that Cold Feet's sixth series is so much of a success that it really feels like it's never been away.

Cold Feet Continues Monday at 9.00pm on ITV.

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