Last night’s TV: ‘Cold Feet’ should have remained an old feat
13 years on, it’s hard to see the new Cold Feet defining fiftysomethings the way the original series did for thirtysomethings
Thirteen years after the multi-award-winning and much-loved comedy drama Cold Feet found its pipe and slippers and retired from our television screens, it’s back, older, greyer, a little faltering and remarkably more hirsute.
Fans of the original series, who spent five seasons with the show throughout the late 1990s and early noughties and followed the loves, losses, infidelities and indiscretions of six middle-class Mancunian mates, will no doubt have been gagging on the Horlick’s to see how the years have treated the former thirtysomethings.
Or more pertinently, perhaps, to see if the remaining core of five (Rachel having been summarily killed off at the end of the last series, allowing for a lot of weepy eulogising) have the same capacity for intrigue and identification now that they are fiftysomethings with varicose veins and teenage children, frosty second wives and penalty points, financial worries and lasting regrets, and all those other irritations that seem to herald, for the remaining characters, the onslaught of middle age.
Series six opened with the ever-twinkling Adam (James Nesbitt), a widower whose tragic past doesn’t seem to have dampened his enthusiasm for life, aboard a Singapore water taxi, telling an uninterested and uncomprehending fellow passenger about the intervening decade or so.
Without the necessity for messy dialogue, Nesbitt’s chirpy monologue informed us that he had spent the past 13 years plying his IT skills around the world. From Hong Kong to Dubai to Seattle, he had apparently remained determined never to let the exotic become mundane.
This handy narrative device went a long way to explaining the character’s whereabouts while he’d been having his hair transplants (Nesbitt’s pate was looking generously restored).
The monologue also attracted the romantic attentions of a beautiful young biochemist with silver pyjamas and a millionaire dad, who spontaneously proposed to the endlessly charming Irishman over some Asian street food and was walking up the aisle to a rather stunned-looking Adam quicker than you could order a plate of Singapore frog porridge.
And so series six was born. And now the family of friends, the band of besties, had something to get their polished veneers into.
“She’s young and sexy, and he’s neither,” said Jen (Fay Ripley), barely disguising her tenacious crush on Adam, her husband’s best friend.
“Your son needs you,” said elegant Karen (Hermione Norris) as Adam waited for his bride.
“We are the three amigos,” said Pete (John Thomson) and David (Robert Bathurst) twice, each incantation coloured with feigned enthusiasm.
“I’m not happy,” David later admitted. “I’m almost 50 and I feel like a failure,” chimed Pete.
Cold Feet has returned at a time when the television market seems to be hungry for nostalgia. A one-off Friends special is coming down the line, and quiz shows and sitcoms that had seemed consigned to the history bin are blowing the dust off their shoulder pads. TV executives seem to have decided that the public wants a degree of comfort viewing, reminders maybe of less volatile times.
The series has returned with its most important asset intact: the original writer/creator, Mike Bullen, whose strength is that he writes from life. His characters’ enduring appeal is their ordinariness, their inexpert emotional stumbling.
The territory of the revived characters will be familiar to many fiftysomethings who are reaching the end of the heavy lifting of childrearing and are once again being asked to reinvent themselves.
Despite Bullen’s talent, however, and the commitment of the original cast, it’s difficult to imagine that Cold Feet will be able to define an older generation in the way the original series attempted, and many would say succeeded, in holding up the mirror to thirtysomething life.
Quite where the trio of couples, albeit with some fresh blood, have left to travel to is unclear. So much terrain has already been crossed. Presumably one can expect infidelity, again; rending, reunions and regret, again; illness and maybe even death, again.
A mildly pleasant diversion for an autumn evening, maybe Cold Feet really should have remained an old feat.
Cold Feet is on UTV, 9pm, Mondays