Cold Feet: Learning from ‘mistakes’ of last series

John Thomson, Hermione Norris, James Nesbitt, Fay Ripley and Robert BathurstImage copyright

It’s just more than two two years since Cold Feet returned to a warm reception from critics and fans alike, following a 13-year hiatus.

For TV viewers of a certain age (ahem), it was like reuniting with old friends as we navigated the pitfalls of middle age together – teenage kids, relationship woes, menopause, you name it.

And all done, of course, with the humour, pathos and warmth we’ve come to expect from the acclaimed ITV comedy drama.

But something didn’t feel quite right about last year’s follow-up series, which saw Adam (James Nesbitt) split with partner Tina (Leanne Best) after an affair with a colleague, while Pete (John Thomson) and Jenny (Fay Ripley) renewed their wedding vows following marriage problems.

“I think the first series [of the returning Cold Feet, in 2017] was back with a bang, as it should be after 13 years pre-production – no excuses,” jokes Thomson.

“It was a bit of a phenomenon.”

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The troublesome trio have plenty to ponder in the first episode

“The second [series was] not great. The difficult second album. [It was] ill-prepared. It was a very slow burner. It dragged its feet and then found its way and that showed.

“We were supposed to do eight [episodes], we didn’t, we did seven,” he explains.

“It wasn’t a bad series, don’t get me wrong [but] they’ve learned from the mistakes of [series] two and they’ve gone to six [episodes]. They’ve consolidated everything. This is why this series is the absolute strongest. We’ve got some gold on our hands.”

There was also a scheduling issue with the last series, with its Monday night slot changed to Fridays.

Thomson tells the BBC the Friday slot was a mistake, and he wasn’t alone in thinking that.

“I’ve always felt the British people are creatures of habit. We did Monday [when the show returned in 2017], that was a triumph. We had a nice slot,” he explains.

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Matthew has a new girlfriend – a chip off the old block

“Then we found out [it would be moved to] Friday [for last year’s series] and we went, ‘What?’ If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

“It was always Sundays for the original six [series] and they said: ‘You can’t have Sundays, Victoria’s got that now… then they went ‘Monday’, great, Monday worked and then they went ‘Friday’.”

And guess what? Series eight, which airs sometime next month, is back on Monday nights again.

“Now we’re back to Monday! Please just leave it alone!” says Thomson.

Series eight opens with the Cold Feet gang preparing for a wedding – we won’t spoil it by revealing whose, but Adam appears to be on the lookout for love (again) and there’s trouble brewing between David and his son Josh.

Thomson says the Cold Feet team have changed the way they write the series this time around – using the US “writers’ room” system – which has had a big impact.

This is where the show’s creator – in this case, Mike Bullen – and the other writers collaborate together on the plot and scripts, as opposed to Bullen writing alone.

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Thomson says the show has “put Manchester on the map”

Thompson explains how it worked with US sitcom Friends.

“They’d assign characters to writers, it would be like, ‘You’re Joey, you’re Phoebe…’ and if they didn’t get laughs on the first show they would record the same show [again] and rewrite in-situ. [They] work through the night.

“I said that’s the way it has to work because Mike was working alone and bringing in his homework. I said you need to consolidate it and sit together and then bash it out together. It’s a brilliant working environment.”

Does Bullen enjoy the new way of working?

“He’s got much better I think. It’s hard working alone,” Thomson says.

Robert Bathurst, who plays David, agrees: “It’s still his voice. He’s fully on board with it.”

‘Surprise people’

The fact the stars of the show have been on board since day one gives them a certain leverage when it comes to characterisation.

“In pre-production, they [the writers] will give you an idea of what your story arc is, where you’re going and… they will listen to you,” says Thomson.

Nesbitt concurs: “We have our own palettes – if your character is going in the wrong direction, you could say.”

So what can we expect from the upcoming series?

Bathurst says: “It’s sharp, it’s rigorous, it’s got a confidence, in that we’re not overlaying the comedy [but] it’s funny. It’s also very affecting. I think it’s really on form.”

They won’t give too much away but we can reveal there’s an episode at a festival, where Pete’s guitarist son is on the bill. What could possibly go wrong?

Nesbitt says: “I think there are things in it that will surprise people a lot. It has all the elements that made [the show] a success in the past.”

“It’s a different show now because of the climate,” says Thomson.

“It was all Blair and Brits this and Brits that, and no recession [during the show’s original run]. It was all feel-good.

“[But] we’ve maintained the idea behind the show that it’s aspirational. We’ve put Manchester on the map.”

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