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Cold Feet is coming back to ITV, but one-time mega-fan doesn't want to see a reboot

Cold Feet, the quintessential Nineties rom-com series, is coming back to ITV. Oh no, says one-time mega-fan Sarah Hughes reviving a show that was so of its time can only end badly

Published 02/12/2015

Better days: James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale in Cold Feet
Better days: James Nesbitt and Helen Baxendale in Cold Feet

When I heard that Cold Feet was returning to ITV next year, potentially filling the Sunday evening slot just vacated by Downton Abbey, my initial reaction was not joy but dread. Back in the late Nineties the weekly travails of Adam and Rachel, Karen and David, Jenny and Pete were an addictive, soapy pleasure as we watched them fall in and out of love, having affairs and babies.

We laughed when James Nesbitt's Adam wooed Rachel, naked, with a rose clenched in his buttocks, and wept many years down the line when he lost her in a car crash.

The Cold Feet gang might have been a little older than I was back then - early 30s to my early 20s - but the series, created by Mike Bullen and featuring scripts from a pre-One Day David Nicholls, was so warm and real, so kind and funny and true that it was impossible not to respond. They were a group of friends you actually wanted to spend time with. Small wonder that more than 10 million viewers tuned in to watch the final episode.

So why bring them back? For every reboot that works, such as Russell T Davies's smart, sharp revival of Doctor Who, there's one that lingers in the memory as a bitter example of what not to do. Take This Life. When it was announced that Amy Jenkins' drama about a group of 20-something lawyers would return for a one-off special set 10 years later, most fans were thrilled, not least because it had ended on a cliff-hanger after Egg found out about Milly's affair. Yet the characters who'd seemed so effortlessly cool in the late Nineties were now revealed as smug, self-involved and depressing. A show that had once seemed to tap directly into the zeitgeist now appeared desperately out of touch.

Can Cold Feet avoid that fate? Like This Life, it was very much of its era. Adam and co living in the leafy Manchester suburb of Didsbury belonged to the Tony Blair generation, riding a wave of late-Nineties affluence, a world where houses were affordable and jobs plentiful. The gang might have gone through some terrible experiences (miscarriage, death, divorce) but they remained buoyed by the careless optimism of their times.

Can that really translate to today's more troubled landscape? Do we really want to see Pete and Adam refusing to grow old with dignity, hanging around the same Manchester pubs and clubs they frequented in their late 20s and early 30s? Or watch Jenny and Karen try to rekindle lost youth with yet another affair?

Unlike This Life, Cold Feet, did have a proper ending. Arguably it had two. In 2001 the fourth series ended with Pete's marriage to Jo in Australia, Rachel giving birth to the child she thought she'd never have, and David and Karen failing to reconcile.

It was a satisfactory end. At the time Bullen said he wouldn't write another series, but in 2003 the gang returned for a truncated fifth season in which Rachel was killed off and Fay Ripley's Jenny made a surprise return in the finale. That episode, with its themes of loss, reconciliation and closure, surely said everything that needed to be said, and did it well. What can Bullen possibly gain from rehashing old ground?

"This feels like the right time to revisit these characters, as they tiptoe through the minefield of middle age," he explains. "They're 50, but still feel 30 - they've still got lots of life to look forward to, though they're not necessarily the years one looks forward to."

Bullen is right: this is a time of life when couples are caught between teenage children and ageing parents, that isn't often explored on screen. Most recently, Sally Wainwright's tender Last Tango In Halifax unpicked love and romance for the over-70s. But, as a whole, once people edge towards 50, they slowly fade from anything except procedural dramas. Just ask James Nesbitt, who spent the years since Cold Feet starring in one crime drama after another.

Certainly Bullen is the sort of writer who could give us a witty take on the problems of trying to have a life in middle age. It might be interesting to see how Nesbitt's Adam has regrouped after the loss of Rachel, whether Karen and David are still amicably divorced after all this time, and whether Pete and Jenny were able to make it work again.

I still have my doubts. Not least about how the show moves on without Helen Baxendale's Rachel who, while often annoying, was part of the show's central romantic pairing. Cold Feet without Rachel is not really Cold Feet at all.

Bullen's characters didn't change the world or break new ground but they dreamed a seemingly attainable dream of happiness, love and the security that comes from having a close, long-standing group of friends. Seeing them after the dream had curdled would be too harsh to bear.

Belfast Telegraph

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