Dennis Waterman says he only discovered in passing that the BBC had decided to axe police drama New Tricks, despite being one of the show’s central stars.
The actor tells this week’s Radio Times: “I only found out when my driver said, ‘Did you know, they’ve cancelled the bleeding thing!’”
However, by the time the BBC pulled the plug on the show, Waterman had already announced that he wouldn’t be appearing in the upcoming final series. He is due to bow out after an opening two-part special next month and will be replaced by EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey actor Larry Lamb.
The decision to cancel the show about a group of old coppers solving cold cases was made in February this year and brought the curtain down after 12 series. The BBC said it wanted to make way for new dramas.
In his interview this week Waterman also reignites a three-year old row between the old cast and writer Julian Simpson, who complained about their insistence that they contribute to the writing.
In 2012 Simpson launched a lengthy tirade on Twitter, saying of the next New Tricks episode: “I can tell you EXACTLY how much of it the actors wrote: not a f***ing comma.”
He was responding to a Radio Times piece in which Waterman and his then co-stars Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong were critical of the writing on show and claimed they improvised lines on set and helped shape the script.
Another tweet of Simpson’s sarcastically said: “I was going to be writing today, instead I’m just going to hand the actors a pad and pen. I wish I’d learned this 15 years ago.”
But despite the passage of time, Waterman is in no mood to let the incident lie.
He said: “Julian went crackers and said he never got any help. But we’d run scenes, say ‘This doesn’t seem right, wouldn’t it be better this way?’ And Julian would say, ‘Yes, that’s a good idea,’ and the script would change.”
New Tricks was launched in 2003 as a one-off that went on to become a hugely successful series and one of the BBC’s highest-rated dramas, averaging six million viewers per episode.
Originally it starred Amanda Redman in charge of a line-up of superannuated former cops played by Waterman, Armstrong and James Bolam.
In recent series, the team of cold-case crime solvers has consisted of Tamzin Outhwaite, Denis Lawson and Nicholas Lyndhurst alongside Waterman.
The BBC has promised that the final episodes will see the drama “go out on a high”.
The final series of New Tricks starts on BBC1 on Tuesday 4th August at 9pm
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