Cold Feet was the zeitgeisty show of the millennium years. The Manchester-set comedy drama charting the lives and loves of three couples – played by Fay Ripley and John Thomson, Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst, James Nesbitt and Friends alumnus Helen Baxendale – was a hit from the moment it first aired in 1997.
It spoke to a generation in a way few TV shows could about the travails of falling in love, staying together and rearing children. It was funny, moving and authentic, light-hearted but not shallow.
These were people on the cusp of something important and how they dealt with the events in their lives made for compelling, plausible drama.
And now – minus Baxendale, whose Rachel was killed in a car smash in the penultimate episode in 2003 – they are making a comeback and once more find themselves on the cusp of change. But of course this time they are facing the dreaded mid-life crisis.
So whether you’re a former viewer whose memories are understandably hazy, or completely new to the show, here’s your warm up for Cold Feet…
Who were the main characters?
The show was based around three couples. Former womaniser Adam (Nesbitt) got together with Rachel (Baxendale) in series one and stayed with her (pretty much) throughout, overcoming a range of problems including his testicular cancer and the return of his long-lost dad.
Pete (Thomson) is Adam’s best mate and was hitched to no-nonsense Jenny (Ripley, below left with Thomson), who was pregnant in series one. Probably the most down to earth couple of the show, they were particularly popular with Cold Feet fans.
Jenny left Pete at the end of series four to live in America. In series five she returned for Rachel’s funeral, eight months pregnant… and it wasn’t Pete’s baby. The story behind that will be revealed when the show returns but its worth remembering that during Jenny’s time away, Pete had fallen for Rachel’s Australian colleague Jo (Kimberley Joseph), and taken a trip of his own, heading off to Oz to marry her.
The third couple were the posher duo of businessman David (Bathurst) and Karen (Norris). David was never a bad man, but he was an over-privileged, emotionally-stunted idiot at times who seemed incapable of holding things together with his wife. Various infidelities, her drink problem and the struggles of child rearing didn’t help matters.
Spare a thought too for Romana (Jacey Sallés), Karen and David’s long suffering nanny.
Where did we leave it?
The show ended in 2003 after five series and 33 episodes with the climactic death of Rachel in the penultimate episode. She was killed when her car was hit by a lorry while she was on the phone to Adam, who was sharing the good news about the new flat he had found for them. As well as Adam, Rachel left behind their baby son Matthew.
Then there was the funeral and a final scene which saw a grieving Adam leaving the house he shared with Rachel and jumping into a taxi, saying goodbye to Manchester for good (or so it seemed).
Pete and Jo had split up after he discovered she had slept with swimming instructor Lee (Richard Armitage). Right at the end, though, Pete and Jenny moved back in together, joking that he would pretend to be the father of her unborn child. It seemed like they could give things another go.
Karen and David had initially agreed to an amicable divorce but that was before David slept with his strident divorce lawyer Robyn, who had been urging him to cite Karen’s heavy drinking in order to get a better settlement, and Karen and her lawyer decided on more aggressive demands of their own…
Where are they now?
We pick things up 13 years years down the line. The cast are older of course, to some extent wiser, and their children have gown up. In the case of Adam the hair is, as his character jokes, thinner. He is living in Singapore and we meet him when he has some big news – he is getting married to Angela (Karen David).
Cold Feet was filmed in a time of relative plenty first time around; now the recession has bitten into the lives of the characters in various ways, none more so than Pete and Jenny.
They are still together, but Pete is even more down on his luck. He was made redundant a year before the action picks up and he is juggling two jobs – as a mini-cab driver and in a care home for old people, where he also meets Harry, a cantankerous old fella with a good heart played by James Bolam.
Bolam has had enough of life and wants Pete to finish him off. But before he can, Harry dies, sending Pete into an even greater maelstrom of unhappiness. Pete is also faced with a difficult dilemma when Harry bequeathes him some money to the fury of his own family who think Pete was a gold-digger. Does he keep the cash?
Peter gets diagnosed with depression this series. Jenny is working as an events organiser, a job she hates, but which becomes momentarily more interesting when she attracts the attentions of another man. He becomes a stalker who is then fended off by a clever ruse by Jenny and Adam who invite him into her home and act the party of a kinky couple, forcing him to flee.
Also, the child Jenny was pregnant with back in 2003 is now their teenage daughter Chloe; but they still haven’t told her that Pete is not her father and matters come to a head in episode five when her ghastly biological father Grant (played by Robert Webb) turns up unannounced in a bid to salve his conscience over his treatment of Jenny when they were together. He has stopped drinking and is a terrible narcissist interested only in his own feelings.
Pete’s problems are clearly mounting – will the strain be too much?
David and Karen are divorced, with David now married to his former lawyer Robyn. Karen is single, sober and is the primary parent for their two daughters Ellie and Olivia (their son Josh is on his gap year).
Time has been a little kinder to her than you may have expected (she was always quite woe-begone, our Karen) and she seems happier these days. Soon she attracts the attentions of Angela’s rich father Eddie (played by Art Malik) and in episode three agrees to sleep with him – and by episode four they are an item.
Suggestions that David also wants to rekindle things with her come to the fore when he makes every excuse possible to see her, and eventually ends up living back in the family home when Robyn throws him out and he is suspended from his job for suspected financial malpractice.
But Eddie continually shows him up in front of his children with his jet-set lifestyle and fascinating contacts. “I met Boris Johnson once,” is all David can offer. And then he has to listen to his ex wife’s energetic sexual marathons with her new lover, turning up the volume on The Archers to drown out the sound. He needs all the luck he can get, does poor David. Especially after he is charged with fraud in episode five…
Will Rachel be returning?
Well, the spirit of Rachel will haunt the new series and Adam will revisit the house they shared. But it seems as if the character will not be making an appearance, even as a ghost (there have been rumours). However there was a moment in episode one when Adam thinks he sees his dead wife in the crowd….
Are there any other new characters?
Yes, there are new people in Adam’s life. There is Angela of course. But at the end of episode one he appears to say “I do” with some regret. What that regret is all about is still a source of mystery. Fortunately for Adam, Angela agrees to live in Manchester with him (they had planned to return to Singapore) because he says he needs to be with his son Matthew (Ceallach Spellman, see below). After a while she has had enough and finds the lure of a new job in Singapore too much so they agree to a four month separation and a long-distance relationship.
Sadly this does not work out and by the end of episode four Adam says he had to stay in the UK full-time to look after his son and they agree to separate.
As for Adam’s son Matthew he has grown up and is attending a boarding school in England, where he doesn’t seem to have been the best behaved pupil in the school. Karen is Matthew’s guardian in the UK while Adam is living abroad and his problems force Adam to stay in the UK to see him through his exams. The handsome young man also attracts the attentions of Karen’s daughters.
David’s new wife, brittle divorce lawyer Robyn (Lucy Robinson), will also be in the new series and their marriage is clearly not a happy one. None of his friends appear to know her and they are short and unkind with one another.
And Adam has a sparky new landlady, Leanne Best’s Tina, at his Manchester flat. Surely the womaniser of old won’t misbehave with her. Will he?
Who is doing the music?
The soundtrack was always a key component of this show, with artists like Suede, Catatonia, The Manic Street Preachers and The Lighthouse Family giving the action an aural boost. For the new series Elbow front man Guy Garvey and I Am Kloot’s Peter Jobson have written the title track so it should be just as catchy.
Is the new Cold Feet any good?
Well, I watched all five series as a fan and I have been pleasantly surprised by the reboot so far (I’ve seen the first four episodes). There is a real sense that time has passed, the characters are just as rounded I remember them and their dilemmas feel real and grounded. And of course it still has some funny moments as well….
Cold Feet returns to ITV on Monday 26th September at 9pm