The hype and excitement surrounding White Gold has been palpable. And it’s not because the world of comedy has been desperate for a sitcom about double glazing salesman.
It’s all down to the fact that the BBC2 six-part comedy is written by and stars precisely half of the talent behind The Inbetweeners.
Writer Damon Beesley (minus Iain Morris) has enlisted Joe Thomas and James Buckley (minus Simon Bird and Blake Harrison) for his 1980s Essex comedy about what really goes on inside a double glazing showroom. Joining them is former Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick.
As it’s Beesley’s first writing project since The Inbetweeners, comparisons have been inevitable before its even aired.
“It’s great because The Inbetweeners was really successful,” said Beesley when asked whether he was concerned about the two shows being compared. “If they were like ‘The Inbetweeners was much, much better than this,’ at least we were in The Inbetweeners.”
Similarly to The Inbetweeners’ Will, Simon, Jay and Neil, Beesley describes the characters in White Gold as being “stunted children living in the adult world, but living like sixth-formers.”
Charismatic, charming and also a bit of a twat, Vincent Swan (Westwick) will do almost anything for a sale. Although if his team of two Brian Fitzpatrick (Buckley) and Martin Lavender (Thomas) put as much thought, effort and enthusiasm into trying to win sales as they did firing insults at each other, Cachet Windows might actually make a decent turnover.
“I’ve been thinking about writing this for about 35 years really,” admits Beesley. “My dad was a double glazing salesman and I spent a lot of my pre-teen years just hanging around the showroom.
“I remember being very fascinated and intoxicated by this group of men who didn’t seem to have a proper job – they seemed to just sit around drinking tea, taking the piss out of each other.”
There are plenty of similarities in White Gold to the hit E4 comedy which spawned innumerable brilliant catchphrases as well as two smash-hit movies. Despite The Inbetweeners first airing nearly 10 years ago, sticking two thumbs up and saying ‘friend’ to someone (or, indeed, calling them a briefcase wanker) still doesn’t get old.
“We always thought it was a real privilege to make something that people just regard so fondly,” continues Beesley. “It’s terrifying doing something else – coming back and doing another thing. But it’s less terrifying when you’re doing it with brilliant people.
“I was very lucky to get Joe and James and Ed to come and do it,” he adds. “It’s something that you do check your rear-view mirror for but it’s also it’s a way in isn’t it? People will come to the show, hopefully, because I think it’s got enough of the flavours of The Inbetweeners but it’s completely different.”
Thomas, who plays showroom salesman Lavender adds: “Hopefully it’s a strength that we’ve worked together before. I think it can be particularly important in comedy where you want to work with people that you trust. I mean I agree it’s inevitable, but it’s not something that worries any of us particularly.”
Beesley admits that he had Thomas and Buckley in mind when writing characters Fitzpatrick and Lavender. “They’re brilliantly funny…having already worked with them, there’s a fantastic shorthand,” notes Beesley.
Meanwhile Westwick was the very first person who auditioned for the role of Swan. “It was a freak of timing because Ed was around and in London,” says Beesley. “He had the scripts and enjoyed the material and wanted to come in and audition for us and he came in and did this brilliant performance. I sort of think Ed was born to play it.”
“Lucky” and “blessed” are words that Westwick himself describes about landing the role. “Some of my family are from Essex as well,” he says. “I remember when it first came through on email and I saw the names involved, and I read [the script] and then read it again straight away.
“It was so different from anything that I had been reading up until that point that I had to look at it again. It was very unique and hilarious off the page.”
White Gold starts on Wednesday May 24 at 10pm on BBC2