Friday Night Dinner’s beloved Grandma, actress Frances Cuka, sadly passed away last month and now series creator Robert Popper has confirmed that her character won’t be appearing in the upcoming new series.
It was previously unclear as to whether Cuka had shot any scenes for the sixth series of the Channel 4 sitcom, but Popper told RadioTimes.com that she was unfortunately too ill to take part.
“She couldn’t do this series, or the last series, because of illness, unfortunately,” Popper explained, going on to pay tribute to Cuka. “She was absolutely fantastic, and loads of fun, and brilliant. She added a real sparkle whenever she was in an episode.
“And people loved her. They really liked her. So that was really sad.”
In a career spanning 50 years, Cuka appeared many times on the West End stage, in classic series like Adam Adamant Lives, The Champions and Minder and played a recurring role on Casualty.
Though her character Grandma Nelly Buller won’t appear in the new series of Friday Night Dinner, Popper revealed that “Horrible Grandma” (Rosalind Knight) will return for an episode called ‘Dad’s Birthday’.
“She’s in this series and there’s the worst argument we’ve ever had in Friday Night Dinner,” he said. “It’s the worst argument ever in the series. It’s just epic beyond epic.”
Each episode of Friday Night Dinner sees sons Adam (Simon Bird) and Jonny (Tom Rosenthal) return to the family home for dinner with parents Jackie (Tamsin Greig) and Martin (Paul Ritter), only for something to inevitably go wrong – with bizarre neighbour Jim (Mark Heap) often to blame.
“When I started writing it, I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to do a show about a family’ – and to me, the greatest comedy about a family is The Royle Family,” Popper explained. “And that was probably the opposite to my show in terms of that it was very slow-paced, very poignant…
“I knew I didn’t want to do that, because I’m not going to do that better than them. So I wanted to do something that’s fast. So that meant a lot had to happen. And therefore, what things can happen? And how far can I push things?
“So I like putting the characters under pressure, and I like the feeling of things spiralling out of control. So every week is, basically, things spiralling out of control, and how all these characters – who we get to know – cope with it all. And there’s definitely more spiralling out of control in this series!”