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8 September 2016

The new, fast-paced Cold Feet gave me surprisingly mushy feelings

It's wonderful to watch a drama with no police stations or dead bodies. Plus: Motherland reviewed.

By Rachel Cooke

I watched, I think, the first three seasons of Cold Feet (Mondays, 9pm), a series about middle-class, Mancunian thirtysomethings which began, not uncoincidentally, in the heady, optimistic year of Tony Blair’s election. Then I gave up after Mike Bullen’s comedy drama descended, as even he seemed to acknowledge at one point, into the realms of glossy soap opera.

I can’t remember having had a particular fondness for it, though the accents were mildly comforting and I loved Hermione Norris’s platinum cap of hair. But now something odd has happened. After an absence of more than a decade, it’s back for a sixth series, and my feelings for it are unexpectedly mushy. How good it is to watch a contemporary drama that, despite bulging with plot, involves no police stations, no dead bodies, no violence against women.

It is utterly preposterous, of course. In the real world, friendships wax and wane; divorce and changing financial circumstances push some people out of previously tight-knit circles and usher others in. It’s impossible to believe that Pete (John Thomson), now reduced to driving a minicab, would still be pals with David (Robert Bathurst), the idiotically posh lawyer.

Meanwhile, after all these years, David continues to long for his ex-wife, Karen (Norris), and Pete and Jenny (Fay Ripley) make no mention at all of the time when he was briefly married to someone else, the gorgeous, pouting Jo.

As for the widowed Adam (James Nesbitt), so devoted is he to his pals that he is willing, in a heartbeat, to relocate his wedding to the much-younger Angela (Karen David) from Singapore, where he now works, to Manchester, so that the mates will be able to attend it.

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Angela, by the way, is the daughter of an unimaginably rich entrepreneur, played by Art Malik, which makes her smiling tolerance for his plans – Pete will drive him to the ceremony in the minicab, trimmed with Manchester United banners – seem just a little on the bizarre side. Would Petra Stunt, Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter, deem the posher suburbs of Manchester a suitable location for a party? No, she would not.

Oh, well. The episode whizzes along all the same: Bullen, determined to please, serves up a twist roughly every five minutes. Adam might have a hottie heiress in his bed, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t secretly lusting for the woman who owns his Airbnb flat, or imagining that his dead wife, Rachel (played in the old series by Helen Baxendale), has just passed him on an airport travelator.

Oh, yes, and Jenny still fancies Adam; and Matthew, his son, is about to be expelled from his posh boarding school; and David has designs on Adam’s new father-in-law, perhaps hoping to make some extra dosh to pay off his horrible wife, Robyn, and return to Karen, if she will have him. All of this in less than an hour! I hardly had a minute to contemplate Nesbitt’s second hair transplant, much less his increasingly transfixing Wag-style eyebrows.

In other news, I was completely mad for Motherland (6 September, 10pm), a comedy pilot by Graham Linehan, Helen Linehan, Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh, about toxically competitive mummies in a particularly smug bit of London. The ghastliness in every scene – think of it as Outnumbered on neat gin and as many Haribo sweets as it is possible to eat at one sitting – makes me feel so good about my life choices that I might have to take up tap-dancing.

There are people here whom you will recognise – Kevin (Paul Ready), the creepily earnest stay-at-home dad, and Amanda (Lucy Punch), the repellently self-satisfied stay-at-home mum, among them – though whether they will recognise themselves is another matter. In my experience, such types are too busy staring happily at their entitled little Mungo and Boudicca to choose introspection, let alone watching moderately edgy telly. But, you know, we live in hope.

Let us pray, too, that this one, part of the BBC’s New on Two season, will bloom into a full series. Call me passive-aggressive, but watching it alone felt like a form of revenge. All hail Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin), who, having forgotten that it was half-term, somehow ended up with not only her own kids – “It was your idea to have grandchildren, Mother!” – but several nameless “other ones”, too.

Let her logistical calamities and unbounded explosions of rage be the guilty and not-so-guilty pleasure of sane women everywhere for many years to come.

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This article appears in the 07 Sep 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Three Brexiteers