Cold Feet

1997 | United Kingdom

*This review is for the original series 1997 - 2003

Unfairly described as an English version of Friends, Granada's comedy/drama Cold Feet rose from humble beginnings to become an award winning ratings winner with a healthily average audience of 10 million viewers. 

The story focused on the lives of three comfortably placed middle class couples as they go through the trials and tribulations of their every day existence. Couple number one are Adam, a systems analyst, and Rachel, an advertising executive, who met in the pilot of the series. Adam's continual fear of commitment precludes any permanent relationship between them. However, by this story's end, he had declared his love for Rachel and, following an argument, he wooed her back by serenading her naked with a rose sticking out of his backside! Couple number two are Pete and Jenny Gifford, who, during the pilot are trying to conceive. By the start of the first series (set 9 months after the pilot) they have a son, Adam. But, the arrival of the baby does not, as in real life, necessarily lead to family harmony. Jenny, feeling undervalued and less and less attracted to Pete, begins to look at one of Pete's friends in an entirely different light. Couple number three are David and Karen Marsden. He is a career minded management consultant who tends to be something of a snob, (class is a big issue for David), she was a book editor but had given up work to care for their family. Now, her life is filled with taking care of her children and arranging dinner parties. But not alone, for the Marsden's have a children's nanny, Ramona, who Karen treats as one of the family, much to the chagrin of David. 

After its Easter 1997 debut as a single pilot episode, Cold Feet, created by Mike Bullen, disappeared without trace for 18 months. When it won the Golden Rose at the Montreux Festival, a series was commissioned. By series two and three, the viewing figures were nudging the eight million mark and the actors found themselves becoming household names. Helen Baxendale, who played Rachel, had already gone Stateside to appear in the hit comedy Friends as Ross' English fiance, Emily, who is left gob-smacked at the altar when Ross utters another's name during their wedding vows. James Nesbitt (Adam) had already established himself as an up-coming movie star. Hermione Norris (Karen) had appeared on the front cover of Vogue magazine, and John Thomson (Pete) found himself becoming an unlikely sex symbol. The other stars of the series were Fay Ripley (Jenny) and Robert Bathurst (David). Cold Feet didn't have the wise cracking pace of Friends, and referring to it as the British version of the hit US comedy is somewhat misleading. Yes, like Friends, the storyline of Cold Feet does revolve around a group of six people, three of whom are male and three of whom are female, and it does involve itself in their interwoven lives, loves and tribulations (and the irony that Helen Baxendale's character is called Rachel is not lost on those viewers who are fans of both series). But that's where the similarity ends. The New York Friends can variously be described as 20-somethings living teenage lives, whereas the Manchester based Cold Feeters are thirty-somethings who are heading towards the inevitability of middle age. And, whereas Friends is played strictly for laughs, Cold Feet is just as likely to have you bawling your eyes out as sending you into fits of side-splitting laughter. The series was probably more thirtysomething than Friends, in that in each of the characters there was someone that each viewer could relate to. 'I think that's the key to the success of Cold Feet,' said writer/creator Bullen, 'I know David and Karen are a little out of the realm for most of us, but they are at the top end of the middle class, with Rachel and Adam in the centre, and Pete and Jenny at the bottom -- so everyone, I think, finds one couple they identify with.' 

Winner of the 1999 and 2000 British Comedy Award for best comedy, Cold Feet ended its five-year run in dramatic style. It had never avoided difficult subjects such as alcoholism, depression, adultery, sickness and infidelity, but few were prepared for the demise of Baxendale's Rachel character in a freak car accident in the series' penultimate episode. But tugging on the nations heartstrings and playing with its emotions was typical of Cold Feet. The last episode centred on Rachel's funeral and Adam's struggle to come to terms with her death. In an emotional scene, he decides to scatter Rachel's ashes at Portmeirion in Wales, where they shared some of their happiest times. Through five event-packed series, Cold Feet's combination of sparkling script, consummate acting and superb camerawork became essential viewing for a legion of devoted fans, winning as many critical plaudits as it did viewers to become one of the most successfully entertaining shows on modern day British television. 

Published on December 4th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus (2003) for Television Heaven.

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