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Tube Talk: Attack of the Smug Marrieds

Tube Talk, With John T. Forde

Attack of the Smug Marrieds

If, like me, you tire of being the only single at a dinner party full of couples, or you’d rather stick a fork in your eye than listen to suburban moms moaning about nappy rash, watching a show like Cold Feet might sound as tempting as water torture.

A kind of Bridget Jones’s Diary for the married 30something set, Cold Feet follows three nice white middle-class English couples muddling their way through commitment, children, divorce and rampant alcoholism.

Whereas most romantic comedies end with the cute couple getting together, Cold Feet sniffs around the morning-after blues of Happily Ever After. And if the new series (Tuesdays, 8.40pm, TV1) is anything to go by, the feet aren’t just cold, but smelly, gangrenous and in need of amputation.

First up, there’s Rachel, the annoyingly fluffy girl-next-door with a posh accent, and Adam, her gruff-but-charming Irish boyfriend with a frightening propensity for showing off his arse.

As the only still-functional couple, they tend to give well-meaning but smug advice to their friends. Still, they’ve got their issues: infertility, stress over adoption applications, and a feisty blonde ex-shag of Adam’s who keeps catching him naked in the kitchen.

Further down the food chain is Pete, a chubby goateed bear whose fish-faced wife has left the country, taking their 3 year-old with her. The least pretentious and nouveau-riche of the characters, he’s replacing empty nest syndrome with a lot of serial shagging. Which is impressive, given that he’s got an arse the size of a bus.

Partially as a nod to Cool Britannia chic and partially as a homage to American sitcoms, the Cold Feet folk get to live a little more glamorously than their chain-smoking blue-rinsed counterparts on Coro Street. Theirs is a world of designer outfits, trendy juice bars – and a misguided belief that the world is as interested in them as they are.

But just to prove that British class warfare isn’t dead, Cold Feet’s writers make the poshest couple the most unhappy of all. Plummy-voiced Karen and insufferable toff David have the trappings of success – nice house, preschool Suzuki violin lessons and a Spanish live-in maid – but a marriage fraying at the seams.

After David has an affair with a co-worker, Karen kicks him out, goes clubbing, and ends up drunk and shoeless in a parking lot. Well, we’ve all been there.

But in the world of Smug Marriedness, flirtations with independence are only cover-ups for stadium-sized insecurities. Soon, she’s knocking back cheap red wine at her son’s music concert, and crashing the family Pajero. It’s to actress Hermione Norris’s credit that Karen isn’t just a dried-up boozehag – she’s an intelligent and ruefully witty boozehag.

Despite the Cold Feeters’ comfy Freedom-furniture installed lives, they’re still as neurotic and insecure as when they were singletons. As the sextet’s adventures show, being in a couple won’t guarantee you happiness or a great sex life. Between now and the grave, we’re all alone - but it aint half fun finding someone to warm your feet with.

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