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Sickly and slushy... I've got Cold Feet

Remember Cold Feet, the wildly successful Nineties ITV comedy-drama that shamelessly followed in the stylistic slipstream of Friends and concerned the romantic ups and downs of three couples? You should do: for better or (mostly) worse, it turned James Nesbitt into a near-permanent television fixture.

Well, now comes Married Single Other, which is what Cold Feet would be if it were rewritten by Richard Curtis, dipped in a vat of treacle and then sprayed with caster sugar. It's glib, cutesy and clever-clever enough to make your teeth itch with irritation, while at the same time being sickly sweet, sentimental and schmaltzy enough to rot them to blackened stumps.

Married Single Other shares the same producer as Cold Feet and also concerns three couples, all friends, who live in the same leafy and improbably sunny corner of London in the kind of old, fashionable terraced properties that, if this were the real world instead of the make-believe one, they couldn't possibly afford.

The title sequence features tick boxes and the programme itself does a lot of box-ticking. 'Married' is represented by Babs and Dickie (Amanda Abbington and Dean Lennox Kelly), who are up to their knees in love but also up to their armpits in debt.

She's a struggling child psychologist, while he's a layabout dotcom dreamer who, when he's not falling asleep at his computer, blows the money they don't have on online gambling. Dickie is written as a feckless but lovable loser yet comes across as a total prat.

'Single' is Clint ("My dad loved Spaghetti Westerns'), played by The Royle Family's Ralf Little, a stud-muffin bachelor who thinks with his silk boxer shorts, can't commit to a relationship and works in an advertising agency.

In the time-honoured tradition of the romcom cliche, Clint falls head over heels for the only woman who refuses to fall into his bed when he clicks his fingers: a sexy-but-smart model called Abbey (Miranda Raison).

Last -- and most annoyingly -- there's the 'Other' in the equation: Eddie and Lillie (Shaun Dooley and Lucy Davis, from The Office), who have been together for 16 happily unmarried years. Well, not quite happily. Eddie, a paramedic, proposes to Lillie every year on her birthday, and every year she turns him down.

Lillie, you see, works in a women's refuge and has seen, first-hand, the destructive power of marriage. None of this, though, deters Eddie, who persists with icky, romantic gestures like spelling out "Will You Marry Me?" on post-it notes stuck to the window.

As if all this wasn't stomach-churning enough, writer Andy Souter has given Eddie and Lillie a precocious, wise-beyond-his-years youngest son: a nauseating little monster with who yearns for Mum and Dad to become Mr and Mrs, is smarter than the pair of them put together and offers his father wise counsel in time of need. In the real world, this kid would be sent to his room for a year.

While Cold Feet offered wit and sass alongside the schmaltz, Married Single Other is a great, big, pink Slush Puppy, albeit a very well-made one. I'll pass, thanks; I've enough caps and fillings as it is.

TOMORROW: Pat reviews One Born Every Minute (C4) and welcomes back -- NOT! -- The Podge & Rodge Show (RTE2)


Married Single Other **