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Why you can't just reheat cold feet

Reunited is a pilot. Not the old-fashioned variety with a leather flying cap, goggles and a stiff Biggles scarf, or indeed the slightly newer-fashioned type that used to stride through Rothmans cigarette commercials in the 1970s, wearing a blue serge uniform, blonde-bimbo trolley dolly in one hand, smouldering fag in the other.

No, Reunited is the other kind of pilot: a one-off comedy-drama that TV bosses throw out during the summer months in the hope that an audience full of World Cup-haters who are well-versed in the moaning mantra "There's nothing on the telly tonight" will like it enough, and watch it in large enough numbers, to merit a full-blown series.

In this case, the expression "throw out" is entirely warranted, because Reunited should be thrown out immediately, preferably into the bin marked "Scraps" that doubtlessly stands in an alleyway littered with cigarette butts at the back of the BBC studios.

Reunited, which centres on six old college friends (conveniently, three men and three women) who are, er, reunited eight years after their houseshare ended in tears and acrimony, is nothing but scraps.

Scraps of Friends. Scraps of Coupling. Scraps of This Life. And, most especially, scraps of mega-hit 90s ensemble comedy-drama Cold Feet, which is what it most closely resembles.

This is hardly a surprise, since Reunited comes from the word processor of that series' creator and writer, Mike Bullen, who seems to have discovered a nifty little software package designed to replicate old glories with the minimum of effort, and without recourse to James Nesbitt (which is, at least, one half-good thing in its favour).

Alas, Reunited feels the need to fill the Nesbitt-shaped gap with another equally twinkly, equally roguish, equally (supposedly) loveable Irish charmer. In this case he's played by comedian Ed Byrne.

It's a woeful piece of miscasting, but then Ed Byrne's entire life and career seems to be a woeful piece of miscasting. Punchably smug when he's doing stand-up or comedy panel games, Byrne is twice as punchably smug playing Rob, whose fling with housemate Hannah (Zoe Tapper), behind the back of housemate boyfriend Martin (Joseph Millson), was the event that caused the break-up eight years previously.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Reunited opens, improbably, with Hannah fleeing a Tokyo hotel room when she and her Japanese boss are discovered in a post-having-it-away state by the boss's wife, who whips out a gun and starts spraying the place with bullets.

On the way to the elevator, Hannah spots an English newspaper which, even more improbably, just happens to be open on a small ad announcing the imminent wedding of old flame Martin. There and then, she decides it's time to quit Tokyo, head back to London and organise a reunion of the old gang. Will the flames of passion between Hannah and Martin be re-ignited? Of course they will! This is a pilot, remember?

Reunited throws out (there's that phrase again) a few more creaky plot contrivances. Former housemate Belinda (Emma Stansfield) is married-with-kids to decent Danny (Navin Chowdry), but is cheating on him with a guy from her Spanish class.

There's a queasy attempt at a serious storyline, too, concerning needy, vulnerable Sara (Michelle Terry), a born again Christian who suffered a breakdown when the sextet broke up and looks set to have another one now that they're back together.

Reunited is a hideous reunion of rancid, outmoded clichés (there's even a scene on a squash court!) populated by horribly smarmy, middle-class types who still live in a lovely world of fine wine, casual sex, smart restaurants and smart-arse one-liners.

It's utterly repellent, which probably means it will be adored by the kind of people who pack the fiction bestseller charts with slabs of chicklit-sh*t. Expect a series next year.

STACEY'S STARS

REUNITED *


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