‘Friday Night Dinner’ writer and cast discuss Series 2 and US remake

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During the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, the first episode from Series 2 of Channel Four’s Friday Night Dinner was screened. After the debut, its writer Robert Popper and two of its stars, Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal, took part in a Q&A.

Addressing the inspiration for some of the series’ storylines, Popper revealed the truth behind the very first episode from 2011, The Sofabed – “which was basically what happened!”

Speaking to the audience, he said: “The sofabed fell on my dad’s foot and he started shouting ‘Shit on it!’ fifteen times in front of everyone. My dad does have a hearing aid and he can’t really hear. We took it [the sofabed] downstairs. Me and my mum were upstairs and it got wedged in. We were trying to talk to my dad but he can’t see us ‘cos of the bed, he can’t hear us. So we had to talk to the man [who came for the sofabed] to pass dad instructions. He didn’t really understand and he kept saying ‘Can’t understand a bloody word the man’s saying.’ It was hilarious. I was putting it my phone while it was happening.”

Looking to the new series, due to air in the “autumn”, Robert Popper teased fans with the news that neighbour Jim, played by the “stealer of scenes” Mark Heap, has “got a big surprise in Episode 6. Something Jim does that’s good. I won’t say yet…”

Another revelation is that the “actor” playing the Jim’s dog, Wilson, has been replaced with a new one as the original “wouldn’t bond with humans”. Those with keen eyes will notice the new canine is also “slightly smaller”.

Although Friday NIght Dinner has already been screened in the US, an American remake is currently in production. Popper was asked if it was “a going concern”: “It kind of is. We’re meant to be making a pilot for America sometime, and I’ll believe that when it occurs. That’s all I can say. Because when things happen for America, it’s sort of pretend. Maybe it’ll happen, who knows?”

He added: “If it’s good, it’ll be nice. Hopefully it’ll be good. The whole thing is you want to keep your comedic voice so that it’s not so different that it doesn’t feel like the show. So long as they keep to the principle. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do it actually.”

Finally, when queried about his own family’s reaction to the show, Popper claimed they have been “alright” about it, though a problem Popper’s mother did have was a scene where the father ate toast out of a bin, to which the show’s creator’s mother said, “He’d never do that!”

Simon Bird also revealed that the Popper family weren’t too happy with the cast’s comments about their real-life counterparts. During press interviews, the actors exaggerated the real family’s eccentric qualities, often saying they’re “much worse” in real life than how they are fictionally portrayed; leading to them being “quite offended”. Rosenthal  even had to write a letter of apology to Popper’s mother after calling her “mental” on live television.

> Buy Series 1 on DVD on Amazon.

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