Writing Reunited was an easy job, but just don't ask Ed Byrne to play squash

Wednesday 30 June 2010, 16:16

Mike Bullen Mike Bullen Writer

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The idea of Reunited was given to me by an Australian friend who'd recently been invited to the reunion of a house-share he'd been a part of.

I could immediately see the potential for writing a comedy drama - the idea of former friends with a shared history but whose lives have gone off in different directions.

I gave the characters a juicy back-story as to why they'd lost touch, and a reason for why they were reuniting at this point in their lives. The rest followed from there.

The cast of Reunited

Some scripts are easier to write than others. This one came together quite quickly and didn't change massively between the first and final draft. That's either a sign of extreme laziness on my part or - hopefully - an indication that we were in good shape from the start.

So what was I trying to achieve? The same as always - to amuse and entertain and along the way maybe toss in some observations about life.

In Reunited the central character, Martin, is engaged to be married when an old flame steps back into his life. I wanted to explore the powerful pull that the past exerts - particularly when the past in question was your first love.

I was more involved in Reunited than any other show I've written. So much so I think people cringed when they saw me coming.

Although I've worked for the BBC before, when I made Sunburn with Michelle Collins, Cold Feet and Life Begins were for ITV so I had come to think of ITV as my spiritual home. But you go where the love is, you know? And the BBC has been fabulous.

They were really keen to help me realise my vision for the script. To that end they insisted I should be on location throughout the shoot so I could keep an eye on things.

Martin, played by Joseph Millson, with Sophie, played by Jemima Rooper

In the past I've rarely visited the set because for the writer it's deadly boring - he or she is largely redundant. But the director, Simon Delaney, was really collaborative and embraced my input.

It was the best experience I've had on a production. Though Simon might have a different view!

Casting in particular was a collaborative process. But without the right actors you're stuffed. We spent months choosing our cast. Not only did we have to get the right person for each part, we had to be confident that the chemistry between them would work.

At the time casting the stand-up comedian Ed Byrne amongst an ensemble that boasted serious acting chops felt like a risk. Watching the show I wonder why there was any debate - like the others, he absolutely nails it.

I wanted the friendship of the central male characters to have an element of competition underlying it, so I decided they'd be squash buddies. Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on our actors (Joseph Millson and Ed Byrne) being - how shall I put this - less than county standard.

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In the end the director thought it best to dispense with a ball. So in the (brief!) squash sequence, many of the shots are air-swings, with the sound effect of ball hitting racquet added later. And I added some lines so that, if we go to series, they can play poker instead.

I guess it's inevitable that people will ask if this is the new Cold Feet but I'd rather avoid any comparison.

It is the first time I've returned to writing about that age group, but this is a very different crowd. For starters, they're not even sure they're that keen on each other. I hope people will judge Reunited on its own merits and, once they've seen this episode, want to see more!

Mike Bullen is the writer of Reunited.

Reunited first airs at 9pm on Wednesday, 30 June on BBC One.

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