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BBC sitcom brings screen stars to Bay

Bemused diners asked to move out of shot at bandstand

ACTION: Stephanie Beacham on the set of Grey Mates
ACTION: Stephanie Beacham on the set of Grey Mates

SOME of Britain’s best-loved stars were in Herne Bay on Thursday to film a new BBC sitcom. Producers picked the town as their perfect location after shooting a pilot in Studd Hill in October and BBC bosses agreed and commissioned the series. The show, called Grey Mates, is set in a fictional seaside town in Norfolk called Thurnemouth where three couples in their 60s have retired. It was created by Citizen Khan writer Richard Pinto and stars June Whitfield, Stephanie Beacham and Russ Abbott among others.

Pilot

The pilot will be broadcast as the first episode and another five are being filmed, in Herne Bay, Hunstanton and in a studio. Locations include the bandstand, where bemused diners were asked to move out of shot, the beach and Central Parade, which was closed for part of the afternoon. The Maharajah restaurant acted as a green room for the cast. Producer Paul Schlesinger said he was glad it had been commissioned. He said:

“I’m delighted we are making this for BBC One – especially as the stories revolve around a group of characters who don’t often take centre stage in comedy. It features forensically observed relationships with a superb cast which we hope will bring audiences back week after week.”

When the pilot was filmed, Mr Schlesinger said the crew fell in love with Herne Bay. He said:

“We love the atmosphere of it. it is very similar to Hunstanton in Norfolk, which is what the writer had in mind. It has got an amazing cast. June Whitfield is a living legend.”

The fIrst half-hour episode shows the group getting together to celebrate one of the couple’s anniversaries. But the planned perfect day is threatened by a series of unfortunate incidents. The couples are played by Ailson Steadman, whose long career encompasses Abigail’s Party and Gavin and Stacey and Philip Jackson, of Poirot fame. James Smith, best known for The Thick of It, and Paula Wilcox, of Man About the House and Emmerdale, make up the second couple, while Russ Abbott and Stephanie Beacham also team up. Comedian Russ had his own show in the 1980s, released several singles and has also appeared on stage in Oliver. as Fagin, while Stephanie Beacham starred in Dynasty and Bad Girls. June Whitfield, who has appeared in Absolutely Fabulous, Terry and June and a host of other productions, plays Stephanie Beacham’s character’s mum. BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said:

“Comedy has a unique ability to make the ordinary extraordinary and Grey Mates delivers that with a big hit of character, hilariously brought to life by a stellar cast whose relationships are tested in a multitude of ways.”

It is made by production company Hat Trick and directed by Adam Miller, who previously worked on Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show and Some Girls. The series is due to be shown later this year.

Herne Bay Times, May 28th 2014

 

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