FANS of The Royal will be intrigued by ITV1’s latest soap.
As the title suggests, The Royal Today is set in the modern day.
A total of 50 initial episodes have been filmed – and could be followed by hundreds more.
I was at the series launch yesterday, where we saw the first two half-hour episodes.
The drama arrives on screen in early January and will be shown every weekday afternoon.
The theme tune is the same as that used for 1960s-set The Royal (pictured).
As is the building in Scarborough used to portray the exterior of St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital.
But right next door is the new modern Middleditch Wing.
Thanks to computer imaging, it’s actually ITV Yorkshire’s Leeds HQ placed on screen, with added NHS signage.
The scene is set from the very start, with a modern ambulance pulling into the original hospital building.
There’s a painting of 1960s hospital secretary Mr Middleditch, played by Ian Carmichael, (pictured) on a wall.
One of the wards is named after him, as well as the new wing.
Andrew Scarborough plays Dr Jonathan Ormerod, son of the original Dr Ormerod, played by Robert Daws.
But that’s it in terms of backward references to The Royal, itself originally a spin-off of Heartbeat.
Executive producer Keith Richardson said the idea of featuring an aged character from The Royal was quickly ruled out.
“We’re trying to say – this is modern, this is of today.
“So we can’t have too many back references.”
Paul Nicholas returns to TV as consultant surgeon Mr Woods.
Other names you might recognise include former Emmerdale star Leah Bracknell as Matron Jenny Carrington.
Pal Aron – seen earlier this year as Sonny in Coronation Street – is Registrar Vijay Chohan.
And ex-Heartbeat actress Fiona Dolman is Surgical Registrar Pamela Andrews.
The opening two episodes feature a violent drug addict on the ward and the murder of a student nurse on her first day at work.
I asked Keith what would happen if The Royal Today was a big hit with viewers.
Could a place be found for it in primetime – bearing in mind ITV Yorkshire also make Emmerdale?
“I think it could easily play later – at night.
“But, obviously, I can’t see it at seven o’clock at night,” he smiled.
As for The Royal, filming of 12 new episodes finishes today.
They will also be on screen in 2008.