ONE Foot In The Grave writer David Renwick can sometimes be mistaken for a younger Victor Meldrew.
Ask him about writing a script and his replies will include words like “agony” and “torment”.
And then there’s his explanation for bringing back Jonathan Creek after a five year absence.
“I had three options. I suppose,” he told me.
“Retire, which is becoming increasingly tempting.
“Or go away for the best part of six months and struggle to come up with something else that interested me.
“And then sit and write it and decide whether I liked it and then try and interest someone else in it.
“Which even if the BBC had bought it, would take the best part of another year, just going through the system, and then all that time delay.
“Or resurrect Jonathan Creek, which I’d never drawn the curtain down in quite the same way I did with One Foot In The Grave.
“So the boring answer is that it was a way of deferring retirement.”
You can read the recent MEN feature interview with David here.
Days after it was published, David received The Ronnie Barker Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award at the British Comedy Awards.
Which was all the more appropriate, as the former newspaper reporter spent his early comedy career writing jokes and sketches for The Two Ronnies.
The new Jonathan Creek BBC1 film – also directed by David – is screened at 9pm on New Year’s Day.
As well as David, I also interviewed stars Alan Davies and Sheridan Smith for features which will appear soon.
Mr Renwick is one of our greatest TV writers – and always fascinating to talk to.
There were thousands of words from him I couldn’t get into the feature.
Including his full views on executives attempting to interfere.
David Renwick scripts are treated on set with huge respect.
Not a word, phrase or comma should be changed.
But that’s not always the way for others in the industry.
He told a story about how he decided Julia Sawalha’s one-time Creek character Carla Borrego should suddenly return as a married woman.
“I have led a bit of a charmed life, because I’m under no illusion that you can’t always get away with things like that.
“There’ll be seven people from various committees, who will say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think she should be married…research proves that audiences don’t want to see that.’
“That’s an increasing worry to me. I have been sort of more or less left alone. Thus far, it’s been a fairly easy ride. It’s quite nice to have that autonomy.”
Test screenings of programmes to focus groups also, quite rightly, invoke the spirit of Victor.
“There was a scene in Love Soup with a focus group watching a show that was within Love Soup,” he explained.
“We did it in this room with a two-way mirror, where the producer and the Tamsin Greig character were watching this focus group sitting on the other side pulling the show to bits.
“And this was the exact room that our director had had to sit in and watch one of her shows be pulled to bits by a focus group.
“So it was all a bit too close to home for her. It all happened. But it’s never happened to me, fortunately, that’s all I can say.
“I find it all a very horrifying prospect.
“We sit in the BBC’s offices now – and you get on the BBC internal system and they’ve got hundreds of pages of research reports about attempting to dissect and analyse every genre – comedy and entertainment and drama, with all the pie charts and breakdowns and analysis.
“It’s quite Orwellian, really.
“Like you can do a degree in comedy and come up with this perfect show that’s going to be a hit, a drama or comedy show that will appeal to all these people in this particular age bracket, in this particular demographic that we’ve defined.
“Audience research has always been with us, but it is a worry that the thing has become such a dominant part of the industry, more and more now.”
Let’s hope he never retires…
Why I Revived Jonathan Creek
Love Soup: David Renwick
David Renwick: Screenonline
A Running Jump Into The Grave