New Tricks star Alun Armstrong quits after angry writer's tweet
Armstrong claims stars helped rewrite scripts, but director says they didn't write 'a f***ing comma'
NEW TRICKS has been such a success for BBC 1 that nine series have been shot. But star Alun Armstrong announced last night he was quitting, hours after the writer-director of the next episode made a four-letter complaint about the cast “speaking out of turn”.
The drama about the Met Police unsolved crime squad relies on a heavyweight cast, in British TV terms. Armstrong's departure, reported by The Sun, is a third blow to the show after Likely Lads veteran James Bolam quit last year and Amanda Redman announced she will leave in 2013. That will leave only Dennis Waterman from the original line-up.
The last series to be broadcast, series eight, was one of the most successful ever in terms of ratings. It remains to be seen how the programme will fare without Bolam onboard – series nine goes out from Monday night.
Interviewed for the Radio Times, though, the stars of the show bizarrely seemed to talk it down ahead of the screening, complaining the writing isn't as good as it used to be. Redman said: "It’s more bland now. The characters are not being as anarchic as they used to be, which I think is a shame.”
Armstrong agreed, saying he was "not enamoured" with his character's recent scripts. Waterman weighed in, saying "People aren't as stupid as writers think" and adding: "We all want to move to Copenhagen to get to do some really extraordinary television."
They also claimed to have written some of their scripts themselves. Armstrong said: "If we felt that a story didn’t work, or that bits of the story could be improved, then – if the writer wasn’t around – we would set about rewriting it ourselves."
This was more than writer-director Julian Simpson, responsible for Monday's episode, could take. Simpson, who is a more youthful figure than his cast, tweeted yesterday: "A New Tricks I wrote and directed airs on Monday. I can tell you EXACTLY how much of it the actors wrote: not a f***ing comma."
He added that they had contributed "big fat zero" to the second episode before suggesting sarcastically that he would stop writing and give the cast a pad and pen. He concluded that he got on "phenomenally well" but didn't "appreciate actors speaking out of turn".
Support came for Simpson in the august form of the veteran TV comedy writer Maurice Gran who wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the cast had "succumbed to a common mental ailment – the delusion that they actually write the scripts".
“As any scriptwriter can tell you, there are two types of actor – good ones and bad ones. The good actors know they are nothing – nothing, do you hear me?! – without a brilliant script. The bad actors think they’re making it all up themselves.”
Remembering one of his more recent hits, The New Statesman, Gran said star Rick Mayall "never once told us what to write, even though he had a parallel career as a successful writer-performer". ·