Television has woken up to the so-called “silver brigade”, it seems. The popularity of shows such as Last Tango In Halifax and New Tricks are proof that today’s senior citizens are anything but doddery old-timers.
Now a new comedy-drama joins the growing list of programmes starring actors over the age of 60. BBC1’s six-part series Boomers charts the ups and downs of three fictional couples who have recently retired to the Norfolk seaside.
Starring familiar faces that include Alison Steadman, Russ Abbot and Stephanie Beacham, Boomers is a light-hearted look at the pressures retirement can put on a marriage.
Stephanie Beacham even compares the show to a popular American sitcom. “We’re like Friends – just add a few years,” she laughs.
Stephanie and comedian/actor Russ Abbot play Maureen and John. They are happily married but dealing with the ever-present problem of Maureen’s cantankerous, wheelchair-bound mother Joan, played by 88-year-old June Whitfield. Stephanie explains with glee that Maureen is unlike anyone she’s ever played before.
“Normally I would be the granny at the end of the table ruining everybody’s lives,” Stephanie, 67, told the Daily Express. “Maureen is an extremely nice woman, but she will tell you exactly what she thinks of you.
“And she’s very into Facebook – when she has a car crash, the first thing she says is, ‘I must update my Facebook status’.”
Boomers marks a welcome return to prime time for Russ Abbot, one of the most popular comedians of the 1980s, who has not had a regular TV role since appearing in Last Of The Summer Wine from 2008-10.
“I never wanted to leave [prime time] in the first place – it’s just that the right vehicle never came along,” explains Russ, 66. “So, yes, I am thrilled to be back. We’re playing our age. We can relate to it.”
June Whitfield is also pleased to be joining the cast. “I thought it would be quite nice being in a wheelchair because I wouldn’t have to do a lot of standing,” she jokes.
“Joyce is dreading retiring because she’s a busybody,” says Alison, 67. “She’s one of those people who goes to work for the company and companionship.”
At home, Joyce constantly nags her husband. “Poor guy, he can’t do anything right,” adds Alison. “She’s always, ‘Don’t put it there, Alan. What have I told you?’ That’s fun to play.”
With more television shows starring and aimed at the over-60s, Alison thinks that Boomers will strike a chord with viewers in her age group.
“People want things to watch that they can relate to,” says Alison. “We all like to be able to recognise ourselves on TV, don’t we? See a character and go, ‘Oh, that’s so like me.’ That’s the fun of Boomers.”
Boomers, BBC1, Friday, August 15, 9.00pm.