Simon Amstell returns to UK television with the second series of Grandma’s House, the sitcom he co-writes with Dan Swimer, and in which he plays a version of himself.
And, in the opening episode of series 2, which begins broadcasting in the UK this evening, Amstell gets to share his first screen kiss.
The moment came about during an improvised scene that was added during filming because the episode was under-running, as Amstell explained toWhat’s On TV:
“It turned out that the script was about three minutes shorter that it needed to be so we ended up improvising various things. The bathroom scene where it takes place did not exist in the original script. So we improvised some fabulously awkward stuff handing over this towel in the bathroom.”
The Day that ...
In each episode of Grandma’s House, “Simon’s family congregate to catch up. Everything happens under the watchful eye of Grandma, who is desperate to see everything going well.” Basically, Amstell is playing a version of himself – an out-gay Jewish man who is a stand-up comedian and successful television presenter who gives up his career to search for meaning in his life.
In the first series, Simon has a crush on Ben (Iwan Rheon), a painfully shy actor, but the relationship doesn’t go anywhere. In the opening episode of series 2 (entitled “The Day Simon Officially Became a Very Good and Totally Employable Actor”), Simon encounters an awkward morning-after encounter with Mark (Oliver Coopersmith) – a young man he has spent the night with – which leads to the pair kissing.
Of his first screen kiss, Amstell said he was very nervous, not least because of its not being in the original script. “[Oliver] was really cool about it […] he was a lovely kisser. I just kissed him how I’d normally kiss someone. Simon sort of gets kissed as opposed to instigating it, so I could appear a bit tense and anxious about it,” he said in an interview withWhat’s On TV.
Times and people old and new
The new series of Grandma’s House will feature all the main characters from the first, bar Grandpa, as Geoffrey Hutchings, who played the part, died in 2010, shortly before the start of series 1. Rejoining Amstell will be Linda Basset (Grandma), Rebecca Front (Tanya, Simon’s mother), Jamal Hadjkura (Adam, Simon’s nephew), James Smith (Clive, Tanya’s fiancé) and Samantha Spiro (Auntie Liz). As well as Coopersmith, Vincent Franklin will also be appearing as Simon’s Uncle Barry.
Simon Amstell, 32, is a writer, stand-up comedian, TV presenter and actor. His first major TV break came when he co-presented Channel 4’s Popworld, with Miquita Oliver, from 2000 to 2006. He took over as host of Never Mind the Buzzcocks – the BBC comedy pop quiz – from Mark Lamarr in 2006.
He left the show in 2009 to return to stand-up and work on what became Grandma’s House. The first series received a mixed reaction from critics, who questioned Amstell’s acting ability. However, viewers were much more positive, with the programme acquiring an instant loyal following, and the Jewish Chronicledeclared it “genius”.
Coopersmith is new to television but has appeared on stage, including with the Old Vic Theatre Company, as Christopher in Cause Celebre; and at London’s Globe Theatre, as Clarence in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. In 2008, he played Mike in It’s Alive, Josef Rusnak’s remake of Larry Cohen’s 1970s horror film.
Grandma’s House, series 2, runs for six episodes starting this evening – Thursday, 19 April, on BBC2. Times vary across the UK. Series 1 is available on DVD.