The spotlight’s on Scarborough for TV’s first ‘comedy soap’

Jason Manford and Catherine Tyldesley as Mike and Karen in Scarborough (c) BBC/Kieron McCarron

Jason Manford and Catherine Tyldesley as Mike and Karen in Scarborough (c) BBC/Kieron McCarron - Credit: BBC/Kieron McCarron

Susan Griffin meets show creator, Derren Litten

Derren Litten dedicated the best part of a decade on the long-running comedy Benidorm, but he's returned to the UK for his first project since leaving the Costa Blanca and set his new ensemble series right here in Yorkshire. Called Scarborough in honour of the harbour town where the show's based, it's a nostalgic love letter to the seaside resort and inspired by Derren's very own childhood jaunts to the coastal spot.

'I had the idea for a show about people in a large village, then I thought of where to set it. I'm clearly drawn to the seaside because Scarborough came to mind and although Scarborough isn't a village, the old town certainly has a village feel,' notes Derren who directed as well as wrote the show, and pops up as Jack, the karaoke-loving landlord of The Good Ship too.

'I guess I thought of Scarborough due to childhood day trips there from Hull. I have such fond memories of shows at The Futurist Theatre, Peasholme Park and the amusements on the sea front.'

The series revolves around Catherine Tyldesley and Jason Manford's characters, Karen and Mike, who are determined to make a go of things despite their tumultuous past, but there's an array of sub-plots involving Karen's mum (Stephanie Cole), Mike best mate Bigsy (Steve Edge), the bouffant-haired and brash Hayley Cox (Claire Sweeney) and her gangster boyfriend Tony Peroni, played by Benidorm alumnus Jake Canuso.

'We all had a great night out during the last week of filming and enjoyed everything Scarborough has to offer from great night life to my favourite, scampi and chips,' says Jake. 'I loved my scenes with Jason in the ice cream parlour and the amusement arcade, I think those scenes are not only funny but give the show a real flavour of Scarborough.'

Much like the show's local hair salon Geraldine's, which is the hub of Scarborough's gossip, the show's traditional in every sense of the word. Instead of gratuitous sex and violence, there's a simplicity to the series that harks back to sitcoms of old. That said, Derren's intention was to create 'the first comedy soap'.

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'I'm not sure if I've done that, but like a soap I think we have enough going on to keep people's interest. Also, we have the hidden gem which is Scarborough; it really is the most beautiful fishing town and some of the aerial shots of the castle, the harbour and the town are absolutely breath-taking,' says the television stalwart whose favourite scene was shot at Scarborough's recently revamped Luna Park. 'Cath and Jason had to be on a fairground ride for many takes. I feel bad saying it now, but at the time the more the actors said how much they felt sick, the more it made us laugh.'

Like Derren, Jason has fond memories of Scarborough as it was 'one of my first grown-up holiday destinations,' says the comedian.

'Me and my girlfriend at the time saved up and paid for it! It's always had a special place in my heart. Location wise, we couldn't have wished for better weather, so Scarborough looks glorious! I reckon we'll have done more for tourism there than their own tourist board!'