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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Bad behaviour in the Wild West
Wild West
Wild West: The darkest reaches of Cornwall

Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye belongs to a rare breed.

Like John Sullivan, Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, he is a TV writer the public have actually heard of.

It's a celebration of the interest and oddity of Cornwall.

Simon Nye
It is no surprise really - as well as dreaming up the exploits of Tony and Gary, Nye was responsible for Beast, Is It Legal? and How Do You Want Me?

Now he has teamed up comedy heroine Dawn French for a six-part BBC sitcom, Wild West.

It is set in the darkest reaches of the Cornish coast. French plays a lesbian who, with her girlfriend, runs a shop in a village peopled by weird and wonderful characters.

'Nice combination'

"I wanted to set a sitcom in a claustrophobically small village," says Nye.

"These coves in Cornwall are so shut off from the rest of the world, yet there are visitors passing through. I thought it was a nice combination."

Anyone expecting a re-run of the lesbian antics of Tipping the Velvet should be warned that French's character Mary Trewednack and her partner Angela (played by Catherine Tate) have been driven together by isolation rather than passion.

Men Behaving Badly
Men Behaving Badly will return
Nye explains: "Unless you go out and about, you are forced to take what's there in these small places. There was nobody `else around so they ended up being together and grew to love each other. They just happen to be two women."

French, who comes from the Devon/Cornwall border, gave Nye and the show's producer a tour to give them a feel for the place.

"It's quite a poor area of Britain and yet it's incredibly beautiful. It's an extreme place in many ways," says Nye, who vehemently denies that he is mocking the Cornish way of life.

"If anything, it's a celebration of the interest and oddity of Cornwall. It's a comedy - we are not saying: 'these are role models'."

New age

Having worked as a translator, Nye says he is fascinated by the county having its own language and describes the lilting accent as beautiful. He says the cast "worked hard at the accent and I think they captured it".

The series revolves around six or seven characters including a crotchety fisherman, a pub landlord with cowboy tendencies and a new age chick. They are bound to invite comparisons to the circle in The Vicar of Dibley.

Wild West
Not poking fun at Cornish life
"Holly who runs the witchcraft centre is a lot brighter than Alice in the Vicar of Dibley, but there are some similarities. I think the men are different.

"People do fall into categories - some of them are sex-obsessed, some are paranoid. These are characteristics which you find in life," says Nye.

Men Behaving Badly was the epitome of lad culture. Wild West features lesbians and a deaf woman. Nye laughs off the suggestion that he is giving in to "political correctness", saying some jokes are near the knuckle.

'Sign language'

"I hope we are not gutless. I am amazed and pleased by how viewers - apart from the noisy few who object - like us to break a few rules."

Nye met up with people who do sign language as part of his research.

"The failure in communication between a deaf person and a hearing person is funny. We are not laughing at the deaf person, but the fact that we don't understand each other."

In some ways, Wild West is not a million miles away from Men Behaving Badly.

Of Mary and Angela's friendship, Nye says: "Gary and Tony were similar, really. They would recoil at the idea of going to bed together, but, in a way, it's a homoerotic relationship."

The cast of Men Behaving Badly is reuniting for three new episodes next year. Nye says: "I felt it would be nice to see how the characters are and to make sure they are all right. People don't change that much, but Gary and Dorothy's baby will be a few years old now."

Nye acknowledges Men Behaving Badly as the show which made him famous.

He says he is pleased that people know his name: "Without being precious about it, I like to remind people that the lines on television shows are written and not improvised. It's nice when people realise that we spend a bit of time trying to make the jokes work."

But he is grateful he does not have to put up with the same behaviour as his stars.

"I don't get recognised in the street and I don't get men in white vans shouting out the window at me. It's the best kind of recognition, really."

Wild West is a six-part series starting Tuesday 22 October on BBC Two at 2100.

See also:

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