Now The Weather - the other pilot I'd been developing concurrently with Too Much Too Young - had been scheduled for a week-long shoot at an office building near Richmond.
Producer was Mark Freeland, one of the two people, along with Robert Popper, who'd first shown interest in me, right back at the start of my career. Mark had also commissioned North of Watford when he'd been head of development at Sky.
He was now working for Hartswood Films - the company founded by the legend that is Beryl Vertue, former agent to Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes, Galton and Simpson, and Dalek creator Terry Nation. Her daughter, Sue, was our executive producer. She was, and still is, married to current Doctor Who boss Steven Moffat.
Mark called me in and asked what I wanted to write. Too Much Too Young being given the green light to go to pilot had awarded me currency in TV comedy circles. Suddenly, I was flavour of the month.
I told Mark that I really wanted to write a sketch show. He had a better idea - one which had been suggested to him by Robert Popper: the other person who gave me my first break. And that idea was this idea: a sitcom starring Mark Heap as a weatherman.
I can't specify why the idea of Mark Heap - then star of Green Wing - playing a weatherman is inherently funny, but it amused me sufficiently that I took the idea and ran with it. I wrote a script tailored for Mark, about a weatherman who really wanted to be a newsreader, but was continually looked over for promotion due to his own desperation.
After some reservation on Mark's part - he struggled initially to get a handle on who the character was - he said yes. In one of the more showbizzy afternoons of my life, we'd met him at the Groucho Club, and on the way out had bumped into Kevin Eldon - who'd starred in my Knife & Wife animated pilot many years before. Ensuring that I didn't get too consumed by it all, Eldon didn't have a clue who I was.
Having Mark Heap on board made the pilot commission a shoe-in, but there was a big problem looming; he was scheduled for major back surgery.
It called into question the entire project. The character had been conceived with him in mind, and would require a fairly intense physical performance. Without Mark, or with a diminished role for him, it was unlikely to even go ahead. "Mark Heap as a weatherman" was the entirety of the idea.
Everything was pushed back to give him time to recover from the surgery, and undergo physiotherapy. We were assured that he was going to be fine, but when I saw Mark arrive for the rehearsals the week before filming, I feared the worst: he turned up laying prone in the back of a cab.
This demonstrates the knife-edge that film and TV production always surfs along. Disasters - be they somebody upsetting The Queen, a burst appendix, an important location falling through, or major back surgery - are always a breath away. The odds are stacked against every project ever getting made.
In the end, Mark was a trooper. He even ate several chocolate-covered raw onions across several takes of a scene.
From start to finish, Now The Weather was one of the loveliest jobs I've ever had. The entire cast - Mark, Marc Wootton, James Lance, Ingrid Oliver, Tim Key - were lovely, the team at Hartswood were lovely, there were no major dramas on set, and I felt it was one of the loveliest scripts I'd ever written.
It was certainly the most I'd ever laughed since writing We Two Vets with Tim. Mark was hysterical in every single take - though the second the director called "Cut", he always came over to apologise for being terrible. He never was. Not once.
There was a moment where I probably overstepped my authority. Marc Wootton - playing the role of a meteorologist with dubious sanitary habits - had a scene where he was studying weather charts, and Simon, a simpleton mailroom boy, came up from behind and inexplicably touched Marc's ear.
In the rehearsal, Marc delivered his line - "Ohhh... what are you doing?" - in such a way that I had to go for a little walk until I stopped laughing. Once the cameras were rolling, he said it in a completely different way, which I didn't find as funny.
Nobody else had spotted the change in inflection, but I became obsessed with it, insisting that Marc try it again and again, as I attempted to explain to him what had been so funny (to me) the first time. Eventually, Mark Freeland stepped in to tell me that Marc and the director were getting visibly irritated.
I never got that line delivered the way I wanted. Sometimes you just have to let these things slide.
"Ohhh... what are you doing?"
To ensure an authentic depiction of meteorology, Mark Freeland had arranged for the two of us to spend a day at Sky News, shadowing their chief weatherman Francis "Fluffy Bits" Wilson.
I don't know how this had been arranged, but once we arrived, Francis either hadn't been informed about our visit, or had forgotten. Either way, he didn't want us hanging around in his office.
Rather than communicate this to us, he simply chose to pretend we weren't there. He floated around his office, while we sat in a corner, neither explaining to us what he was doing, nor making eye contact. Occasionally, one of us would ask him a question about his job, to which he'd either mutter half an answer, continue to ignore us, or walk out of the room.
To be fair to him, being a weatherman - or, rather, as Francis actually was, a meteorologist - looked like a nightmare. He had UK forecasts to deliver live every thirty minutes, and world weather reports to record in-between those. And there was no script; he delivered the forecasts off the top of his head, based upon his reading of complicated meteorological charts which came in continuously via the Met Office. He was able to turn on the Mr Fluffy Bits charm whenever he was in front of the camera, but the rest of the time he had a faraway look in his eyes. To be honest, I found him a bit weird.
At one point, Mark went to ask Francis a question, and he interrupted before Mark could finish, extending his hand and whispering "Well, thank you for coming". We got the message.
We also learned the vital difference between meteorologist and weather-reader. We met Lara Lewington, who was then delivering the forecasts on Channel 5. She was the very definition of bubbly, and, over coffee, quite happy to tell us that she just read what was on the autocue. She hadn't cared what job she had on TV - she just knew that she was desperate to be a presenter of some kind, and I suspect she never thought too deeply about why that might be.
She got her big break by making a television out of a cardboard box, with a photo of herself on the screen, and sending it to Channel 5.
I had really, really enjoyed the entire Now The Weather experience. I felt proud that I'd been able to write a comedy for Channel 4 that was so tonally different to the one I'd simultaneously been writing for BBC1.
After the stresses of Too Much Too Young it was exactly what I needed. It wasn't without its moments, of course - most TV is a string of catastrophes clawing their way to fruition - but by comparison, it felt like a holiday. We even got cake every afternoon.
There's no big drama about why Now The Weather didn't go to series, beyond Channel 4 simply not liking it enough to commission one. Having spoken to some of the cast subsequently, they all said the same thing - that they'd loved the script, but the end result hadn't worked.
Of course, they would say that to me, but I had really loved the finished episode. Indeed, the heartiest laugh on the finished episode - which we'd screened to an actual audience, to acquire a laugh track - is mine. I didn't feel it was anywhere near the disaster that it had been portrayed as, and this planted a seed of doubt in my brain. Maybe I simply didn't know what constituted good comedy.
Still... I had a second bite of the cherry with Mark Freeland and Hartswood - and given how much I'd enjoyed my time working with them, I thought I'd go all-in on the next project we did together.
I re-pitched my sketch show. And I asked Tim Moore to write it with me.
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART ONE: WE TWO VETS - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART TWO: HUSK & HORNBLOWER - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART THREE: NORTH OF WATFORD - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART FOUR: KNIFE & WIFE - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART FIVE: SOOTY - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART SIX: CROSSROADS - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART SEVEN: EASTENDERS - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART EIGHT: IS THIS IT - BY MR BIFFO
SCRIPTS OF MY YEARS PART NINE: TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG - BY MR BIFFO