THE 9pm slot vacated by Broadchurch is filled not with another crime drama but a double helping of new comedy – quite a bold move by ITV.

Theatrical knights Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi team up for Vicious, about a couple who have been together for 50 years and love a good bicker.

When they met, Freddie (McKellen) was a budding actor and Stuart (Jacobi) a barman. Now though, their careers are more or less over, and they largely fill their time by bickering, taking the occasional break to walk the dog, read a book or when their best friend Violet (Frances de la Tour) calls round to play referee.

“It’s a relationship of long standing,”

says McKellen. “They’ve fallen into the habit of being horrid to each other. Although they’ve got into this habit, they clearly still love each other in the way that people who have been together for nearly 50 years do. They’ve survived.”

The first episode finds Freddie and Stuart hosting a wake for a pal, but their fellow mourners probably shouldn’t expect much in the way of comforting words – and the buffet is a bit on the stingy side as well. However, the arrival of Freddie and Stuart’s new young neighbour, Ash (Iwan Rheon), might just inject a little life into the proceedings.

The sitcom, which was filmed in front of a studio audience, comes from Gary Janetti, whose CV includes Will & Grace and Family Guy, and award-winning playwright Mark Ravenhill.