Simon Carlyle, who has died aged 48, was a television comedy writer with a gift for putting totally believable characters on screen. Two Doors Down – created with his regular writing partner, Gregor Sharp – was his crowning glory, featuring neighbours gathering at a couple’s house in a Glasgow suburb, usually uninvited and overstaying their welcome.
The programme, set to run for a seventh series on the BBC this year after its debut in 2013, stars Arabella Weir and Alex Norton as Beth and Eric Baird, with the neighbours in the fictional Latimer Crescent including Elaine C Smith as the foul-mouthed Christine O’Neal. It has been called the Scottish Royle Family, but with upwardly mobile characters.
Carlyle wanted a wide range of viewers to relate to it, saying: “It could be in Aberdeen, in Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes or Elgin. We don’t disguise the fact the voices here are Scottish. We just wanted to make the set-up recognisable across Britain.”
He began devising characters and stories set mostly in his native Scotland after working as a model and TV researcher. One of those, the aspirational, swearing owner of the insalubrious Glasgow sunbed salon Fan of the Tan, became the focus of his first sitcom, Terri McIntyre – Classy Bitch. Carlyle played Terri while Sharp, who had worked with him at the ITV company Scottish Television, produced.
BBC Scotland made two series of the show, screened nationally on BBC Choice in 2001 and BBC Three in 2003. The second, titled simply Terri McIntyre, has the salon owner leaving to be a sales rep for a tanning products business with the slogan: “United we tan, divided we peel.”
“Gregor taught me writing structure and I taught him all the filthy jokes I’d learned in the gay bars of Glasgow,” said Carlyle.
When Terri McIntyre ended, Carlyle moved to London, where, observed the journalist Brian Beacom, his “partying and drinking would have made Caligula look like a choir boy”. He also went bankrupt. A friend, Maria McErlane, an actor on the comedy sketch programme The Fast Show, helped him to turn his life around and a producer advised him to write about what he knew.
So, with Sharp, he created Thin Ice, set at an ice rink in Derby and based on Carlyle’s teenage experiences as an amateur figure skater. It landed a peak-time slot on BBC Two but failed to go beyond one series (2006).
Their next sitcom, Happy Hollidays (2009), set in a caravan park and featuring a site owner looking to drive up profits (played by Ford Kiernan) and an alcoholic entertainer (Karen Dunbar) among the staff, met the same fate, but the writing partners kept slogging away.
Two Doors Down began as a one-off Hogmanay special in 2013. A surprise success, it was commissioned as a series in 2016 and will switch from BBC Two to BBC One on its return this year.
Carlyle was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, to Dorothy (nee Evey), a former hairdresser, and Chris Carlyle, an electronics sales rep. Brought up in Ayr, he felt unable to come out to his parents until he was 18. By then, following in their mother’s figure-skating footsteps, he and his sister, Lisa, had joined the Kyle skating club and, in 1992, he became Scottish junior champion.
Hopes of a career in ice skating were scuppered when Carlyle’s parents pushed him to continue with his studies. So, on leaving Belmont academy, Ayr, he started a degree in French and psychology at Strathclyde University, earning money at the same time by modelling for teenage magazines such as Jackie and working as an extra on the TV police drama Taggart.
Going to a recording of the sketch show Pulp Video in 1995 spurred him on to drop his degree and take a media course. Then, he worked for STV as a runner and appeared alongside the presenter Nicky Campbell on the game show Wheel of Fortune to show off the prizes.
Switching to BBC Scotland, he was a researcher on the entertainment programme Fully Booked (1997-98) and, when a sketch needed someone to play a female cleaner, he volunteered and started writing lines for the character.
His other creations with Sharp included the 2002 sitcom Fran’s People, with Carlyle playing both Ronnie, a guesthouse owner and dance troupe choreographer, and Ronnie’s wife, Margo, and No Holds Bard, a one-off 2009 spoof documentary about contestants in a Robert Burns poetry recital competition.
Carlyle was also script editor on the sitcoms Benidorm, ( 2010-12), Bad Education, starring Jack Whitehall, for its first two series (2012 and 2013) and Walking and Talking (2012), written by Kathy Burke.
Later, with its creator, Elliott Kerrigan, he co-wrote most episodes of the BBC Two sitcom Boy Meets Girl (2015-16) – groundbreaking for featuring transgender issues, with a trans actor, Rebecca Root, starring – and devised, with Alan Carr, Changing Ends (2023), based on the standup comedian’s childhood and described by Rebecca Nicholson in the Guardian as “relentlessly funny”.
Carlyle is survived by his mother and sister.
• Simon John Kendall Carlyle, writer and actor, born 6 May 1975; died 8 August 2023