OldVenue, TV

The best thing you’ve never seen

Roger & Val Stevenson are two characters that have a very special place in my heart. The couple were on the screen for only two series between 2010 and 2012, but they occupied such a cosy, warm and normal corner of the schedule, I defy you not to be won over by them.

Written and performed in a style similar to Stefan Golaszewski’s comedy Him & Her, the overwhelming factor in Roger & Val Have Just Got In (and the main joy in watching it) is just how smack-you-in-the-face mundane it is. Whether the pair are sifting through the ‘big drawer’ for the vacuum receipt, Val has another story about the devious Pam Bagnell, or Roger’s upset because Val’s defrosting the fish fingers for tea in his special fridge, there’s nothing sensational about it. There’s no over- the-top slapstick, no grotesquely stereotypical characters, and no jokes you’d expect to hear coming out of the changing room of a Year 7 boy’s PE class.

“Billed popularly as just a ‘comedy’, there’s much more to Roger & Val Have Just Got In”

Because the comedy and setting are so normal, the drama in it becomes all the more gripping and affecting. We follow Roger’s troubles at work following a mishap with the ‘Reply All’ button (a cautionary tale for us all in the digital age, no less), the ups and downs in the couple’s relationship, and we discover their past, full of pain and heartache. The drama and comedy are so complex and beautifully entwined you can understand why the show isn’t known by many. Billed popularly as just a ‘comedy’, there’s much more to the show than that, meaning someone looking exclusively for laughs could be turned off.

Each episode follows the couple in real- time for the first half hour after they’ve just got in from work or being out. Real time drama tends to be slower and not particularly edgy or stimulating. Where an episode of 2 Broke Girls can jump about with abrasive guitar riffs between scene jumps, Roger & Val is soft, gentle, and the biggest change is when they go upstairs. We don’t even see outside their house, so their sofa essentially becomes ours. Their kitchen table becomes ours. Their staircase, once again, become ours. It’s another reason why the show’s so compelling, because we inhabit the exact same space they do.

If you need another reason to love it, let’s discuss the casting. In what other show could you have both Dawn French and Alfred Molina, together as the only two characters in this glorious little world? The two work with and against each other amazingly well, and make Roger and Val Have Just Got In the best thing you’ve never seen.

30/09/2014

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robdrury