More domestic bliss from the odd couple of comedy
The lazy lovebirds of Him & Her are back. Gerard Gilbert on the anti-Gavin & Stacey
Wednesday 26 October 2011
I don't know whether I'm hungry or bored," says a young woman, leaning listlessly out of the window of a messy, down-at-heel rented bedroom. "I need a wee, but I can't be bothered," replies a young man lying on the bed eating his fifth choc-ice of the morning. Welcome (or welcome back) to the world of Steve and Becky, the title characters in Him & Her, the sitcom that deservedly won a record audience for a BBC3 sitcom debut when it was first screened last year.
The story (or non-story) of two love-birds that encompasses their friends and family, it's superficially reminiscent of an earlier BBC3 comedy hit, except that Him & Her could be called the anti-Gavin & Stacey. The title of Stefan Golaszewski's sitcom was originally "Young, Unemployed and Lazy", and in this form the characters of Steve and Becky (played by Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani) never left the bedroom. The BBC suggested widening it out, and Golaszewski, a former president of the Cambridge Footlights, duly obliged by adding a hallway and a kitchen. Oh and a bathroom, where Steve and Becky regularly tend to their ablutions. Or as Steve sweetly says: "Becky does such dirty farts she has to wipe her arse afterwards."
But if all this sounds like puerile scatology, the tone of Him & Her is more Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon, or Pinter's The Caretaker. Or Jim Royle. "My original script was real anti-comedy stuff, and everyone I showed it to all said 'this is very interesting but it's never going to get made'," says Golaszewski. It was Kenton Allen, the veteran producer of the similarly house-bound The Royle Family, who recognised its worth (even if Allen's in-house script-reader reported back that it was the worst script she had ever read).
"When I first saw The Royle Family, I thought 'oh my God, that's exactly what British playwrights in the Sixties were trying to do'," says Golaszewski, who similarly finds mirth in life's minutiae. "I too was trying to get rid of the tropes of TV comedy as much as possible – this is what people are actually like and what your day is actually full of. And I think so many characters on telly are incredibly serious or say things with sentences that have no holes in them. Conversations are full of holes and dips and funny little moments... we communicate in subtext."
Gavin and Stacey's families are eccentric but essentially lovable, unlike Steve and Becky's, the latter's sister, the domineering, BNP-flirting Laura, who sees ghosts and whose marriage to the oafish thug Paul is subject to ever more elaborate plans, such as tying the beaks of birds with string and having them fly around as they make their vows. "Laura for me is just an amalgamation of everything that's wrong with the world," says Golaszewski. "She's a person who's been destroyed by the magazines she's read and rubbish she's heard."
Paul, in turn, has made the reluctant Steve his best man ("I've got three words for you... coke, whores and violence"), while Becky's dad is a bully and, in the returning series, Steve's mum has a new man in her life, Mike, who discusses "doing her". And then there's the upstairs neighbour, Dan, who looks like a cross between Rasputin and Blakey from On the Buses, but has neither man's social graces. The only question is, why do Steve and Becky put up with them?
"I find that I sometimes get in a conversation with someone and you know that they're wrong but you just agree with what they're saying," says Golaszewski. "It's so much easier and it's a kinder thing, and I always wanted Steve and Becky to be essentially kind people... I wanted them to be moral in traditional sense." That's the only sense of tradition you'll find in Him & Her.
'Him & Her' returns to BBC3 on Tuesday 1 November
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