Him & Her – The Sleepover

Him & Her The Sleepover EpisodeHim & Her is back on BBC 3. And fans of this bedsit comedy will be glad to hear that very little has changed, indeed almost certainly nothing has changed.

Imagine The Royle Family if Craig Cash’s Dave Best and Caroline Aherne’s Denise Best had left the Royle family home to set up in their own bedsit. Or Ideal without the blood and guts. Or what Mike Leigh would have directed had he gone into TV sit-coms rather than really real realist cinema

And like the Royle Family the outside world is only ever implied, never ventured. And also like the Royle Family this too is no blissful tale of domesticity. The Him and Her characters are more Terry and Julie than Terry and June.

Him & Her is from Big Talk Productions who have established a creative pedigree producing both films (Scott Pilgrim Versus the World and Hot Fuzz among others) and TV – on their current roster alongside Him & Her are Friday Night Dinner, Free Agent and Chickens. Past productions have included the seminal Black Books and Spaced.

Him & Her Big Talk ProductionsHim & Her is written by Stefan Golaszewski a relative newcomer to TV comedy writing – he did write and star in the 2009 comedy series The Cowards. He studied at Cambridge University and is one of a new generation of Cambridge Footlights (University Dramatic Club). The Cowards started life on the web before moving to radio and then TV. The show was critically acclaimed – it was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA – though I have to confess it escaped my goggle-eyed attention.

His Him & Her creation has lasted longer at least than The Cowards back as it is for a second series.

Him is Steve played by Russell Tovey (who has a large TV CV but most likely if you do know him of late it will be as George in Being Human). Her is Becky played by Sarah Solemani (of Psychoville Emily fame among other parts).

I said that Him and Her is a bit like Royle Family but whereas that tended to be based in the lounge with occasional forays to the kitchen for a Cuppa and choccy biscuit, Him & Her is as likely to see Steve and Becky in the bathroom as any room. And if you think this might be Steve shaving or Becky blow-drying her hair then think again. Think toilet seat up, think toilet seat down – I will say no more.

Him & Her Becky & Steve

Her and Him

Though we never see Steve and Becky leave their bedsit they are never usually left alone for long.

In the most recent episode ‘The Sleepover’ they are visited by Becky’s sister and the sister’s fiancée along with their mother Shelly. Later their neighbour Dan appears.

The Sleepover sees Shelly, played by Camille Coduri, crashed-out on the kitchen floor, whilst the remainder of the uninvited company are readying for shut-eye in the bedroom/living area – the uninvited all being drunk and having missed the last night-bus home.

Steve and Becky allowing them to stayover despite themselves having a ‘big-day the following day and needing to be up early’.  At first I assumed that as the couple were both unemployed that perhaps one of them had a job-interview however we later discover they have rather bought a DVD box-set of the latest series of 24 and want to watch the whole of it in 24 hours! I confess this is something I have done once too and suspect am not alone in doing so?

The Sleepover episode opens with Steve and Becky debating who should retrieve a soaked toilet-roll dropped into the toilet bowl. This is not an unusual scene in Him & Her, rather all too usual! Seconds later Steve is urinating and Becky asks him if he wants any water to drink to which follows his reply another variation on men not being nature’s multi-taskers!

I can’t wee and talk at the same time!

Him & Her The Sleepover Laura

Becky’s sister Laura

Much of the remaining half-hour is spent watching them all trying to get to sleep – in real-time! This they fail to do as sister Laura (played by Kerry Howard) in particular cannot shut up having to share anything on her mind no matter how mundane.

Later they are joined by neighbour Dan (played by Joe Wilkinson) who has first been dumped by his girlfriend, then mugged and hit on the head with a brick and cannot bare the thought of facing his own flat alone.

This pretty much is the story-line, the importance of being idle. Him & Her is comfortable in being boring – Steve and Becky are at ease with their humdrum existence, and the show itself is untroubled by its own banality. It bravely hopes we the viewers will be happy to twiddle our collective thumbs whilst watching its thirty odd meandering minutes and won’t at any point be inclined to reach for the remote.

In one scene where Becky does an impression of Steve’s mother he counters with his impression of her mother which is basically just an opportunity for a character assassination.

‘I’m a silly little bitch, and my husband basically walks all over me, and I’ve got a shit sense of humour and I go to church’!

Him & HerLater we see Steve grumbling to himself in bed with Becky that the zip on their duvet is in his face.

Another conversation follows around ghost-believing Becky and ghost-disbelieving Steve ending with Becky saying:

‘I’ve got a sixth sense for it. All the normal five senses, seeing, hearing, thinking (!) and touch. But I’ve also got ghosts’!

Later Steve discovers from Laura that her mother does not like him leading him to comment ‘that he has never had anyone dislike him before’. Alas and inevitably for him this invites a long list from Laura, her boyfriend Paul (played by Ricky Champ) and Becky herself of people who do not like him!

The Sleepover episode ends with Laura and Paul absconding Steve and Becky’s bed while they had popped out to the kitchen only for Laura to offer the remaining bed-space to her sister Becky saying it will be ‘like when we were children’ leaving Steve evicted from his own bed. Just how is he supposed to be wide awake for twenty-four hours of Jack Bauer if he can’t sleep upon his own mattress the night before!

And reader not once did I even think to reach for my remote.

Him & Her Title Credit

The Fades – the deadly living and the living dead

The Fades - BBC 3 - Title LogoThe Fades is a new supernatural drama currently airing on BBC Three. The Fades is directed by Farren Blackburn – his CV includes Holby City and Footballers Wives neither of which will ready you for this. It does though include Survivors which may better prepare you its dystopian ground.

For all those with an atheistic disposition please now take a deep breath – the BBC Three webpage for the show describes its premise as ’17-year-old geek Paul can see the spirits of the dead. Now a vengeful spirit – or Fade – has broken through to our world and Paul’s friends and family are in the eye of the storm.’ – now breathe out.

Seventeen-year old Paul, played by Iain De Caestecker, has a younger sister Anna, played by Lily Loveless, and they are twins but in many ways not twins – he is wary of her and she is embarrassed of him. Paul you see is socially isolated and awkward she is a socially isolating and at ease – in short he is too school for cool, she is too cool for school.

The Fades - Mac and Paul on bicycles

Mac and Paul

They have a doting loving mother and a long-time absent father. Paul has a close friend Mac, played by Daniel Kaluuya. Paul’s sister has a close friend too, Jay, played by Sophie Wu, – and she is more keen to be with Paul than his sister is keen to be with him – will romance bloom between them?

But that is the side-story – the central story as you might expect are The Fades.

The leap of faith we are meant to make with The Fades is not that Paul can see dead people but that some of the spirits are no longer content with wandering aimlessly this bitter earth in concert with similarly desolate lost souls but are now seeking deathly vengeance on the whole human race.

Such programs are staples of the USA Telly Schedules –  Reaper’s central character Sam not only has his soul devil-owned but said devil is his father. You might think such circumstances would be kept quiet by Sam but a few of his closest friends have been let in on this diabolic secret and further greeted it with a shrug of the shoulders – and we has viewers are meant to do so too. And strangely after a few episodes we do, thinking nothing of the devil’s son working for the local branch of DIY chainstore ‘The Work Bench’ or that he is a nice guy with not horror and revulsion towards his father rather ambivalence and at most irritation at his satanic filial circumstance!

The Fades Paul and Jay

Paul and Jay

Alternatively there is Jennifer Love Hewitt as Melinda Gordon, Antique Store Owner and part-time Ghost Whisperer – she also sees Dead People. And as with Reaper her closest bosom-buddy, husband fireman Jim, is quite untroubled by this.

Or boarding school drama Hex where teachers and pupils alike are as likely to inhabit the ancient halls of its Medenham Estate as the nether worlds of hell.

Let alone the currently favoured and fashionable Vampire genre – where we the viewers are expected a unison shrug of our existential shoulders that quite a greater number of our friends and acquaintances than we might think are centuries not decades old, hell-born and/or hell-bound, blood-lusting carnal creatures.

Because we are meant to accept that there is no need to suspend our disbelief, as this genre is not science fiction rather every-day tales of our supernatural existence.

The Fades Johnny Harris

Lead Fade Hunter

But all of this matters not if the story is well-written, plotted and acted – is The Fades worth sixty minutes a week of our (in)finite time?

The Fades are certainly frightening looking – up there with the Doctor Who Sea Monsters from the 1970’s and The Peg Dolls from this year’s Night Terrors episode – and the nether-world which the victims of The Fades inhabit is also convincingly horrific and desolate. The bleak environments of the human world preferable to the waking nightmare Fades world, being covered in what looks like the dust generated by the collapsing Twin Towers of 9/11 and the horrific realization of what that dust contains.

The Fades perhaps is suggesting a metaphor for an existence where too many of us are content to fade into each other? Fade into the background, moving wallpaper – I half-expected Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You to appear on the soundtrack at intermittent points. And that such spirits can only be defeated by all of us reclaiming and proclaiming loudly our individuality?

But I am not sure that these Fades are meant to be metaphorical. I have watched the opening episode and there are five more episodes in this first series to be aired and for me to establish the real (super)nature and intent of The Fades.

And hoping that while doing so it does not fade into the television schedule twilight.