Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5
It’s ironic, but only when a BBC3 comedy/drama aims above the core teen demographic the channel was created for, only then does it produce quality shows like Being Human and the sorely missed Pulling. Brand new sitcom Him & Her is capable of joining those hits in viewer’s estimations, provided it can build on the promise of this first episode. Set in a dingy bedsit, the show focuses on Steve (Russell Tovey) and Becky (Sarah Solemani), a lazy and unemployed twentysomething couple with no aspirations beyond snacking, sleeping and shagging.
The entirety of the series takes place within the confines of Steve’s tiny abode (bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette, hallway), where the two love-birds are loathe to roll out of bed except to eat or go to the toilet. The opening scene of “The Toast” set the tone by having Becky shrug-off Steve’s pleas to give him a blowjob, before heading to the toilet for an audible bowel movement. The pair’s humdrum daily routine is often interrupted by outside influences; such as a spider trapped under a mug, the breakdown of Becky’s sister’s relationship with cheating Paul (Ricky Champ), and regular visits from scruffy Titanic-obsessed neighbour Dan (Joe Wilkinson).
Him & Her felt peculiarly refreshing to me, mainly because it was an unflinching look at two character types rarely seen on television. On the surface, following the domestic lives of two bone idle lovers doesn’t feel original, but there’s a candid tone and frankness that was appealing. The comedy aims for Royle Family-esque naturalism, and that tone hasn’t been seen struck in a sitcom focused on two everyday young lovers before. Also consider the fact most post-millennium British sitcoms aimed at youngsters focus on bachelors/geeks. Him & Her is instead aimed at two people who could perhaps be described as losers, but they’re certainly not socially awkward or sexually inexperienced. I can’t remember a time when a scene has revolved around a boyfriend being manipulated via the promise of getting to see his girlfriend use a vibrator on herself.
But while the format, tone and style of Him & Her (tellingly working-titled Young, Unemployed & Lazy) is like a reserved version of the raucous Pulling, the rest of the show’s a tad more traditional: an oddball neighbour in bearded Dan (who’s become fixated by Kate Winslett’s tits because she reminds him of his “fat and posh” ex), and Becky’s gormless sister Laura (Kerry Howard), were both typical support for a more old-fashioned show. That said, those characters certainly helped buoy what might otherwise have become a mildly depressive two-hander between Tovey and Solemani, often dropping in to sprinkle laughs or shoulder the majority of the plot. Amusingly, the leads themselves don’t really have a deep narrative to follow here — they just want to have uninterrupted sex, but keep being disturbed by forces beyond their bedroom.
It helps that both Tovey and Solemani are excellent and completely plausible as a couple. No matter how coarse or risqué Stefan Golaszewski’s script became, it rarely felt distasteful because Steve and Becky came across as real people who absolutely love each other — despite their often crude quirks and foibles. The show’s a peek into the intimate moments between young couples that rarely gets shown on TV (like Steve doing a “dick dance” under the covers for her amusement), and there’s a surprising amount of affectionately scurrilous fun seeing that on-screen.