Roger and Val: Beyond the Curtain Hooks
"It can't just be about curtain hooks. What do they slam the door against and what's already in the house that they can't escape?" This was the question posed to [co-writer] Emma and me in the first meeting with our then-potential script editor, Hugo Blick - the genius behind such works as Marion & Geoff, Up In Town and Sensitive Skin. I looked down at the script on the table before me, a script gladly praised as funny by all who had read it, but it certainly depicted a happy couple getting in from work and mined its comedy from situation and silliness.
"What do you think it should be about?" I managed to stutter in reply.
It had already been very difficult to write a comedy about "a happy couple in real time getting in from work". Before this meeting I thought we had done well, because starting a script with that requirement is like carving a cave into a blank face of rock. But it wasn't good enough. He was right. In fact a common note of caution among some of the early reviewers of the show (who had perhaps missed the little painted chair at the end of Episode One) was "but is a gentle comedy about getting in enough to sustain a whole series?" No. It isn't.
It was Hugo Blick who encouraged and dared us to set Roger and Val Stevenson's life in the context of tragedy and to therefore deploy the concept of seeing them intimately at home to answer that ultimate question: why go on?
Losing a child is the worst thing in the world that can happen to a person. It hasn't happened to me and we would have had no moral authority to write about it had it not been for a friend of ours who had recently lost her own much-loved baby girl. The question had already been begged by the format of the scripts: why did Roger and Val never mention any children? One of the explanations for this could be that they had lost a child, but I was frightened - and if I'm honest, horrified - at the thought of examining the subject. It is where no one wants to go.
I told our friend that it had been suggested, and I will never forget her reply: "I absolutely dare you to write this series to show that where there is love, there is hope." That's when I said yes, and throughout the writing process our brave (and very clever, by the way!) friend collaborated with Emma and me; there is no emotion around the subject of loss that didn't come from her. We didn't extrapolate and we didn't presume; we reflected.
Yes it would've been much easier to write a happy series about happy people getting their curtain hooks mixed up with easy-cook noodles. But life unfortunately is not Disney and if you're going to go for some sort of answer to it, you have to look beyond curtain hooks.
We have tried to do so by writing Roger and Val as a comedy, because as a man almost as insightful as my friend once said, "Laughter is the one true metaphysical consolation." Episode Six we hope, happily, proves this.
Beth Kilcoyne wrote Roger and Val Have Just Got In with her sister Emma. Catch it on Fridays at 10pm on BBC Two. Read more of Beth's blog posts in the archive.