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Roger and Val: Beyond the Curtain Hooks

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David Thair | 15:45 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

Roger and Val standing together in the kitchen

Beth Kilcoyne, co-writer of Roger and Val have Just Got In, writes...

"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.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have very little to say but I love this show , it makes me cry with laughter and tears on a weekly basis , thanks

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you so much the Misses Kilcoyne for your wonderful show. It is beautifully written and so insightful as well as funny, helped of course by Dawn French and Alfred Molina. Great acting but it wouldn't work without your words.

    I can't wait till next week as I believe it is not heading for tragedy. I don't think I could take any more.

  • Comment number 3.

    This programme is brilliant! I picked up almost immediately the tragedy thatthey were living with. I grew up in a house where a little boy, my brother, also called Christopher, had died. There was a strange sense of loss that pervaded the whole family for years, decades, after... Until we were in a place were we could confront a lot of the feelings that were just frozen out for all those years. Even now it can be tricky to talk about... Seeing Roger and Val's lives play out just feels so familiar. Brilliantly written and my thoughts are with your friend who so tragically lost her baby but so bravely ensured she lives on through this story. xx

  • Comment number 4.

    I have never been driven to comment on anything I've watched on TV before but just had to look up Roger and Val on the BBC website after watching tonight's episode.
    I cried proper tears last week when it became clear that Roger and Val had lost a child. The series has really overwhelemed me. It is just so brilliant and like nothing else I have ever seen.
    I wish I had the words to convey how much I think of the series and just wanted to congratulate the writers on producing a programme that combines comedy with such a difficult subject, and gets it so right.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry, but in this situation there is no comedy. I know they can both act, brilliantly, but they are just digging a grave here. My Broadcasting Licence fee deserves better.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is my first ever comment about a TV show. Brilliant, reduced to tears by how suddenly the emotional intensity deepened and darkened.

  • Comment number 7.

    This TV show is what the BBC is all about, brillant writing and actors.
    Like the other comments this show invokes all emotions which makes for unmissable TV.

  • Comment number 8.

    I have enjoyed this series immensely and must admit to a lump in my throat after tonight's episode. The bitter sweet edge reminds me of Alan Bennett. Here's hoping for another series.

  • Comment number 9.

    I Love Roger & Val, it makes me laugh one minute and cry the next, brilliantly acted and just one of my hi lights of the week. I guess some viewers may just not 'get it' which is a great shame.

  • Comment number 10.

    I watched episode five fully expecting more tears but instead found myself laughing throughout the whole e-mail saga. Utterly brilliant! Then, a smack in the face as the mood changed completely. And there were the tears. This is what I expect from the BBC. Superb writing, production, casting...everything. Can't wait for next week's episode but at the same time I'm afraid of what might happen. Haven't felt like this about a programme for a long time. I think the BBC should have sold it as a comedy drama though, not a sit-com. Superb.

  • Comment number 11.

    There'll be a huge void Friday evenings without Roger and Val. I'll miss their foibles, tragedy, comedy and comfortingly untidy kitchen. I may not bother with TV at all if they don't come back. They make the BBC licence fee worth buying.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is not a comedy - well not in the "ha ha ha" sense of the word, which is refreshing (if depressing) don't make another series - it should stand on its own, but please do commission more programming like this.

    It's an emotionally draining but utterly brilliant bit of television.

  • Comment number 13.

    I just love Roger and Val - the insightful writing and superb acting are a joy. Congratulations to all involved in this production.

  • Comment number 14.

    I saw this for the first time last night. It was wonderful - beautifully written, superbly performed. Cliche, but I did literally cry with laughter and sadness. Only thing - Jim Cartwright did same storyline in his wonderful play 'To'. But doesn't detract from it being wonderful stuff (just feel Jim deserves acknowledgement). But well done.

  • Comment number 15.

    I saw this for the first time last night. It was wonderful - beautifully written, superbly performed. Cliche, but I did literally cry with laughter and sadness. Only thing - Jim Cartwright did same storyline in his wonderful play 'To'. But doesn't detract from it being wonderful stuff (just feel Jim deserves acknowledgement). Well done.

  • Comment number 16.

    I’ve come in to this programme very late – somehow I completely missed all advance notices and only caught episode 4 by accident. I was completely drawn in. It is so beautifully written and expertly acted. In many ways it owes a lot to The Royle Family and Talking Heads – lots of dialogue seemingly about mundane meaningless things but masking so much more underneath. Such a beautiful and moving programme. It’s not often a programme requires a little extra of its audience, expecting them to join the dots themselves and figure out what’s really going on and treating them with a degree of intelligence. It’s a standard to aspire to in my own writing.

    Reading other peoples’ comments here is interesting – those who don’t ‘get it’ are of course entitled to their own tastes and opinions, but why be so unpleasant about it? Clearly a lot of people do ‘get it’, and their appraisals are far more eloquently put. Comedy is many things. If it doesn’t make you laugh out loud or contain ‘jokes’, that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. This programme works in a way more subtle than a lot of viewers are used to, and I’m very grateful for it. For those keen to express how much they hate the programme due to its lack of ‘jokes’, I suggest the Little Britain repeats on BBC3.

  • Comment number 17.

    An oustanding programme. It's thoughtful and the performances are brilliant. I think we all see aspects of ourselves in the characters to some extent, which is why some don't like it.

  • Comment number 18.

    A great episode to end the series. This gets my vote for the best new show of 2010. Really hoping for a second series, as I'm loving these characters and want to see much more of them. A really brave TV person would give the first series a re-run on BBC One, where I have a feeling it would pick up some more fans. This is a show that probably wouldn't have had a chance of being commissioned anywhere other than the Beeb and is exactly the kind of programme is should be trying to do more of.

    Congrats to all the team involved, with a special mention of the writers. This is some of the best dialogue I have heard in a long, long time. Beautiful. :)

    Oh, and some gongs for Dawn and Alfred's performances in this wouldn't go amiss either, as they were nuanced and pitch perfect.

  • Comment number 19.

    Congratulations to Beth & Emma! What a brilliant first series "Roger & Val" has been! I have so enjoyed getting to know Roger & Val over the past six weeks. They are an inspiration & an example to those of us who have lost both babies & parents of how to "carry-on" in the wake of so much grief. You don't have to have suffered the loss of a child to "get" this series, simply perhaps be aware of the consequences of such a loss.

    This is such a sad story, but absolutely brimming with love, warmth, compassion & humour. Roger & Val are such a devoted couple, rarely seen on TV these days, who have had to learn to live with not only the loss of a child, but also with the fact that no other child has come along since that loss. Often, such tragedy results in couples separating, but here we see how one couple managed to stay together after such a loss; through love & humour. Roger & Val have given us a rare insight into the lives of millions of couples around the world who live in the aftermath of losing a child.

    I am so, so pleased to see such a difficult & terribly sad subject aired on television in such an intelligent & sensitive manner. The script is beautifully written, the acting flawless, the production superb. It's fantastic to see something so new & fresh, so original on our screens again. I haven't enjoyed a series this much since "The Office" & "Gavin & Stacey".

    Thank you, BBC, for having the courage to commission such a series. I have never commented about a TV series before, but I have been so moved by Roger & Val that I have felt compelled to make a contribution to this Blog. Watching Roger & Val has unearthed some very deep emotions for me, taking me back to a time of great saddness in my life some 7 years ago when I lost a twin pregnancy. Thankfully, I went on to have another two children after that loss, but watching Roger & Val gave me an insight into how different my life might have been had they not come along, as it often does for a great many couples.

    Finally, I just wanted to mention that it might have been useful to mention some helpline/support contact details at the end of the series, for those who "might have been affected" by its content. In particular, "The Babyloss" website,(www.babyloss-awareness.org) which has affiliations with a number of charitable organisations, (SANDS, FSID, Miscarriage Assoc, EPT), might have been a useful one to use. I hope I'm not speaking out of turn when I mention them here. Apologies if I am!

    "Roger & Val" in three words; Beautiful, Intelligent, Funny.

  • Comment number 20.

    I would like to marry Roger. He is so understanding it's almost unbelievable (but I still have faith). Both show all our weaknesses but also our heroic strengths; what a great mountain to climb.
    I have found this to be almost the only decent thing worth watching on TV. Long may this standard of acting and writing continue - I do miss it now its gone. Please come back.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Roger and Val Have Just Got In was a collection of genius scripts peerlessly acted. Deliciously sad but still life affirming. Will there be more? I really hope so.

  • Comment number 23.

    I cant tell you how much I enjoyed Roger and Val, and how delighted I was to read somewhere that there is to be a second series. It is so beautifully written and both Dawn French and Alfred Molina are superb as Val and Roger. I'm not sure why it works - but it does.
    Congratulations to all concerned - it was worth the licence fee on its own.


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