It’s that time of year. No, not where you wear longjohns three days in a row and start to get a bit concerned when people take long sniffs around you. It’s also not where you vow to have a better year that last year and join a gym, despite your exercising face looking almost identical to your sex face and that being the reason you can never return to Fitness First. It’s time for the British equivalent of the massive American awards ceremonies that people fawn over because some woman who might have been married to someone rich is wearing a backless gown. “A backless gown,” Joan Rivers will coo, “very daring for a woman with that much back fat dahling.”
Without doubt my favourite two award ceremonies are the Baftas and the National Television Awards hosted by Dermot O’Leary on ITV. The NTAs are essentially a lesser version of the Baftas, but with more guests who you’ll recognise. Amy Childs will be there; and maybe Philip Schofield clutching another list of people. It’s the Downstairs to the Baftas’ Upstairs. Whereas people like Jeremy Kyle and The Only Way Is Essex win awards for Lifetime Achievement To The Creation Of Cunts, proper actors with Dames and Sirs before their names win Baftas because they hold acting as an art and a lifetime dedication, not something that can be done between boob jobs and accompanying articles in New! magazine about how this boobjob has brought them the happiness that they needed to stop them from plummeting off a cliff in a rented Renault Clio.
Although the nominations haven’t been announced yet and we’re not psychics, we don’t know what will be nominated and who will be given the shove into the HMV bargain shelves, but something that we really, really hope wins a Bafta is Him&Her, one of BBC 3’s biggest hits OF ALL TIME.
And here’s why.
1. Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani
More precisely, Russell Tovey’s bum. You might not know of Russell Tovey, but he’s slowly becoming one of the most frequently naked stars on TV. Which is fortunate because he’s also been getting more and more attractive due to his practicing his own gun show. If you follow him on Twitter, you’ll know that gone are the days where he was the slightly doughy fellow who could easily be the winner of Heat’s Embarrassing Crush of the Year, and instead he’s beefed into one of the most gorgeous men on TV.
He’s fast becoming known as both a brilliant actor (after starring in The History Boys, Gavin and Stacey, Being Human and as Stable Boy in a 1998 episode of The Mrs Bradley Mysteries) as well as having a bum that you could squeeze until it bruises forever.
Tovey’s portrayal of Steve, opposite Sarah Solemani’s Becky, is at parts touching, sweet and naive, but at the same time being entirely convincing. Tovey’s part is beyond realistic, even to the extent that as he thrusts noisily into her while making a sound like someone forcing a pack of mince into a jar of mayonnaise, you forget that Tovey is gay. He acts, and sounds, entirely like you would expect an entirely straight man (complete with male to male penis envy) to act. Which is a refreshing change when schedules are filled with Alan Carrs and Craig Revel Horwood. If there was a Tovey on TV when I was growing up, a lot of the negative stereotypes about gay people would not have been there and this would have solved a lot of anxiety and self-loathing.
In short; he’s brilliant. With a nice tush.
The Eve to Tovey’s Adam is played by almost unknown Sarah Solemani. Unknown in that she hasn’t really had a massive break; like Goldie Hawn in Overboard, or Kurt Russell in Overboard, but at the same time, has garnered some really hefty experience under her belt. Whereas Steve is unassured and, at times, a bit dippy, Becky is sharp, confident and omnipotent; not much passes her raised eyebrows and slightly sadistic smile. And even though neither have many attributes you would call desirable, work wise, Becky is still alarmingly one of the most attractive women on TV.
Almost entirely because of her dark humour and loutish yet feminine behaviour, she’s become one of the few women on TV that seems believable and likeable. Which isn’t entirely down to the writing, Solemani’s devilish glint when she taunts Steve about his dead Uncle (it’s his Mam’s Uncle; it’s a thing) couldn’t be written and is hard to describe. Solemani’s acting is some of the finest and most secure performances that have been on TV for a long, long time. Even when she appeared in Psychoville, as the sort of girlfriend of David Sowerbutts, looking like the exact opposite of Becky, she still seemed to embody the character. Which makes Sarah Solemani one of those actresses that you will look forward to seeing in things. Like how people are about Davina McCall not appearing in things. You’ll love her.
2. The Other Characters
Ranging from a kleptomaniac who lives upstairs, to Becky’s evil sister Laura, each character in Him & Her plays a part and isn’t there just to make the numbers. Each one speaks their own individual voice and story and interacts in a consistent way (although Paul did go a bit...strange towards the end of Series 3).
The most defining and memorable relationship is between Laura and Shelley. Shelley is a single mother who is pushing the wrong side of 40 and is best friends with Laura who is about twenty years her younger. Shelley is painfully shy and downtrodden by Laura, and by life, who treats her like a popular girl at school would treat one of her lowly friends that she befriends and sees as an act of personal contrition because she’s a total bitch. Except Laura doesn’t see it like this because Laura is one of the most awful characters that has ever been on TV.
Selfish, spoilt and sly, Laura travels around everyone’s life thinking that she’s the absolute centre of the Universe, blindly unaware that no one, not even her fiance Paul, seem to even like her. A Daddy’s girl through and through Laura has always got her own way, and doesn’t seem to understand why this wouldn’t apply to every aspect of everyone’s life, which Becky and Steve trundle along with to save hassle and aggravation. Everyone knows someone like Laura, or a Shelley, or an unfortunate klepto from upstairs, but where the genius of Him & Her lies is in the fragility of the characters pushed with the arch-comic, almost slightly ridiculous peripheral characters that come into the flat. By keeping the characters totally absolute and the extreme that they could be keeps the series from being a slightly drab and depressing love story on Job Seekers Allowance to being a slightly bonkers, but still entirely believable story about true love and modern friendship.
3. The Flat
For someone to set an entire episode of a series in one area can lead to some brilliant TV; the episode of Psychoville that paid homage to Hitchcock’s Rope was a massive success (Black Lace’s Superman aside), or when Dot Cotton killed her best friend Ethel because she was a massive sex addict and couldn’t go on with life knowing that only Ian Beale was left on her Sexual Bucket List. On every other instance, Bottle Episodes generally don’t work and are a result of the studio wanting to save some money. Every episode of Him & Her is a Bottle Episode, but not because of money constraints (although that may true) but because it solidifies the illusion that Becky and Steve never leave the flat (they do, but the viewer never sees the further World. They’ve been Nandos a few times.). If we’re not shown the outside World, then we don’t worry about it. Since the first series, where the foundations of the series were laid out, we’ve slowly had things opened out until eventually, during Series 3 we saw other people who lived in the neighbouring flats, and were even teased by an illicit affair going on between two characters. Even as we saw people raging at the noise Becky and Steve were making, it was still beautifully placed and seemed entirely natural. Stefan Golaszewski’s writing is so gentle and poignant that every action, however brief and fleeting is understandable and relatable.
Watching Him & Her isn’t like watching Miranda, or Mrs. Brown’s Boys (although why it’s called Mrs. Brown’s Boys when most of the cast are women is bizarre) it’s like watching a play without having to leave the house and journeying to the local theatre and not really fitting in with people who know the difference between antipasto and just regular pasta. Much like the City in Sex And The City, The Flat has taken on it’s own persona and character, molding with each episode and holding important objects in it, like Steve’s boob jar money box or Steve’s personalised dressing gown. Each object says more and more about the characters and their relationship.
So that’s that everyone. These are the three main reasons that Him&Her should win a Bafta. It’s not the only reasons though. There’s something for everyone. If you don’t like the functional relationship between Becky and Steve, there’s always the mass of dysfunction that is Laura and Paul’s upcoming baby which can only leave us wanting him and her being taken into care. Or the slow burning and slightly repressed realisation that Shelley and Dan are both as emotionally damaged as each other.
Him&Her is one of the funniest and touching comedies on TV and doesn’t have to resort to shock tactics (BBC Three’s Way To Go, for example) or fall into the trap of becoming an increasingly bland attempt at recreating the comedy of the Good Old Days of Dad’s Army like Miranda. If you like good comedy by incredibly competent actors then Him&Her is for you, if you want to watch sickeningly polite buffoonery then this isn’t the place for you. And also, shouldn’t you be over on Mumsnet?