Grab a lukewarm cuppa and drag your gaze away from the wall, Dawn French and Alfred Molina are affably trundling back to our screens in a surprising second commission of Roger & Val Just Got In; a sitcom observing the mundane half hour a middle-aged couple, Roger and Val, spend together after returning home from work.
Ironically, the coupleâs inoffensive bickering proved highly divisive. Set in real-time, the first series was criticised for defying the âsitcomâ? genre a little too boldly, its ordinance of the ordinary making you wonder where its intentionally omitted laughter track would even have been put. Yet enthusiasts argued that it was a well-observed, authentic reflection of life â like a Waiting For Godot in bite-size chunks for sofa-bound Friday night channel hoppers.
The new series has the same premise, but moves at a quicker pace, maximising the number of banalities that can possibly be dealt with in 30 minutes. Like a Mike Leigh on fast-forward. Highlights include lengthy debates over the tactical error of stopping at Little Chef, the social implications of âsuddenlyâ? having white hair, lamps versus overhead lighting, and, naturally, the nostalgic value of âpotato cakesâ?.
Yet unlike the previous series, these charming yet humdrum musings act as the backdrop to more pressing events in the coupleâs lives. Roger is due to fight at a tribunal to reclaim his job (the suitably uninspiring position of a botanist at their local garden centre), and Val has been given an interview for Deputy Headship at the school where she teaches Food Tech (what else?).
Their mutual support for each other in their respective endeavours, played masterfully by both actors, is what makes the episode – whether itâs a touching scene where Val comforts a broken and sobbing Roger, or the surreal comedy of Roger applauding Valâs interview prep technique (wearing a three-way mask of Martina Navratilova, Hilary Clinton, and âMargaret that used to be off of The Apprenticeâ?). These and the cliff-hanger that comes in the form of a mysterious handwritten letter just about justify the in-depth Little Chef analysis.
Roger & Val is not as quirky or profound as it thinks it is, so to prevent the observational turning into the plain dull, the trivia-tennis must be shaken up with a few transformative events and cliff-hangers. But donât worry, not enough for you to spill your tea.
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