Tuesday, 3 June 2014


Writer/Creators – Beth Kilcoyne & Emma Kilcoyne – Director – Jamie Rafn
30 mins – Comedy / Drama - 2010 – UK

This is not our life. This is paper”

Episode synopsis

A storyline – The need to find the guarantee
B storyline – Contemplation of death and the future
C storyline – Esther in legal.

ACT 1 – When Roger gets home Val is in the kitchen sorting thru old paperwork looking for the Hoover guarantee. They are in dispute with the small shop that sold it to them, and need to produce the guarantee before they can get a refund. So far no luck., she is worried they may have to look for it in the Big Drawer. Val is also concerned there is a funny smell in the hall, but Roger can't smell anything. He tells her about a meeting at work, when he stood up for workers rights. He thinks he impressed Esther from Legal. And decides to call her for advice on the Hoover situation. Val tells him not to, but he does, and then panics and hands the phone over to her. She is mortified, apologises and makes him hang up. He is horrified he did this. This is what the situation has brought them to, there is nothing else to do, they have to face the Big Drawer.
They are in stasis over the Hoover issue and cannot move forward despite everything they try. They have to face the thing they have been avoiding.
ACT 2 – They go through into the garage and drag out a massive drawer brimming with paperwork. Val tells Roger to not worry about Esther, the real reason is that he is stressed about his dad, who is ill in hospital. As they go through the drawer they are distracted by why they have kept certain things, like a stone from a beach trip. Val wonders who will clear all this out when they are gone. And thinks their nephews will have the task. She decides she is going to sort it all out, and then throw it. As her last act before she dies. Roger debates the practicality of this but Val has a plan. She starts to throw stuff out. And finds the guarantee. They celebrate together, and then she rips it up.
All is lost, They had the solution in their hands, but they have thrown it away.
ACT 3 – Val is angry at herself for what she has done, but Roger says it is all fine, he can tape it back together, and he likes the fact that she is rebellious like that. He tells her he wouldn't want it to be any other way, that everything is good. She starts to make dinner, and we see Roger's terrible attempt at sticking the guarantee back together.
Together they turn the situation around and are ready for the next stage of this battle.
The final shot is of the empty garage, and the small child's chair Roger sat on.

The main ( and only ) characters are ROGER STEPHENSON and VAL STEPHENSON, we meet them, as in every episode, in the half hour after they get back from work. They are two people united against the world. The bigger stories of their lives are picked up in passing from their conversation. Roger is the dreamer and the worrier, imagining possible futures, dwelling on past mistakes. Val is the practical one, always galvanising herself and Roger into action. Val is sorting through paperwork when we first meet her, something we all know the pain of. Roger is cheery when he gets home, but as soon as he sees what Val is doing his heart drops. She tells him, straight up, they have to tackle the Big Drawer. We understand, we all have a Big Drawer, something we put off doing because it is daunting. We empathise with them because they are doing what we all do, they are like us. And life is like the guarantee, no matter how ripped up it gets, we can always patch it back up.

This is not a pilot episode in that it doesn't tell the story of how a specific situation came to be, Like 'White Collar'. In most 'sit-com's the situation is already well established and the first episode is us dropping in on the characters to discover them. Roger and Val are a unit, they work together. They share the small details of their day apart ( what they had for lunch, what happened at the meeting...) and in tho they share the bigger, heavier burdens of their life, burdens that are slowly hinted at across the series. 

The 'do a Big smell' line when Val asks Roger if he can smell anything funny sets the tone. Again something we all do, the constant underlying vigilance for things being not right, that when voiced becomes amusing. Our own often faintly ridiculous behaviour is mirrored to us, and we laugh at the recognition. There isn no title music, just the rustle of the papers. Until the Big Smell line there is no indication of how we are to read this as comedy. ( Well that, and the fact DAWN FRENCH is playing Val )


One of the things I currently enjoy seeing is how different shows use Act 2 as the start of a new world, the characters have moved on from stasis into an altered world that will help them solve the problem. And Roger and Val is no different. They move from the kitchen to the garage to tackle the Big Drawer. It is their quest for the thing that will solve their current problems. And here they face difficulties, distractions and even Death. I like how, in something as apparently small and domestic as this the rules of storytelling still hold true.

Favourite lines

Discussing Esther from Legal

I am of no nutritional value to Esther at all”