BBC Three’s BAFTA-winning comedy Him & Her is back on BBC iPlayer, with all four series now available to stream.
The show, which starred Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani as lazy-but-loved-up couple Steve and Becky, came to an end in 2013 – and, speaking to RadioTimes.com, writer Stefan Golaszewski says he knows exactly how a fifth series would begin.
“I’ve got three kids now, but when I had my first one, me and my wife were like… I think I was lying face down on the floor, and she was lying on her back on the sofa, and our little boy was like 18 months old, and just smashing something on the floor,” Golaszewski recalled.
“I said to her, ‘This would be the perfect opening scene to season five of Him & Her. It’s these people who used to have a really fun life, and it’s completely ruined by a baby.’ So I often think about that.”
But while Golaszewski says that everyone from BBC high-ups to the cast of the show have spoken to him about the possibility of revisiting Him & Her, he wouldn’t be interested in writing a full series with Steve and Becky as parents.
“It’s a show about being an adult but still getting to live quite a silly, pointless life. They couldn’t do that if they’ve got kids,” he insisted. “So no, I wouldn’t— it would be such a different show that I wouldn’t want to make it.”
Golaszewski is likewise reluctant to revive his BBC Two follow-up series Mum (2016-19), which stars Lesley Manville as grieving widow Cathy. “I wouldn’t want to spoil what I’m really proud of, which is what we made.
“With Mum, the whole purpose of the story is Cathy sort of finding a way out of her situation, and finding a new identity for herself – or, rather, rediscovering what her identity is. Once she’s got that, I think the show’s over.”
As it stands, both series end on – *minor spoiler alert* – an optimistic note, something that Golaszewski says was always the plan for both shows. “I think if you’re going to do all of that, and to bring an audience in in that way if you then give them a sad ending or a negative ending or a problematic ending, through characters that you’ve encouraged them to love and care about… then I think it’s just quite selfish.
“It might make you feel like you’re really cool as a writer-director or whatever. I mean, great, well done, mate – you’ve just upset everyone.”
Both Him & Her and Mum were partly motivated, he says, by a desire to deconstruct the traditional sitcom and the stock characters you see in those shows. “With Him & Her, my intention was just to take a sitcom literally and go, “OK, you have a ‘sitcom couple’… so what it’s actually like to be them? What is it actually like to be in a relationship? What is it actually like to be in love?’.
“You often have the annoying, stupid sister, or a relation or something, who comes in. Well, let’s dig down into her. What’s actually going on there?
“It’s exactly the same on Mum as well. In series one, episode one, you could look at it and think: there’s a bimbo, there’s a snob, there’s an idiot son, there’s a harried mother, and grumpy old people. But by the end of series three you’ve sort of seen all the various corners of all those characters’ souls. So it’s a journey of empathy and humanity, which is what I was hoping to do.”
Golaszewski says a desire to unpick harmful gender stereotypes was also a driving force on both shows, with characters like Him & Her’s Steve and Paul (Ricky Champ), or Mum’s Michael (Peter Mullan) and Derek (Ross Boatman), not being traditionally ‘masculine’ figures.
“There’s a lot, quite rightly, that is said about how harmful female gender stereotypes are for women, and they are. I kind of write about that a lot as well.
“But there’s not much said about how harmful male gender stereotypes are. For someone like Paul in Him & Her and for Derek in Mum, you have these blokes who are trying to live up to, really, someone else’s idea – probably someone very unpleasant’s idea – of what a bloke should be like. They’re not it, but they don’t know how not to be it. They aren’t quite brave enough to not be it.
“So they’re caught between what they should do, and how they are – as quite a lot of characters are in sitcoms. And that’s quite fascinating, I think.”
A big part of why fans responded to both shows, though, was the ordinariness of the characters and settings, and the keenly-observed details that we recognised from our own lives. Both Him & Her and Mum found humour in the commonplace – often intentionally, occasionally less so.
“I remember writing Steve and Becky cutting up a pizza with scissors, and people telling me it was really funny,” Golaszewski says. “I was like, ‘Why is that funny? Isn’t that what everyone does? Who actually has one of those circle things for cutting up pizzas? Doesn’t everybody do it?’.
“That bit wasn’t meant to be funny. That was just meant to be a slice of life.
“There’s another bit in Him & Her where Steve or Becky – I can’t remember – says, “Can you pass me that?” They give the other one something. They go, “No, not that. That.” And they’ve given them something else.
“We all spend our lives doing that, saying, ‘Sorry, can you pass me that? No, not that, that. Yes, thank you’” We spend our lives doing these tiny, pointless, little things, and I wanted to bring as many of them into the shows as I could to make it feel like, again, what it’s like to be a person, and not the kind of neat, clean, plot-driven versions of life that you tend to get on telly.”
Him & Her is available on full on BBC iPlayer. Mum series 3 is being repeated on BBC Two from Thursday, 16th January at 10pm