I can’t say that I’ve ever watched much British comedy on Sky. Dredging the memory backwards I can only think of the supermarket-set “Trollied” which was good for its first few series but showed distinct signs of going on past its sell-by-date and a few of those comedy “Christmas Crackers” one-offs shown around the festive season. I have tried the odd series and given up early on (most recently Sky Atlantic’s “Camping” which unfortunately just didn’t do it for me). But here’s a different proposition. Slinking onto the schedules on Tuesday night was the first episode of “Rovers” a new football themed comedy starring those two lynch-pins of “The Royle Family”, Craig Cash and the ever dependable Sue Johnston. The football themed bit didn’t fill me with that much hope as football and me are never going to get on but there is no doubting there is much comic potential in the game especially with the struggling lower leagues- in this case a team languishing near the bottom of the Evo-Stick First Divisions North League. This is the story of Redbridge Rovers, its clubhouse and supporters. As might be expected with the involvement of Cash and Johnston this looks like it is going to be very much a character led comedy and does have the feel of the lovely “Early Doors” set in a Northern pub and written by Cash and Phil Mealey which so delighted me over two series back in 2003-4.
Cash and Johnston together again!
Wilkinson and Earl
“Rovers” is written by David Earl and Joe Wilkinson who appear in the series as slightly dodgy looking southerners Bruce and Lee who seem to relish in winding up Cash’s character Pete. I was laughing before the credits started. Cash, in typically hapless role was on the pitch taking part in a radio interview with one of the goalposts marked “The Stanley Bell End”. Little things!! It is an affectionate tale of those devoted to lower league football and its obsession with fundraising, meat raffles and an absolutely rubbish souvenir shop which certainly got me laughing. Sue Johnston is Doreen behind the bar, getting the attention of the few customers by overly whirling a rattle to announce the raffle- a sadder display of cling-film covered meat products I’ve yet to see. First episode in and we’re establishing characters and some of them are already seeming lovable especially new girl behind the bar and Doreen’s protégée, Sam (played by stand-up comedian Lolly Adefope) and her potential love interest, the somewhat gormless, “Tent Peg” (Jamie Demetriou). There’s great potential in these characters and played by new-to-me performers. There’s familiar faces in Diane Morgan, most recently seen in her Philomena Cunk creation in Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe and the laugh-out-loud recent extention of this “Cunk on Shakespeare”) and Steve Spiers (who was very memorable as Dad in the TV adaptation of David Walliam’s “Boy In The Dress” from 2014) and Rob Norbury (ex Hollyoaks’ Riley Costello) as star player Mike Nolan, the source of gossip and centre of Pete’s devotion.
Adefope, Demetriou, Morgan and Spiers – stars of The Rovers
It’ s new and yet felt reassuringly familiar which is often the way with good situation character and it is also about friendship which is something I like with my comedy. There’s also good lines – Pete after admiring Tel’s new shoes: “I just wouldn’t wear slip-ons to a match that’s all. I’ve got nothing against them.” Doreen: “I hate the back of my head at the moment.” Thanks also to Sky for not doing their back to back double bill episodes thing which they have a tendency to do with thirty minute shows. I like to relish my comedy in small doses and I’m already looking forward to the next episode.
Rovers is on Tuesdays at 9 pm on Sky 1? The first episode is available on Sky catch-up services.