For whatever reason, the BBC hid away this honest but harsh comedy-drama on BBC4. Perhaps “it’s a comedy about a girl with a severe learning disability” was too difficult a pitch for the more wide-reaching BBC2. It’s certainly not broad enough for BBC1. It’s a shame that one of their best new shows was so easy to miss.
Based on writer Shaun Pye’s own experiences raising his daughter, There She Goes follows the family of nine-year-old Rosie Yates. She has an unnamed learning disability which severely limits her communication- she can’t speak at all and is very difficult to explain things to. Her parents were ill-prepared for the challenge but her brother, Ben, has grown up to accept this as normal.
The story is told in two parts, alternating between flashbacks to 2006 when Rosie was a baby and the ‘present day’ 2015. While flashbacks can be a cheesy and easy narrative device, in this case they’re effective at portraying the initial shock from parents whose child is not how they hoped and the joy that comes later when the family dynamic starts to click.
The 2006 portions of the series tend to be fraught with anguish, particularly from mum Emily (Jessica Hynes). While dad Simon (David Tennant) is avoiding the truth by drinking his liver into oblivion), she’s grieving the loss of the academic child her self-confessed intellectual snobbery had hoped for. Hynes’ performance is uncomfortably real, even while knowing that nine years down the line the family unit is functioning well.
Forward to 2015, that’s when it remembers the comedy aspects. There are still struggles, as the passage of time has left Rosie bigger and stronger, but there’s love and commitment which softens the blow. We are not laughing at a girl who’s different, but at a family whose lives are more exaggerated than most. The scenarios are simple, such as getting Rosie out of the bath, going swimming or attending a birthday dinner, to keep the humour relatable even to those who have no applicable experience with a handicapped child.
This is one of the best TV shows of the year not just because it was genuinely funny but because it dared to be so honest. Families in that situation do not spend their entire time being inspirational or endlessly compassionate. It takes time to adjust and time does not magically fix everything. Despite being based on real-life, it would be easy to lessen the learning disability over time to make the viewer feel a bit more hopeful. The show is so good because it didn’t do this, instead showing how the people around Rosie have changed.
It’s a comedy about coping with genuine heart. The family is not perfect and, the dad in particular, can be unlikeable at times. Just like regular people. These people are not on pedestals and it’s- to use a cliche- refreshing for something to not treat them as superheroes. You don’t have to be perfect at all times and it’s foolish to expect it.