tue 20/08/2019

Rovers, Sky1 | reviews, news & interviews

Rovers, Sky1

Rovers, Sky1

Lo-fi football sitcom starring Craig Cash and Sue Johnston has its heart in the right place

Royle return: Sue Johnston and Craig Cash prop up the bar in 'Rovers'

Football seeps into every cranny of British culture, but it's hard to name a great comedy or drama about the game of two halves. The history of fictionalised football is mainly a catalogue of failure. The liveliest portraits of the game have come at it from the female perspective – The Manageress, or Footballers’ Wives, or Bend It Like Beckham – or at an oblique angle such as Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, or from another source altogether in the case of David Peace’s novel The Damned United. Mostly they’re just crap.

In this underpopulated sub-genre, Rovers jogs onto a boggy pitch with reduced expectations. The Rovers of the title are Redbridge Rovers, lurking in the bottom half of the Evostik first division north, average gate 27, half of whom crowded into the club bar on match day to be introduced in the first episode. Chief fan is Pete, played by Craig Cash in a variation on his halfwit Dave from The Royle Family, whose alumni also include Sue Johnston as Doreen, a sunny pint-puller and retailer in gossip. Shades of another lo-fi sitcom are evoked in the presence of Pearce Quigley from Detectorists, who edits the fanzine and chaperones his blind and extremely blunt mother ("nob jockey!").

Other regulars include Tel (Steve Speirs), who in a nice twist is a pie-eating fan archetype has emerged from the closet at 47 and joyfully smooches his blissfully camp new boyfriend. Diane Morgan, recently seen exploring Shakespeare as Philomena Cunk, plays hot-to-trot Mandy. The first episode took the expedient route of introducing them all to a new character called Sam (Lolly Adefope), assisting Doreen with the sandwiches and even thicker than everyone else, with the possible exception of Tentpeg (James Demetriou): her idea of a chat-up line was challenging him to guess her surname.

The peeled-paint world of grass-roots football has been visited recently in Patrick Marber’s play The Red Lion and Class of '92: Out of Their League, the documentary series about Manchester United’s famous five buying Salford City. For anyone made queasy by the Premiership’s shimmering narcissism, here’s another pleasurable antidote. Rovers, written by Joe Wilkinson and David Earl (who play a pair of bearded southern interlopers, pictured above), has its heart in the right place.

The dreams of Rovers fans extend no higher than playing away at Nantwich and Blyth Spartans with their plexiglass dugouts. The plotting of this first episode was something to do with the parentage of the star striker’s new baby, and Pete getting stuck in the lav. If it’s tiki-taka comedy of the gods you’re after, look elsewhere. For kick and rush sitcom about a community of oddbods and saddos brought together by obsession, get your season ticket here.

@JasperRees

For anyone made queasy by the Premiership’s shimmering narcissism, here’s a pleasurable antidote

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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