BBC’s newest mini comedy-drama is perhaps one of the most refreshing and courageous endeavours to grace our small screen. Whilst it may not harbour heart-stopping suspense or sweeping grand-scale cinematics, There She Goes is an incredibly intimate and honest piece of television that invites us to explore the day-to-day shenanigans of a couple trying to raise their daughter Rosie and navigate through her learning disability. Though it is a simple premise, it is unexpectedly harrowing and conveys a rare sense of depth that parents can relate to.
What is particularly impressive about the drama is the sincerity and dedication that is clearly put into this production by both cast and crew. David Tennant, as Rosie’s father Simon, may be the initial reason to giving this show a try, but it’s his on-screen partner Jessica Hynes incredibly stimulating performance as overwrought mother Emily that will keep you watching. You come to find that the focus on Rosie herself is arguably not even the most compelling part of the drama, but more what the effects of raising a child with learning disabilities has on the rest of the family. We see this through how the drama has two parallel narratives: one in 2006, shortly after Rosie is born, and one in 2012. This is where the unexpected profundity comes in, for although in 2012 we may have a compassionate giggle at Simon taking Rosie to the gym because she enjoys watching women do their work-out (and consequentially doesn’t make her father look dodgy at all), 2006 sees the whole family dynamic on the brink of collapse. Rosie is still undiagnosed and mother Emily seems to be the only one prepared to take the bull by the horns and do anything about it.
It is clear 2012 Simon still struggles more than his wife to understand and keep up with their daughter, but 2006 sees him downing a bottle of red wine every night and congratulating himself on the fact that he put in the effort to take out his daughter for one day. Meanwhile Emily appears far more physically sagging and on the edge of an emotional breakdown. The most compelling part of Hynes’ performance is how she can manage to pull off the fact that Emily honestly feels like she’s not sure she’ll able to ever truly love her daughter without coming across as horrifically heartless.
The show is an examination of the dynamics not only within motherhood but also alongside fatherhood. It touches on how it has actually become much of a running joke on social media how fathers and husbands will congratulate themselves – and be congratulated upon by others – for making a ‘special effort’ with their children, when what they have achieved is a fraction of what mother is expected to do every day.
In fact, what makes this even more extraordinary is that Emily is constantly doubted, ridiculed and rebuffed for knowing something isn’t right about the state of her daughter. It is a very clever use of dramatic irony as we feel the frustration Emily experiences in knowing something more is at play here. It’s very effective to see that even when mothers do attempt to do everything in their power for their children, their capabilities are diminished as irrationality.
The beauty of There She Goes is that it seems to be happy to dispense with political correctness altogether. We can take heart in the fact that the show isn’t tone-deaf, considering how creator Shaun Pye has based the show purely upon his experience with his own daughter, whose condition is so rare that it does not yet have a name. That isn’t to say that the show is without its charm – it is part comedy after all. True, there is no inclination that the family now has all the answers, but it is reassuring to see that having disabilities within a family are not an apocalyptic situation, but rather something we can grow from and learn to have a laugh about as well.