Happy Valley is a drama about love. About catching baddies and family bonds, about impoverished communities and domestic abuse. But it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it line of dialogue, about stew of all things, that has created the most buzz over the course of the new season.
The line in question came in episode three, as Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) explained to her grandson Ryan (Rhys Connah) why he shouldn’t be having secret meetings with his father Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) in prison.
“He has a kink in his brain – a twist, a psychological deformity,” she told him. “It’s an absence of something that allows him to possibly seem quite normal to you, but it allows him to do things – evil things, nasty things, things that normal people just wouldn’t do, things that he’s ended up in prison for.
“Now you don’t have that kink, that absence. You have a normal brain. You are not evil. So what you have to understand is…”
It was at this point that Ryan interrupted, saying: “You know my tea’s going cold?”
Catherine then repliesd with the question: “What you having?”
“Stew,” he said.
“That’ll be alright,” his grandmother assured him.
The exchange sent fans from Yorkshire – from all around the country, in fact – wild.
“The stew line,” tweeted James Moran. “The stew line should be taught in schools. It should have a blue plaque. It should be placed in a museum, no, a travelling museum exhibit so the whole world can see the glory of the stew line.”
Writer-director Moran is one of the show’s fans from Yorkshire who spoke with The Independent about why they love the drama.
“Happy Valley always feels completely real,” he said. “Whatever happens, the humanity shines through.”
Speaking about the stew line, the 50-year-old said: “It’s not a joke, it’s a throwaway line, but so breathtakingly authentic it makes you roar with laughter.
“Real people don’t stick to one genre, they interrupt, they’re awkward, they’re hungry, they have lives to live. There are tonnes of writing ‘rules’, most you can ignore, but for a free writing masterclass, watch this show. It’s flawless.”
Gage Oxley, a 25-year-old filmmaker, said: “It’s often the simplest things about Happy Valley that have the most impact – and especially as a proud northerner it’s seeing the roads you use, and hearing your accent from a powerhouse character that isn’t all stereotype.”
Gage’s mother, Debbie Oxley, 59, added: “I respect the fact that the series is filmed in predominantly socially deprived areas – hopefully this series will put these places back on the map.”
Tony Fisher, a 55-year-old BBC radio presenter and writer, told The Independent: “My school bus used to pick up kids from around Calderdale and even as a nipper I marvelled at the rolling hills on those misty mornings.
“Forty years later seeing that same backdrop in Happy Valley already gives me an investment in the show, but it’s much more than that.
“As a Yorkshireman I bristle every time a generic ‘northern’ accent is used in TV comedy and drama like a slab of soggy suet, but not so here.
“The authentic dialogue and naturalistic acting has me aching to get home for me mam’s cheese and egg bake.”
Kirstey Porter, 49, said she loves how Happy Valley highlights Yorkshire locals’ “grit” and “humour”.
“A reference to stew in the middle of an excruciatingly painful conversation sums us up pretty perfectly and I’ll think about that each time I ask myself ‘What’s for tea?’ for quite a while,” she said.
“A frequent traveller, I watch Happy Valley from wherever I am in the world, when I need a fix of home. Sally Wainwright is high on my list with other Yorkshire greats: David Hockney, Henry Moore, the Brontes, Alan Bennett, Barbara Hepworth to name but a few… long may she continue!”
Peg Alexander, 54, a journalist from Yorkshire, said: “Happy Valley is the best TV ever. Ever. Not just because I know the area well and all the places are real places. But because it’s TV with people – women – who talk like me. And they have conversations in the way me and my friends do. Sentences where the order is like what we speak. Here. In Yorkshire. With me mates. With phrases we’d use.
“Conversations that go off at tangents. Conversations that are both really profound and inane, often in the same breath. Conversations that are about human connection and the human state.
“But mostly because they are really female conversations. Full of humanity, and love, and humour and compassion. And rage and anger and frustration and confusion and enormous clarity.”
Happy Valley continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.