The series was written by Russell T Davies, who had previously been responsible for the much-discussed Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk, another Red Production Company programme.
Bob was played by stand-up comedian and actor Alan Davies (no relation to writer Russell), who was at the time best known for his lead role in the BBC television mystery series Jonathan Creek. Rose was played by actress Lesley Sharp, who was nominated for the BAFTA and Royal Television Society Best Actress awards for the part. Although critically well-received, Bob & Rose was not a huge success in terms of audience share for ITV, and the final two episodes were relegated from prime-time to later night slots.
The story follows the life of gay school teacher Bob who is fed up with the shallowness of the gay club scene in Manchester. A romantic at heart, Bob yearns to meet the right person and settle down. After yet another unsuccessful date, he meets Rose while they are both waiting for a taxi cab. Rose is disenchanted with her down-to-earth boyfriend and is smitten with Bob but she does not initially realise he is gay. Subsequent episodes chart their on-off love affair which is bedeviled by the activities of Bob’s best friend Holly. Holly (Jessica Stevenson) is secretly in love with Bob and does everything she can to quietly interfere with Bob’s relationships with men because she does not want to lose him. Privately she is lonely and her only social life is through Bob and the gay clubs he visits. When Rose suddenly appears on the scene Holly sees her as a threat, stalks her and may (or may not – the plot leaves the final matter in doubt) conspire with Bob’s former boyfriend Carl to split Bob and Rose up. A situation is created which suggests Bob may have had a one-night stand with Carl and Holly deliberately preys on Rose’s insecurities and creates further doubts. Eventually she outright lies to Rose.
The story also follows the attempts of Rose’s mother to find a reliable boyfriend, and Bob's campaigning mother who runs a fictional gay support group called "Parents Against Homophobia" (PAH!). The series is a gentle romantic comedy with each episode managing to end at an emotional or comic climax – as when Bob follows Rose down the street after they argue in a pub. He admits that their first heterosexual sex act has confused him but he wants to do it again. Equally confused, Rose turns towards the camera and unromantically says: "Oh bollocks!" and the credits roll.
The script takes some shrewd looks at emotions and motivations but also contrasts the different atmosphere and attitudes within gay and straight UK night clubs – as in the scene where a straight man cannot get into a straight club wearing trainers but the gay men can enter their club wearing skimpy satin sports clothes. One important scene which explains Bob’s disenchantment with the gay clubs comes when he is approached by an attractive man who talks only about physical acts. Bob, desperate to be regarded as an individual replies: "I’m a Capricorn".
The series has an up-beat ending which manages to resolve issues for all the main characters - even Holly eventually learns from her mistakes and blossoms into a person in her own right. Bob and Rose find happiness and Carl gets an angelic dream date.
The first episode introduces the two characters. Bob is a secondary school English teacher by day and by night he goes to the gay clubs on Canal Street, Manchester, and has casual encounters. Rose is an office supervisor in her mid thirties, stuck in a stale relationship with a laddish boyfriend (Andy) who she no longer finds interesting. She still lives with her mother and her mum’s new boyfriend since moving in with Andy horrifies Rose. On a night out, Rose finds herself dumped on the wrong side of town by a creepy taxi driver while Bob discovers his latest male date is cheating on a live-in boyfriend and Bob walks out of the date’s home.
They find themselves on the same street, both trying to hail passing cabs. They strike up a conversation over an illicit cigarette (Rose has quit). After they go their separate ways Rose uses the Internet to look up Bob’s address. Thanks to Rose they meet again outside his house by "coincidence" and go agree to out together. Over dinner, Bob has to take his outer shirt off after the waitress spills a dirty plate on it. This reveals a gay-themed T-shirt and Rose reacts. After the meal, they continue talking and decide to return to Bob's house, where they hit the drinks. Later she spends the night in Bob’s bed on a drunken sleep-over until she notices he is aroused and she leaves in a taxi. Just before the taxi arrives, Bob and Rose are standing outside and spontaneously, they embrace and kiss passionately. Confused about his own emotions Bob immediately calls her again offering to take Rose to another restaurant. She agrees and the credits roll.
Bob takes Rose to a Canal Street club to meet some of his gay friends, some of whom he has slept with. This makes Rose slightly jealous. When the evening ends she visits her boyfriend on his night shift and gives him a food parcel and chats with him, possibly out of guilt for deceiving him.
Rose’s mother suspects there is another man on the scene and sees her plans to get her daughter settled down and out of the house in jeopardy.
She quickly motivates Andy to clean up and redecorate his place to make it (and him) a more appealing prospect. As soon as Rose visits she is unimpressed; sensing the hand of her mother behind everything she quickly gets angry. Rose asks Bob to take her away and they get the train to Blackpool. Kissing on the train the tension boils over and they make love in the train bathroom. Afterwards Bob doesn't know how to handle the situation and when Rose offers to get off the train and write the trip off as a bad idea he agrees. Meanwhile, Bob’s friend Holly (who clearly loves him) is curious about Rose and learning she works in admin for a big car repair facility smashes her own windscreen just to get a look at her "rival".
Bob goes to visit his middle aged parents who are involved in local gay rights activities and are unimpressed with Bob’s casual attitude towards their efforts. His mother chides his lack of fighting spirit by labelling him gay-esque or gay-lite.
Rose has given in to the pressure and agreed to move in with Andy despite her misgivings. As she arrives at his flat, Andy comes down to greet her but she drives off very quickly and meets Bob. At a pub she ask to move in to his spare room since she can't go home or to her boyfriend's. He makes some weak excuses and she throws a drink in his face. They argue outside the pub until Bob admits he wants her.
Episode three opens with Rose on her break at work, talking with her colleague over coffee. Her ex-boyfriend Andy arrives and he and Rose exchange possessions. Rose explains that she felt that their relationship had run its course and that she thinks that a split was best for both of them. He is upset and asks whether there was anyone else in her life. Rose replies that there is not.
While leaving their school, Bob tells colleague Holly that he is going out for dinner with Rose that evening. Holly dashes home and on the pretence of forgetting her booking, rings round local restaurants until she finds the one that Bob has booked. Holly then invites her baffled father out to dinner at the same restaurant. Rose's spurned boyfriend Andy calls round to her mother's house looking for her, and is told where she has gone. He turns up at the restaurant and amid some embarrassment, words are exchanged and Andy ends up punching Bob. Andy storms off, clearly upset and Rose goes after him.
At Andy' flat, she tries to explain what had happened when she met Bob, but he does not want to know. Having nothing else to say, she leaves. She is fed up with everyone's behaviour and it appears that Bob and Rose have split up.
Bob and Rose have returned to single life and once again, return to their normal haunts and friends. Bob is back in Canal Street with his gay friends and Rose is out with her single workmates and both groups spend the nights in separate nightclubs. Both Bob and Rose are standing alone in their nightclubs, separately considering their lifestyles and both voice their dis-satisfaction with the shallowness of their situations. Having had enough of their evening, they both leave and are walking along various streets, when they un-expectantly run into each other. They both return to Bob's house and hugging and kissing, come in through the door of the house.
Over a coffee, they talk things over and decide to give it another go.
Bob and Rose decide to make their relationship public and they meet each other's circle of friends. This leads to some awkwardness on both sides. Bob's friends are baffled at his sudden change of habits, but are generally supportive of his new partner. Rose's friends are impressed with Bob and do not know at this time that Bob is gay - Rose has remained silent on the matter.
Bob takes Rose to meet his parents, but they arrive at his parents house while Bob's mother is busy organising her protest group against homophobia prior to a demonstration. While all are busy, Bob describes the difficulties he had explaining his sexuality to his parents and their response to his news - particularly from his father. Bob loses his nerve to tell his parents about Rose and he and Rose decide to leave.
Rose visits Bob's friend and colleague Holly about Bob, while Bob visits his friend (and former boyfriend) Karl and discusses his future. He is becoming wary of becoming too involved, but admits he is besotted with Rose. Karl warns Bob about leading Rose on and where it is leading and Bob admits it worries him.
Rose takes Bob to her mothers house and they start to look for evidence of the financial problems of Rose's boyfriend Trevor. In the attic, they find some magazines of a James Bond fanzine and laugh at the content. Bob promises to look up the fanzine on the internet. Later, Bob and Rose go out to dinner with Rose's mother and her boyfriend, leading to conversation about James Bond and homosexuality that annoys Trevor. Rose is amused at Bob's teasing and joins in. Outside the restaurant, Rose confesses her love for Bob.
Bob arrive late at his parents house and tells his parents about Rose and his feelings for her. He is unsure of himself and awkward telling them that he has a girlfriend. He struggles to explain that he is gay but fancies Rose and wants the relationship with her to work. During the conversation, he realises his own parents are having problems with their own relationship.
The next day Bob and Holly attend the gay rights rally and Rose tells Bob again that she loves him. Bob rings Rose and tells her he loves her. Holly overhears and realises that she has lost Bob (who she secretly loves) and is devastated. During the rally, a sit-in occurs in front of a bus and Bob and his mother are arrested.
After being on the news for blocking the bus route with his mother during the protest, everyone is now aware of Bob and Rose's relationship and his sexuality. Rose's colleague pokes fun at her calling her boyfriend "Bobby Both Ways" and asks if he takes her shopping all the time. Later Bob and his mother plead "guilty and proud" in court and receive a minor fine, celebrating later in the pub with Rose and Holly. Holly is left out of the conversation between the two love birds and is . At a dinner with her mother and her boyfriend, Rose picks a fight with Trevor over his old school casual homophobia making everyone very uncomfortable. Holly attempts to meet up with an old boyfriend releasing her whole life has been on hold while she moons over Bob. It doesn't go well and the friend, Gary is more interested in the football game on in the pub. Bob's parents continue to argue and grow apart, with Bob's father expressing disgust at his wife's public embarrassment. Increasingly suspicious of Trevor's finances, Rose searches her mother's house looking for evidence of his financial problems, where they discover an unauthorised James Bond magazine edited by Trevor. Bob e-mails an old uber-nerd friend of his asking if he knows anything about Trevor and his Bond fanzine. Bob's mother leaves the family home and moves into her son's house, while his father meanwhile is outwardly happy his overly controlling wife has finally decided to give him some peace. Holly reaches out to Bob's old boyfriend Carl, who is actually ambivalent about Bob's relationship with Rose, but Holly hatches a plan to split them up. The day of the wedding arrives and as Rose's mother is having her hair done, Bob arrives with the dirt on Trevor from his friend. Rose tells her mother about Trevor stupidly using copyrighted photos for his magazine without permission and being sued for £30,000 by MGM. Her mother doesn't believe her, but Rose begs her to phone the bank to see if her money is still in the joint account. Her mother refuses and attacks Rose for trying to drive a wedge between her and Trevor. In the Register Office, the bride to have a change of heart and grabs her daughter's phone to check on the account which has been picked clean by Trevor leaving £32.The wedding is off amid acrimony. Holly and Rose get drunk at her place while Carl invites Bob for a drink as well where they discuss old friends and conquests, both helping to sow seeds of mistrust between the couple.
Bob tells Rose he got drunk with Carl at his place. Holly under the guise of friendship with Rose continues to plant doubts in her mind about what actually happened. Holly feeling guilty for what she has done goes to Carl in a Canal Street club and asks if he really slept with Bob. He tells her Bob wanted it but he stopped it. Holly knows this is lies as he's "never turned down a shag in his life." Bob and Rose break up due to Rose's suspicions about his suspected relationship with Carl despite Bob's denials. Bob's parents announce they are splitting up permanently and Bob is angry, chastising them and telling them the dating scene is depressing and monotonous and nothing ever works out. His parents both leave determined to reconcile their differences. Bob and Rose return to where they were at the beginning of the story, both going out with friends looking for the man of their dreams. Both of them are clearly unhappy with their old lives despite putting a brave face on the situation. Coming from going out with Rose and her friends Holly meets Bob on Canal Street where they spy a confused pupil from the school in the bar. Holly advises Bob to help the boy, Bob still depressed says "no-one was there to help me". Holly arranges to meet Rose and confesses that she lied to Rose about the relationship. She tells Rose that she had been in love with Bob since university and when he finally fell in love with a woman and it wasn't her. Later Holly and Bob sit on a bench spotting hot men together until she points out Rose sitting on another bench. Sensing a cruel set up, Bob gets up to leave but Holly slaps him around the face and forces him to stay put. Rose whistles a jaunty tune smiling and the couple walk into each other's arms. Sometime later, Bob and Rose try and convince Holly to attend dinner at their home. Holly however has clubbing plans with the girls. We see Holly and company clubbing and meeting men, while we see Carl meeting a beautiful body glittered dancer. Meanwhile, at home, Bob and Rose are eating at the dinner table complete with baby monitor. We are left at the close of the programme with the impression that their relationship is happy and they have had a baby together.
As with Queer as Folk, Bob & Rose involved homosexuality as a key theme. The storyline involves a gay man falling in love with a woman and was loosely based on events in the real life of a friend of Russell Davies. This storyline caused an uproar among some gay rights activists who felt that the series premise made it appear as if being gay was a choice or a phase, which then generated a strong counter-reaction by bisexuals who called the criticism unfair. However, the ‘Bob’ character states categorically in the script that he is not bisexual saying: "I was born gay, I’ll die gay and I’ll have a gay gravestone". He says that he was attracted to Rose as a person and not as a gender choice. He says he will ‘always look at men’ but Rose is the only woman for him.
The entire series of six episodes was released on DVD on 15 April 2002 in the UK and on 17 February 2004 in the USA. The age certificate for the DVD in the UK is 15. The front cover is a photo of Bob & Rose hugging and smiling, with the series logo above them.