Posts Tagged ‘Last Tango in Halifax’

It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to hearts and flowers and bloggers try to find a new angle on the Valentine’s Day post. Looking back I have explored telly couples who were obviously destined for one another and, on the flip side, other pairings that probably weren’t a very good idea. This year I’m examining that tried and true plot device, the love triangle, in which one character has to choose between two (and sometimes more) suitors. I’ve compiled five examples of this exhilarating yet often heartbreaking scenario and at the end I’m going to ask you to vote for the trio who you felt did it best.

Miranda, Gary and Mike from Miranda

Once the poster girl for lonely hearts, now Miranda’s facing an embarrassment of riches (or proposals, as it were)!


Ross, Elizabeth and Demelza from Poldark

This is what happens when everyone thinks you’ve died in a far off war and it’s best for your betrothed to just move on. And then you meet a fire-haired street urchin…


Amy, Rory and The Doctor from Doctor Who

Miss Pond has carried a torch for the Doctor since they met (as adults anyway). Despite the fact that she married Rory, it takes some time for her husband to believe she prefers him over the fascinating Time Lord.


Assumpta, Leo and Peter from Ballykissangel 

What to do when you fall for a priest? Get married to an old school beau, that’s what.


Gillian, Robbie and John from Last Tango in Halifax

Considering Gillian’s track record with men, you could argue this one is a love square or perhaps even a pentagon. But since Robbie and John are her only age appropriate suitors, I feel I this qualifies as a three-sided love affair.

image credit Courtesy of Ben Blackall/© Anthony and Cleopatra Series Ltd

image credit Courtesy of Ben Blackall/© Anthony and Cleopatra Series Ltd


Now you decide. Take our poll and have your Valentine’s Day say!





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This week I started watching a mediocre sitcom on the UK’s Gold TV channel called Marley’s Ghosts. While nothing to shout about, it did give me my inspiration for this week’s Five for Friday and, seeing as Halloween is approaching, what could be more appropriate than TV apparitions.

Marley’s Ghosts

Marley (Sarah Alexander) finds herself losing loved ones and acquaintances left and right. First her drunken and indifferent husband Adam (John Hannah) followed in quick succession by her lover/work colleague Michael (Nicholas Burns) and the vicar (Jo Joyner) who officiated Adam’s funeral. Now Marley has a trio of ghosts following her everywhere and she’s not dealing with it very well. Is it Marley or her spectral shadows that are in need of closure?


Being Human‘s Annie

Though viewers were introduced to many an intriguing ghost in the course of this series, it cannot be debated that Annie Sawyer is the most endearing motherly poltergeist you’d ever want to meet. Sure, she has unfinished business which prevents her from leaving through Death’s Door, but she keeps the house ship shape and her boys in line. Annie is always there with a cup of tea and a sympathetic ear. But murder her and she doesn’t play so nicely…


The Fades

Speaking of unfinished business, what if you couldn’t complete the process of dying? Then you might be a Fade. The Fades aren’t exactly ghosts, but they’re pretty darn close. They are humans who have died, but weren’t able to get through one of the world’s quickly diminishing ascension points. They are trapped on Earth, doomed to age and decay while their loved ones, unaware of their torment, move on with their lives. It’s understandable then that these living corpses might get a bit down in the mouth.


Last Tango in Halifax

It’s probably more accurate to say that Kate (Nina Sosanya) is a figment of Caroline’s (Sarah Lancashire) grief-stricken imagination than a ghost. Whatever she is, Kate’s sudden death is haunting Caroline all the same. It’ll take time and several more chats with her beloved for Caroline to finally let go of this gentle, loving soul.

Caroline coping with grief by talking to "ghost" Kate image credit Red Production Co and BBC

Caroline coping with her loss by talking to “ghost” Kate
image credit Red Production Co and BBC


The Black Adder’s Richard III

Decapitation is one of the risks of war in the Middle Ages, I suppose. However, when you’re struck down by the “friendly sword” of one of your underlings, you’re bound to be irritated. Haunting (complete with mortifying name calling) is just what a recently deceased monarch needs to vent his copious amount of frustration.

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Last Tango in Halifax cast series 3 image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Last Tango in Halifax cast series 3
image credit Red Production Co/BBC Photographer – Ben Blackall

Don’t let the happy family photo above fool you. Last Tango in Halifax: Series Three was laden with tragedy, family clashes and secrets kept hidden away for years.

As you may or may not know, I wrote recaps for all the episodes from the most recent series for a PBS affiliate. According to comments we received on social media and the website for the channel, series three was notably polarizing. Some viewers felt it was the best series yet specifically praising the performance of Sarah Lancashire who plays Caroline.

However, complaints were many and varied. Therefore, I wanted to look at why this latest series rubbed folks the wrong way. In a nutshell, some of the main criticisms and pet peeves people expressed were as follows…

Editing of the British version by (or for) PBS: Some who have seen both the UK and US broadcasts were not pleased about what the American edits left out. Sexually suggestive scenes and shots of texts and notes that might have contained profanity were the most common things cut from episodes. Was PBS trying to be more family friendly (Last Tango did air in the 8 pm ET time slot) or were episodes just being trimmed for time? I don’t have the answer to that question, but some felt the network should be more forthcoming about the fact the installments were edited for US television and why.


Caroline (SARAH LANCASHIRE), Kate (NINA SOSANYA) image credit Red Productions, BBC

image credit Red Productions, BBC

Kate’s death – The mother-to-be’s demise eliminated two of the few diverse elements of the show. Kate was the only person of color who was a cast regular. It also ended the only same sex relationship of the series.



Celia Buttershaw (ANNE REID image credit Red Productions, Photographer: Rachel Joseph

Celia Buttershaw (ANNE REID)   image credit Red Productions, Photographer: Rachel Joseph

Celia emerging unscathed after her bad behavior: Whether she was making snide remarks about her daughter’s sexual orientation and life partner or behaving like a spoiled child when she found out her new husband had had a one night stand decades before he married her, the first half of the series was punctuated with Celia’s brooding and self-pity. After the sudden loss of Kate, Celia’s unkindness is forgiven which is understandable in the circumstances perhaps, but we don’t really see her grow from the experience. She continues to assert she is broadminded, an example to her family and “the bigger person” but we know that’s never going to be the case.


Alan (DEREK JACOBI), Gary (RUPERT GRAVES) image credit Red Production Co., BBC

image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Gary’s paranoia and insecurity got on a lot of people’s nerves: Alan’s new-found son Gary seems perfect at first – handsome, wealthy, successful. But the family is soon concerned with his fixation on them. Gary throws his money and influence around to impress and win them over and sulks when they politely reject his excessive overtures. He’s easily agitated when things don’t go his way and has the bad habit of pestering his new family until they surrender to his will. How else do you think he got so far in business?



GILLIAN (Nicola Walker) and JOHN (Tony Gardner) image credit Red Production Co., BBC

GILLIAN (Nicola Walker) and JOHN (Tony Gardner)
image credit Red Production Co., BBC

Gillian’s slutty ways: In the course of this series, Gillian slept with three men that I can recall and she was only engaged to one of them at the time. An abusive marriage has made her cautious but economic factors have made a new union a virtual life-line. Gillian’s  constant attempts to sabotage her own happiness as punishment for what she did to her first husband, however, were getting a bit stale by the end of the series.


Tipping over the edge from drama into melodrama: This sentiment was repeated again and again. Last Tango in Halifax used to be a good quality drama/romance about an adorable old couple who found one another after fifty years and now it’s become a soap opera.

As I wrote up my recaps for this series, I too felt some of the same frustrations.  My biggest complaint concerned what I felt was excessive repetition. Must we hear the same bit of news or gossip passed on from one character to another three or four times per episode? This is the way we pass information among our friends and family in real life, but it makes for boring television.

I think the problem many fans had with series three was actually the degree to which the characters’ behaved in realistic ways. People say petty, thoughtless things to one another. They can have racist or other prejudicial attitudes. They don’t think they are deserving of happiness so they do things to prove their unworthiness. In the middle of chaos and grief, people forgive their loved ones when in normal conditions they might hold a grudge much longer.

Show creator Sally Wainwright has given viewers a world that is simultaneously authentic in its human interactions, but rather extreme in the number of  tumultuous situations in which the characters find themselves. I surmise that the people who really enjoyed this past series prefer their characters flawed and their lives full of uncertainty. Those who don’t, probably gave up on the show already or will not tune in when it returns for series four next year. I’m still not sure which camp I’m in at the moment, but I know I wish these characters well no matter whether I decide to return to Halifax or not.


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Demographers report that the world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate.  If this is the case, television, our mirror on society, should reflect this phenomenon.  It’s not that American shows don’t include elderly characters but, more often than not, they fall under the category of senile grannies or dirty old grandads.  The most recent series I can think of that was senior centered had its run in the mid 80’s and featured these ladies:

image credit fanpop.com

image credit fanpop.com


On the other hand, during that same Golden Girl era I can think of a handful of British sitcoms that focused on the lives of pensioners, or retirees as we call them in the States. One Foot in the Grave, Waiting for God and the longest running sitcom in the world, The Last of the Summer Wine depicted relevant issues of aging in a humorous light.  Things such as what the “togetherness” of retirement does to a marriage, choosing resident activism over passivity in a care home, and serious commitment to staying young at heart.

If your only source of British programming is PBS, you might quite reasonably draw the conclusion that everyone in the UK is gray-haired, keeps an allotment, spends their evenings at the bingo hall and solves local village murder mysteries.  But the truth is that life experiences of older people vary greatly and British television has made admirable strides in portraying those differences.  Here are some of my favorite examples of OAPs on the telly from the past five years or so:

Doris from Gavin and Stacey

Doris is not your run of the mill, mild-mannered old lady next door.  Her drumming style is brave and offbeat (literally), she has a penchant for much younger men and, best of all, you always know where you stand with her.  There’s no candy coating with Doris, not even in the case of baby Neil’s christening.


Wilfred Mott from Doctor Who

Former soldier, amateur astronomer, and Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wilf is a very important person in the destiny of the Doctor.  Whether he’s attacking a Dalek with a paint gun or organizing his fellow pensioners in a search party to track down the Time Lord, Wilfred is brave, dedicated and endearingly tender-hearted.  His age doesn’t impede him from travelling through time and space on a few universe-saving adventures; however, Wilf is part of a prophecy that is very bad news for the Doctor’s tenth incarnation.


Tom and Roy from The Old Guys

Returning back down to earth, we find Tom and Roy, fellow retirees and housemates.  They are quite an odd couple in tastes and temperament which often tests the bonds of their friendship.  These two older gentlemen cope with the more mundane matters of aging such as health concerns and living on a pension though they spend much of their time concentrating on their romantic rivalry over a neighbor lady and their almost constant lack of female companionship.


The Cast of Derek

While the main characters of Derek aren’t senior citizens, the show takes place in a care home and presents us with the difficult realities of the lives of pensioners and the people who care for them.  The Broad Hill staff are wholly committed to the residents and the survival of their adopted home. Derek is a middle-aged man with possible intellectual disabilities who works at facility and his devotion knows no bounds.  He fundraises, plans activities and befriends every occupant of Broad Hill even though it eventually must end in heartbreak.


Alan and Celia from Last Tango in Halifax

Celia and Alan image credit guardian.co.uk

Celia and Alan image credit guardian.co.uk

Recently I came across a show whose main premise is a love story six decades in the making.  As fifteen year olds Alan and Celia fancied one another and were just about to begin courting when an undelivered note, a misunderstanding and a move to another city wrenched the would-be love birds apart.  Now 60 years later after both have lost their spouses, they reconnect on social media and BAM! discover the spark is still there after all this time.  There’s more to the story including the very dysfunctional lives of Alan and Celia’s adult daughters, but at the heart is a second chance at true love and the viewer is left in no doubt that these septuagenarians are well and truly smitten.

I’d like to specifically recognize Derek Jacobi’s performance as Alan Buttershaw.  He is humble, open-minded, patient, protective and vulnerable all at the same time. I don’t think I’ve seen a kinder, more human character of any age on television and I certainly hope if a second series is commissioned that Anne Reid’s more flawed character, Celia, will truly endeavour to deserve him.

So there it is.  I don’t know if these examples demonstrate that the British respect the elderly more than Americans do, but I just heard Maggie Smith in an interview on The Today Show say that if she went out to LA she’d scare everyone because they don’t see old people (at least not the naturally aging kind.)  I’m with Dame Maggie – grow old gracefully and feistily.  It’s got to be more fun.

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