When it comes to making money, it sometimes feels as if Hollywood is completely ignores the facts. In terms of hard numbers and dollars and cents, reality is all around, but Hollywood doesn’t see it. Hollywood is like those climate change deniers: their minds are made up so don’t bore them with facts.
Movies with hunky guys make money. Everyone loves a movie with a hunky guy. Hunky guys doing heroic things are inspiring. Hunky guys falling in love with beautiful women are what life should be about. Lots of hunky guys in big armor plated outfits going around fighting in wars are especially appealing. Right?
Actually, Hollywood, that’s not what I think.
There are 100 million people over the age of 50 in the U.S. Those 100 million people control almost 70% of all disposable income in the U.S. That’s the crowd buying a third of all movie tickets.
Based on numbers alone, at least of a third of the movies released each year should be directed at people over 50.
Women are 51% of the population of the U.S. Women are 52% of the movie going, ticket buying population. Women make or influence 85% of all buying decisions.
Based on numbers alone, at least half of the movies released each year should be directed at women.
Combine the over 50 part and the female part and it paints a very different picture than the norm of what we get out of Hollywood. Older women should be the the target audience for Hollywood.
Television is better, but not yet perfect.
Television more often shows us older men and women who are simply real people doing what real people do. They aren’t armor plated or leaping from tall buildings. They are living, learning, loving. And it’s not just characters over 50. They might even be over 70!
There’s money and ticket sales in even the tales of the over 70 crowd.
Hollywood should give a listen to the facts. Or, Hollywood could continue to be surprised every time a “women’s” movie outsells a big blockbuster. While they’re being surprised, we’ll all be watching something else – maybe a web series starring women over 50.
At the registry office, Celia (Anne Reid) sits in a very pretty suit clutching a bouquet as episode 2 of Last Tango in Halifax begins. We’re mere minutes from the end of episode 1 when Gillian ran out the farmhouse door after finding the card from the Registry Office.
A man in an apron sits beside Celia, asking how long it will take. Alan (Derek Jacobi) drags in a policeman. He lassoed them to be witnesses to the wedding, but has to promise them both a £20 note to get them to stay. Celia looks like she has many misgivings about these two being at her wedding instead of her family but Alan breezes along as if he doesn’t see it.
Gillian (Nicola Walker) slams the Land Rover into a parking spot and runs into the Registry Office.
Gillian’s upset, angry, hurt, defensive. She berates everyone, angrily blaming her father’s behavior on Celia. She walks out, comes back to yell some more, and leaves again.
Celia says she’s a bit shaken. She wants to ring Caroline. Alan says they should ignore Gillian. Celia said getting married in secret was supposed to be a bit of fun. Alan insists they shouldn’t let it make any difference.
Gillian, outside in her car, is falling to pieces. Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) phones, but Gillian lets it go to voice mail. Instead, Gillian calls Robbie (Dean Andrews) and wants to meet him during his lunch time.
John (Tony Gardner), at Judith’s (Ronni Ancona), calls Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and says he wants to talk to her soon. Caroline tells him to come to her office at 1:30.
Robbie and Gillian meet in a pub. It’s so nice that she has someone to call now. I remember an earlier scene where Gillian really needed someone to talk with and there was no one there for her. Robbie is. Robbie tells Gillian he thinks she’s overreacting. He tells her she can’t be jealous. She responds, “I’m not jealous.” Then she goes on to make all sorts of jealous remarks about how posh Caroline is. She talks about how much she and Alan have been at odds the last two weeks. When Robbie asks what they’re at odds about, she won’t explain. Finally Robbie says, “Should we get married and not tell anyone?” This elicits a big smile from Gillian. The scene ends so we don’t know if it was a serious proposal or if Gillian gave a serious answer.
In Caroline’s office, John is telling Caroline that he wants everything to go back like it was. He’s disheveled and rumpled and looks pathetic.
Caroline considers his remarks with a serious expression, walks around her desk to sit beside him, and says, “I’ve moved on. You have to get used to that.”
“My publisher’s dropped me.” John says. She offers him tea in an act of kindness or perhaps pity.
When Gillian returns to the farm, Celia and Alan are waiting inside. Gillian says, “I may have overreacted.”
Alan says, “It were just meant to be a bit of fun, an adventure. Nobody was excluding anybody. Why would you think it was all about you?”
Gillian says she thought it was because of what he said to her when he learned she’d slept with John. Alan and Celia try to explain their behavior, but Gillian continues to fuss.
Alan stands up to go and tells Gillian, “I’ve said what I’ve said. It’s true. If you’re not prepared to accept it, there’s very little I can do.” It’s an unusually firm dismissal of Gillian’s feelings from Alan and not in keeping with his character up to this point, which makes me wonder what’s really going on. Gillian looks at Celia and says, “What have you done to him? He didn’t used to be like this!”
Alan says, “We’re married now. We expected our surprise to make everyone happy. Not this.” Gillian apologizes again for overreacting. When they drive off, Gillian mimes shooting herself in the head, and walks back to the house pulling her hair.
Raff (Josh Bolt) calls. He wants to bring Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) home for tea. Gillian says okay. “Your granddad’s got married.”
Two cars pull in to Caroline’s house. Caroline and Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) are in Caroline’s SUV, Kate (Nina Sosanya) drives up in a smaller, sportier car. Caroline gets out and greets Kate with, “Have a good day?” This must be their routine now that Kate’s moved in. Meanwhile, Lawrence continues to sit in the car and look daggers at Kate.
In the kitchen, Caroline tells everyone she thinks Celia and Alan got married. She says it’s just as well they did it on their own because she wouldn’t have had time to go. Kate says, “Yes, you would.” Caroline says, “Kate, I haven’t got time to get divorced, much less go to someone else’s wedding.”
Kate levels a stare at her, “You ARE going to find time to get divorced.” In return, Caroline gives Kate a beautiful, loving smile. We have to read a lot into that smile. We see Alan and Celia talking, laughing, holding hands, snuggling – we see Gillian and Robbie working together at the farm, talking, supporting each other – but we haven’t seen much interaction between Caroline and Kate. I think that one smile is pulling a heavy load.
Lawrence said he heard John was at school today looking hung over. Kate wants to know what they talked about. Caroline says she’ll tell her later.
Caroline leaves the room for a moment, and Lawrence says, “It’s not rocket science why they didn’t invite you.”
When Caroline comes back, Kate says, “You don’t they didn’t invite anyone to the wedding because of me.” Caroline says, “What makes you think that?”
Raff and Ellie are at the farm, having tea with Gillian and Robbie. Gillian curses Caroline, Celia and everything that has anything to do with Harrogate and her dad leaving the farm.
Celia and Alan arrive in Harrogate. They relax in the car a few minutes taking about being married, what they used to do with their time before they were together (they don’t remember). Alan whispers, “It’s our wedding night.”
Inside, Caroline pours champagne and offers congratulations. She tells them Kate has gone home to her own place for the night while they sort out a few things.
She said William has a job in town and Lawrence is upstairs sulking. He got in trouble for his remarks to Kate. Alan explains that it’s nonsense to think that their decision had anything to do with Kate.
Caroline tells them about John losing his publisher, which means he can’t afford to buy her out. She wants to buy John out. She says she’s getting the house evaluated, but she thinks it’s worth about £850,000. She asks her mother for £100,000. Plus, she plans to ask Kate to sell her house to contribute, too. Suddenly she realizes she’s talking to them about money on their wedding day and sends them off with the bottle of champagne.
Celia stays behind a moment. She tells Caroline that the hurried secret wedding was actually because of the consultant’s warning in the hospital that Alan probably wouldn’t survive another heart attack. Alan likes to pretend they just did it for a bit of fun, but that they really just wanted to get it done.
The continuity in this scene drove me crazy. The level of champagne in the glasses changed every time the camera angle changed.
Robbie and Gillian are washing dishes when Raff asks if Ellie can stay the night there. Gillian quickly says no. Raff says, “The thing is. She’s pregnant. It’s mine. She’s 8 months. Her parents chucked her out.”
Next morning, Gillian calls Alan and tells him Raff wants to leave school. When Alan wants to know why, she says, “There’s a girl involved. It’s a man thing.” Celia says she’ll drive Alan over to Halifax.
Caroline and Kate are deep in conversation as they walk to assembly. Caroline asked Kate to sell her house. Kate says it’s so early in their relationship. She’s concerned about how settled they are and Caroline says, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” The audience hasn’t seen the degree of depth developed between these two that would make us believe Caroline is ready to make that powerful a statement, but Kate is moved by it. They are in the hall behind a huge room full singing students. Kate grins, “I can’t kiss you here.” Caroline smiles, too, and says, “You really can’t.” They look as if they might, anyway.
Caroline says things are just moving faster than expected because of her need to buy out John. Kate promises to get her house evaluated. Then she says, “I would have brought it up later, when things were more settled, but I want you to know I want to have a baby.” Caroline looks stunned, then laughs. Kate says, “I’m serious,” just as the singing ends and Caroline has to turn to walk down the aisle for assembly.
At the farm, Gillian tells Celia and Alan that Ellie is inside and pregnant. Gillian is taking her to the doctor in a few minutes. Raff is convinced it’s his.
Inside, Ellie is having contractions. Guess the 8 months number was a little off. Alan, who needs zero excitement about now, says he’ll get her to hospital and Gillian should go get Raff.
Celia calls Caroline to tell her she’s delivering babies. The question is whether it’s really Raff’s. Celia tells Caroline not to worry about money. She asks if Caroline’s talked to Kate. Caroline says yes, but she hesitates to explain about Kate wanting a baby. It’s hard to tell just yet what difference, if any, that’s going to make.
Celia says, why don’t you just sell the house? Caroline says, “I can’t sell that house.” She’s mentioned before how attached she is to that particular house. Will she let it ruin her relationships with everyone to keep it?
In Ellie’s hospital room, she’s clutching Alan’s arm during her contractions and talking about how she doesn’t want a baby. He tries to be reassuring. She tries to pretend she’s not even there. Raff arrives. The midwife says it will still be a few hours. Gillian wants to know if Ellie’s rung her mom and says she will if Ellie hasn’t.
Alan and Celia snack on junk food in the hall, talking about how Celia almost died giving birth to Caroline.
They discuss the fact that Raff and Ellie are the same age they were when they fell in love. Celia says, “We never would have carried on like that.” Alan says, “They do now. We were before the swinging 60s.” Alan says, “I’m very good with babies. I never thought I’d live to be a great granddad.” He says he’d have to help with money to keep Raff in school. Celia says, I can’t see Caroline short either over this house business.
Gillian reports that Ellie’s parents can’t be found.
Judith arrives home with a sack of rattling bottles. She immediately pours a drink in a dirty cup from beside her computer. John is there with black trash bags full of his belongings. He says he’s going to get a flat near the university. He tells her about his publisher. She says he was just lucky for a while and that he’s never dared to do anything properly dangerous. She tells him to piss off.
Caroline and Kate are walking beside a playing field outside the school. Lawrence and a friend watch from across the field. The friend says, “Do they snog (I think that’s the word he used). Lawrence says, “I don’t know.” He also says he might move in with his dad.
Kate is talking about a baby. She has a donor in mind. A guy she went to university with named Greg. She says he’s nice, clever, good, like Caroline – one of the grown ups. Kate says it would be so easy because they could just “do it.” Caroline says, does he want children. Kate says it’s more about whether Kate and Caroline want children.
Caroline, with very defensive body language, asks questions about Greg, his marriage and betrays that she might be a bit jealous. She says, “I need to meet him.” Kate says okay.
Caroline says, “Why didn’t you and Richard?” (Richard is Kate’s ex husband.) Kate answers, “We did. Four times. It never got beyond 12 weeks.” So much loss in Kate’s past – that tells us a lot more about her than we’ve known before. Caroline says, “Oh, God. I’m sorry.” Caroline tells her she’s not daft to want a baby. Kate says I wouldn’t do it on my own. We’d be talking sleepless nights and nappies. Caroline says, “I could do all that.”
Speaking of babies, Ellie’s pushing and Raff’s fainting and Alan’s coaching her along with the midwife (more excitement Alan doesn’t need). Ellie asks him to call her granddad. Guess who he is? Harry, Alan’s mate (Paul Copley).
John strides across the university campus with his black trash bags. He approaches his office as he calls Gillian. He says, “I know you’re seeing Robbie, but we know that’s just a disaster.”
“Really?” says Gillian.
“Really,” he says. “You also said you needed an investment in the farm. Caroline wants to buy my half of the house. It would be 400, 450 grand, cash.”
Gillian says, “You think you can just buy me?” He, of course, says no. He asks to see her on the weekend. She asks if they can have the conversation later.
It’s a girl. 6 pounds 3 ounces. Ellie’s mother (Susan Cookson) finally shows up and says this is the first she’s heard of Ellie’s pregnancy. Harry’s arrived. The adults take turns blaming each other as they argue in the hallway. Raff and Ellie are in her room.
Alan holds the baby as Celia says, Well, we got married and we got a baby. They kiss as the camera closes in on the baby.
Season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax begins with Celia (Anne Reid) in a hospital corridor phoning Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) to tell her than Alan (Derek Jacobi) has come round and, “is feeling rather perky.”
A very happy Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Raff (Josh Bolt) are at Alan’s bedside. Gillian mentions that she thinks she loves Celia, Raff chimes in, “So do I.” Alan tells Raff to keep his hands off – Celia is his. Alan’s smiling and joking. Perky, indeed.
Outside the hospital, Celia, Gillian and Raff make plans for Celia to stay in Halifax at the farm until Alan is released. Celia comments that she’ll get Caroline to bring her some things.
Gillian gives Celia a hug and says, “Thank you. Thank you for making him so happy. I think you brought him back. You mustn’t fall out with him again.”
Celia answers, “I am NEVER gonna fall out with him again. Ever. About anything!”
Robbie (Dean Andrews) has taken it upon himself to help work the farm. We see him repairing fences as Gillian and Celia drive up. When they are all in kitchen, Robbie serves tea. He says he’s made a lasagne.
On the phone, Celia and Caroline discuss Caroline’s trip to the farm. Celia tells her Gillian’s invited her to stay the night and Caroline says okay. When Caroline tells John (Tony Gardner) she’ll be staying in Halifax, he wants to come with her – we know he wants to see Gillian again, but she does not. She tells him to stay home with the boys.
John explains how he really needs to go apologize because if it hadn’t been for him, Alan wouldn’t have had the heart attack. Caroline says, “It really is all about you.” She says when she gets back they need to work out what’s what between them.
As Caroline leaves, John immediately texts Gillian. She responds with Don’t. Text. Me.
Caroline calls Kate (Nina Sosanya) as she’s driving to Halifax. She explains she won’t be able to see Kate that night but wants to see her the next night. Kate is still a little unsure of her ground with Caroline and every conversation they have is fraught with importance to her.
At the farm, Celia is taking part in Gillian’s family life, which includes Robbie and Gillian teasing Raff about a girl named Ellie. John can’t get Gillian to take his calls or texts, so he calls Celia’s phone and after a few moments of inquiry about Alan, asks to speak to Gillian. Gillian takes the phone because Celia hands it to her.
With Robbie, Raff and Celia listening to her end of the conversation, Gillian tries to tell John to get lost in words that don’t reveal to her listeners what she’s doing. He won’t take the hint. He tells her he thinks he’s a little bit in love with her. He wants to meet up. She says no. She says, “Did you get my text message?” Finally she has to hang up on him while pretending to give him a cherry goodbye.
He calls Judith.
Alan says he gets to come home on Monday. Gillian, Celia and Caroline are clustered around him. Gillian wants to know what the prognosis is and what the doctor told him he could do and could not do. Alan is evasive about it with Gillian. He suggests Gillian and Caroline go have a cuppa.
Celia sits on the bed beside Alan and says, “Bugger everyone. Let’s get married immediately.” He wants to as well. And he wants to do it in secret without telling anyone. Celia isn’t sure about this idea and questions him gently, but definitely doesn’t fall out with him about it. She agrees to keep it a secret. She wants to know what the doctor said. He will only answer, “I’m A-1.”
In the hospital cafeteria Caroline and Gillian talk. Gillian says she wonders if you can die of a broken heart. She thought that’s what made her father have a heart attack. Then Gillian asks about Kate.
Caroline says she wishes everyone didn’t know about it, because she and Kate aren’t quite sure where they are themselves. Caroline wanted to get it all sorted through with Kate before it became public knowledge. Gillian says, “Yeah, the whole world is looking at you like they want you to make an announcement.”
Gillian says, “I want to tell you something.” She’s going to confess to the sex-with-John-mess. She bumbles and stumbles, doubles round and round, and explains badly.
Before Gillian can get it out, Caroline says, “You slept with John.” She expects Gillian to say, no that’s not it. Instead Gillian says, “I was pissed. It was my birthday. I felt sorry for him.”
“Oh, you really have slept with John? What was it like?”
“I don’t actually remember very much about it. Except that it happened. Are you hating me?”
Caroline says no. Gillian continues to apologize. Caroline is smiling. She says, “You can have him.” Gillian answers, “I don’t want him.” Caroline is actually laughing, trying to deal. Caroline realizes that was the night she was propping Judith up in casualty. She was in hospital with one of John’s women and he was off screwing another one. “Blimey,” she says, and finally looks serious. Gillian attempts a joke with a movie quote.
The 3 women pile in the Land Rover to head for the farm. When they enter, Caroline asks about Paul. Gillian says she finally got shut of him by sending him to his granny’s. Gillian goes off to make tea. Things are awkward between Gillian and Caroline now. Caroline says she thinks she’ll go back home. Celia asks Caroline if she’d mind if she and Alan came to live in her flat – it has no stairs. Caroline says it’s fine by her.
Celia walks Caroline out to her car. Caroline tells her about Gillian and John.
Caroline asks, “How do people do that? Why is everything so casual and meaningless?” She says she’s a bit shocked. She says, “Do you think before Judith, John was . . . ” That’s really what’s on her mind – has this been a more frequent thing with John than she knows. Celia promises not to say anything to Gillian about knowing.
Next morning, Celia arrives at the hospital to bring Alan home. They are so happy to see each other, happy to be together.
As soon as he’s released, they head for a scenic spot atop a rock which drops off before them for a fabulous view. All the outdoor shots of the countryside around Yorkshire are beautiful, but the camera loves this spot. We see the rock and the spectacular views from every angle as they talk. Alan says he wants to do everything now. He asks her if she’s ever fancied skiing. She says no and they laugh. They talk about their youth and things they did in that spot as teens. Celia says she and her mother scattered her father’s ashes from there. They talk about old friends who are no longer with them. Yet here they are, alive, together, and happy. He wants to pop over to the registry office. She asks again if they are serious about not telling anyone. He insists they are.
At the registry office, they make an appointment for the wedding to be tomorrow at 11 AM. They take the appointment time with them on a card.
Gillian greets them at the farm (she’s chopping wood with an ax, not a log splitter). She asks if they’ve set a date and they say no. They tell Gillian they want to live in Celia’s flat while Alan’s recovering.
Gillian doesn’t take the news well. She wants Alan near her. Celia says her flat has no stairs and she can take care of him 24/7, unlike Gillian, who has to work. Gillian accepts the decision reluctantly. She wants to come with them to help get him set up the next day.
Celia and Alan go up to the bedroom, where they lay on the bed laughing and talking. They are so easy with each other, so happy together.
Downstairs, Gillian listens to them laughing. She looks troubled and worried.
Next morning as they drive to Harrogate, Celia tells Alan about Gillian sleeping with John. It upsets him. He shakes his head in disgust.
Caroline enters the kitchen and tells John that Gillian is coming and Kate is there. He wants all the details about Gillian arriving. Instead, Caroline tells him Kate’s moving in.
John gets upset about Kate moving in. Caroline says, “After what happened here on Saturday night, you have no business talking about what other people are doing.” This angry conversation has something to do with Judith.
When Celia, Alan and Gillian arrive in Harrogate, Gillian sees Caroline’s gorgeous house and says, “You did all right for yourself here, Dad.” He responds by berating her about John. She tries to explain, but he’s not having it. He calls her a name, some British slang my American ears couldn’t make sense of. However, it isn’t the worst thing he could have called her, which is what Gillian expected.
In the kitchen, Kate says she’s put her bags in Caroline’s bedroom. “How permanent is this?” she asks. Caroline says they need to talk it through properly.
Caroline leans on the counter, gives Kate an affectionate smile, and says, “Is this what you want?”
“Do you need to ask?” Kate says.
In Celia’s little flat, Alan calls Gillian an “ongoing disappointment.” She tries again to defend herself and talks about how much she regrets what happened. Alan tells Celia, “She were pregnant when she were 15. She broke her mother’s heart.” Gillian is stung by this and by his disapproval.
In the middle of this tense moment, Caroline pops in. She invites them to dinner. She tells them Kate is there. She says she didn’t plan it exactly, and asks them to bear with her. She tells the story about Saturday night when she arrived back unexpectedly to find a drunk Judith (Ronni Ancona) falling down her stairs in a bathrobe, a drunken John dressed only in his underwear, and two upset boys witnessing the whole thing.
Caroline tells them John said, “You have friends round, I have friends round.” She told John to have things cleaned up by the morning. He said, “Whatever,” as Judith threw up on the floor.
Caroline went to Kate’s with the boys. When she got back in the morning she asked John to move out. He refused. Caroline explains that she asked Kate to move in “in the hopes that at some point he will get the message.” Well, it seems Kate was wise to be a little concerned about her status in the household. Caroline’s motives don’t look entirely pure if this description to her mother is used to judge her commitment to Kate.
John lurks around like a schoolboy, asking questions about Gillian, trying to catch a glimpse of her.
Gillian wants out of there. Her father’s condemnation has her ready to run. John tries to chase her down, but Caroline beats him to her. Caroline wants Gillian to come inside. John peeks at them through the mail slot. He’s hilarious doing it, like something out of a Shakespeare comedy.
Gillian wonders why Caroline told Celia about her and John. Caroline doesn’t offer a very good reason, but she sees that Gillian is upset about her father knowing. Gillian tells Caroline about having an abortion at 15 and that her father just told her it broke her mother’s heart.
As Gillian heads off in the car, John speeds out, runs down the driveway and hops in beside her. He tells her she can’t ignore him. She wants him to get out. He says, “We had sex.” She says, “Boy, am I paying for it now!”
They argue and try to explain themselves. He says his publisher’s dropped him. She reveals she’s worried about the farm and money issues. Wow, does anyone have pure motives around here? He wants to come over. She says, “I’m seeing Robbie.” I don’t know what this means to a Brit, but to an American “seeing someone” implies sex. This finally gets John out of her car.
John goes inside and joins everyone at dinner. Things are incredibly awkward. Celia gives John a death stare.
Morning on the farm, Gillian gathers the sheep and loads them in a trailer. Parallel to this are school children filing into assembly. Gillian and Caroline are at work herding their charges, unaware of their parents’ plans. Later Gillian is cleaning and finds the card with the appointment for the wedding on it.
Gillian calls Caroline and tells her about the secret wedding. Gillian is really bothered by the idea of not being there for her dad’s wedding. Caroline says she can be there if Gillian can. They talk a bit more, and Caroline says maybe they wanted to avoid a fuss. Caroline’s not nearly as upset as Gillian.
Gillian hangs up on Caroline and runs out the door.
I know I have lots of feelings about this news, and I’m sure the dedicated Last Tango fans do, too.
First, where would it be set? I just made up the part about Santa Fe. It’s a cool place, there are ranches surrounding it, and a lot of films get made in New Mexico. It might be a sensible location for a series that needs both urban and rural settings along with great scenery. Diane Keaton has not asked for my opinion in this matter, however.
Who would be in it? Would Diane Keaton play Celia? She’s 67. What American actresses are in their 70s? Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, Julie Christie, Candice Bergen are a few possible names. So we have talent in that age category, but American women don’t look their age. That’s a bit of a problem. Do we want to see anyone who doesn’t look as genuine Anne Reid in the role?
There are simply tons of older men to choose from for Alan. Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Peter Coyote and dozens more. But I so like Derek Jacobi’s sweet and loving Alan. Some swaggering American who is used to waving a gun around just doesn’t feel right. And 70 year-old American men still fancy themselves leading men who should be snaring women 30 and 40 years younger than themselves. That’s a bit of a problem, too. As for the feckless John, Tony Gardner was perfection in this part. Who could equal that?
What about Caroline and Gillian and Kate? Remember my dream actress pairing of Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals? Think they’d make a good Caroline and Kate? Other actresses in their 40s abound, include Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Garner, Renée Zellweger and lots more. But I’m sort of convinced that Sarah Lancashire is irreplaceable as Caroline. Nicola Walker in her jeans and Converse sneakers brings such nuance and subtlety to Gillian.
Casting is a challenge. Adapting the dialog and locations will be a challenge as well. Diane Keaton has taken on a huge task to make this wonderful story American. I wish her well, and I wish her great luck finding the right people to do the writing and casting and create the sets.
I’m really attached to Last Tango in Halifax. Even so, Diane Keaton is trustworthy, in my opinion. If anyone can make a love story about older adults shine, it should be Diane Keaton. Who knows, I may love the American version of this tale of second chances as much as I do the British one.
When I get attached to a show, like the Millennium series in Swedish (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest) I feel a vague dread at the arrival of American versions. Then I go see it (of course) and I like it on it’s own merit. It isn’t the same as the original, but it still has the characters and the story and I end up enjoying both versions. I’m ready to see what happens to this lovely British tale of second chances. Go, Diane!
What if you picked the top 3 shows from the fall season that you were the most excited about, the most eager to see, and most wanted to recommend and talk about? That’s the question I asked myself. Here is my answer.
Last Tango in Halifax
Choice number 1, and an all time favorite, is Last Tango in Halifax. This BBC series was shown in the U.S. on PBS.org, where you can still watch all six episodes of season 1.
Last Tango in Halifax is built around Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid). They were in love as teens, and probably should have married but did not because of an interesting plot twist. Sixty years later they find each other again via Facebook. They realize they are still in love and decide to get married. Their story by itself is warm and wonderful and a real treat.
We get more story than just an adventurous Alan and Celia from Last Tango in Halifax, however. The children and grandchildren of these two charming, Facebook using elders get into the mix.
Celia’s daughter Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) is headmistress of a school. She’s brilliant and snotty and sarcastic and positively luminous. Her husband of 18 years (Tony Gardner) recently ran off with another woman. In his absence, Caroline began a relationship with another teacher at her school, a woman named Kate (Nina Sosanya). When the series opens, Caroline has yet to tell anyone in her family that she’s seeing a woman. Her coming out affects each person differently and causes mayhem in several episodes. Caroline, her two sons, and Celia live in a big house with a cottage for Celia. As the season begins, Caroline’s husband arrives and wants to come back home.
Alan’s daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker) is a farmer in Halifax. She’s been a widow for 10 years and runs the farm on her own. Alan and Gillian’s teen aged son live on the farm with her. She builds rock walls, drives tractors, replaces clutches and generally is the perfect self-sufficient woman. Well, except for her habit of choosing inappropriate sex partners like 20 year old boy toys of questionable character who are already engaged to someone else. Gillian’s sexual choices cause mayhem in every episode.
The love stories of this extended group of northern England’s most engaging characters are riveting and often run parallel as everyone in both families gets a second chance at love. The best part? They are already filming season 2.
Give me music and I’ll love you. My favorite episode of Grey’s Anatomy? The musical one. My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The musical one. I love Glee and Smash (is that even still on?) and I love Nashville.
I’m also pretty darn big on Connie Britton, and she’s the star of this drama, playing country music legend Rayna Jaymes. Connie Britton isn’t a great singer, but she’s good enough. Hayden Panettiere (who is a very good singer) plays Juliette Barnes, a young country star who is trying to unseat Rayna from her throne as the queen of country. There is plenty of musical talent on this show from many other characters. A special favorite is Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett O’Connor, and possesses a wonderful voice. Lots of guys with guitars and big hats fill out the singing contingent. Rayna’s family is into politics so there’s political drama along with all the music industry goings-on. Rayna and Juliette both have rather messy love lives, further adding to the weekly drama.
I love the music, I love the characters (even Juliette, who we are supposed to hate) and I love the soapy melodrama of Nashville.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
I am so not the target demographic for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I love it anyway. I mostly love it because it reflects Joss Whedon’s sensibility about what makes a good story. That means that the gender balance is perfection, the women are as powerful and smart as the men and no concept is too ridiculous a stretch of science fiction to entertain.
I happen to believe that we need more geeky female role models for young girls (who are part of the target demographic for this show). Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a female jet pilot warrior commando, a female scientist, and a female hacker. Role models everywhere.
These are the 3 shows I get the most excited about seeing each week from this year’s fall TV season. What are your three?
We’ve seen all of season 1 of Last Tango in Halifax now. It’s a good time for some reflections and personal reactions. There are many – I’ll list them randomly.
Credit for creating, directing and producing this show falls to Sally Wainwright. She won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Writer: Drama for the series. The show itself won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Series. Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire were all nominated for BAFTA TV Awards. I think the awards and nominations were well deserved!
Except for Derek Jacobi, every face in the cast was new to me. Every performance was outstanding. I’m particularly enamored with Sarah Lancashire. She projects great strength and grace and is positively luminous.
Nina Sosanya is fabulous. She’s had roles since 1992 – over 20 years as an English actress – and I’m just discovering her. She was in a number of TV series as well as Love, Actually which I must rewatch and look for her.
It’s frustrating to be in the U.S. and want to see TV shows with these English actors and actress and not be able to get them.
I really enjoyed the way the story explored the parallel lives of Caroline and Gillian and other characters. From the first episode when we saw Caroline sweeping down the aisle in her cap and gown as headmistress of her school while Gillian swept through the aisles of the supermarket, we knew we were in for a look at their two parallel worlds. The fact that they shared the same birthday, that they were both so lonely, and that they reached out to each other so quickly really worked for me. It’s like they are the sisters they laughed about being if their parents had lived different lives.
I loved the way Celia’s happiness gave Caroline permission to find her own happiness.
Gilllian was so capable and self-reliant while still being vulnerable and way too impulsive about her choices in men. She built walls and backed up tractors and installed a clutch without batting an eye. What a woman! She is one of the most interesting and most messed up characters I’ve seen in ages. All props to Nicola Walker for making her so fascinating (although she always looks like she’s checking the oil when she’s supposed to be installing a clutch).
I loved that Celia and Alan found each other again using Facebook! Technology changes our lives in so many ways, particularly in the way we connect with others. I’m an elder myself, and I know that many elders use technology like Facebook and blogs on a regular basis – it’s a very ordinary thing – and it’s good to see it treated as ordinary in a TV series.
The relationship between Celia and Alan was simply a delight. I loved that Celia and Alan were in their 70s and still vital, engaged, in love, and great dancers.
I liked the sets and the houses they used and the way the sets were lit. The lighting was wonderful. I loved the scenery around the farm and the landscape vistas we got to see. The costumes were perfect.
Celia’s transition from homophobic judging and condemning Caroline to accepting her choices – even though it was forced by Alan – was important. It happened really fast (we only had one episode for her to have an epiphany and grow) but it showed that a woman of 75 can be flexible and adaptable and evolve. That is a big deal. Anne Reid’s performance in episode 6, where all the drama over accepting Kate takes place, was stunningly good.
Celia and Alan fell in love as teens. Caroline told her mother at 18 that she was interested in women. Decades pass in which those early realizations and attachments don’t come to pass. Yet they remain as strong a pull on the heart as ever. When those buried emotions finally make their way out of the subterranean world where they were stored, they are as true as ever they were. This is another example of the parallel story telling that works so well in this series.
I love that Celia had to deal with Kate not just as a woman but as a woman of color. Celia had to deal with both issues as part of her character development – a lot to tackle in one episode. (Race relations in England are very different from the sorry state of race relations in the U.S., but it still seemed to be a hurdle for Celia.)
The three boys, Gillian’s one and Caroline’s two, were so protective of their mothers. They hit it off immediately when they met at the engagement do at the farm. In the same way that Caroline and Gillian are connected, I think the boys connected as well – another parallel storyline.
Alan and Gillian’s relationship as father and daughter was so loving and supportive. Inspiring.
John (Tony Gardner) worried that Caroline faked it with him, and that she was thinking of a woman when they were together. His questioning of his entire sexual history and manhood when he learns that Caroline is seeing a woman is beautifully done and rings true. If it had been another man he would have been hurt or jealous or territorial. But another woman really rattled his world. It was important that Caroline reassured him, told him she’d loved him and enjoyed sex with him. It was important partly because he needed to hear it but also because we needed to know that Caroline accepted her choices and her past without blame or regret.
In a series about second chances, I like that we waited until the final episode of season 1 to find out what Gillian longed for in terms of second chances. Gives us something new to look forward to in season 2.
Assuming Celia and Alan do get married in season 2, I’d like to see Caroline and Gillian kind of adopt each other as sisters. This will depend on how Caroline reacts to the news (you know she’ll find out) about Gillian’s little birthday boink with John. Try as I might, I cannot predict how the writers are going to have Caroline respond to this information.
Judging from videos I’ve seen on YouTube, PBS cuts out small bits and even whole scenes of the BBC version to air on PBS. I guess it’s a time constraint problem, but I wish we could have seen every second of this show without any snipping.
Reviewers are supposed to find things to criticize, things that are not well done. I simply don’t find anything about Last Tango in Halifax that isn’t wonderful storytelling. Season 2 cannot get here fast enough!
Season 1 of Last Tango in Halifax is available on DVD from Amazon on November 12, in case you know someone who’d enjoy getting it as a holiday gift. It’s also available from iTunes.
Do you have some reflections on season 1? Share them in the comments!
The episode opens with Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) having a cup of coffee on their way to Celia’s. Celia tells Alan that Caroline told her when she was 18 and home from her first year at Oxford that she was interested in a woman. Celia said she didn’t want people pointing and saying things. Alan wanted to know what happened. Celia revealed there was one girl but Caroline never brought her home. In a few years Caroline met John and Celia thought it was forgotten.
Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) arrives home after taking a drunk and bloody Judith to the emergency room. Kate (Nina Sosanya) is there waiting. Caroline asks how the boys are. Kate says do you want the bad news first or the even worse news?
Kate tells Caroline that Gillian (Nicola Walker) rang and warned about Celia coming home. Kate says Celia is apparently taking the news badly. Plus, Lawrence now knows about Kate.
Caroline goes up to Lawrence’s (Louis Greatorex) bedroom. He is in tears and hugs her fiercely, saying he doesn’t want people being mean to her. She hugs him back and says, nobody is going to be mean to her, she can handle mean. Since we saw her effectively shut down the male teacher who tried to intimidate her, we know she’s right. Lawrence appreciates the reassurance, however.
At the farm, John (Tony Gardner) wakes up in Gillian’s bed. He goes outside to find her working on the clutch. Paul (Sacha Dhawan) is sitting outside reading a manual on Land Rovers while Gillian works. John comments that Gillian is up early. She says, “Early? It’s half past 7.”
“We made love,” John says. Gillian says, “You were upset. It was my birthday. Go pour yourself some tea.” John seems to want to process the night, Gillian doesn’t. She lets him know with her attitude that it was nothing but sex and she’s not interested in anything more. Paul’s a bit jealous. Gillian isn’t interested in that either.
Caroline goes to her mother’s cottage in the early morning. She looks like a child, steeling herself to face an angry parent. She says she’s sorry Celia heard what she heard the way she heard it. Alan tries to leave them alone, but Celia insists he stays.
Alan looks at Celia in dismay. He doesn’t like the way Celia is dismissing Caroline.
Caroline tries to explain how she and Kate became close and how things developed. Caroline said, “She thinks the world of me, and I think a lot about her.”
Celia raises her voice and calls it sudden. Caroline says it isn’t sudden, that she tried to talk to her mom about it when she was in university. Celia ignores that and says, “Why did you marry John?”
Caroline answers that she married him because she like him and thought they could have a good life, which they did until he ran off with Judith.
Caroline wants her mother to get it. Caroline says, “I’m too old to pretend anymore.” Celia is untouched by the pain in Caroline’s face. Caroline says, “I’d like both of you to meet Kate.”
Celia says, “No thank you.” Caroline insists they must. She says she’s called Kate McKenzie, which prompts Celia to ask if she’s Scottish. Caroline answers, “No, she’s Nigerian.” The Brits are far more enlightened about race that we are here in the states, but the implications of the word Nigerian wash across Celia’s face in an unpleasant way. Celia announces that she and Alan have decided against the school chapel and will make other plans.
Celia says it would be better if she moved out. Alan watches her walk away from Caroline with a horrified expression on his face.
Alan arrives back in Halifax on the train, where Gillian is waiting to pick him up. They stop in a pub where he tells her the story. Gillian says, “Why does she have to move out so fast? Is she afraid she’s going to get infected with lesbian spores?”
Alan explains that he told Celia that Kate seemed like a nice person and that was what mattered. He says it’s nothing these days, people don’t bat an eye at lesbians.
John arrives home. Caroline says, “I specifically asked you not to tell my mum.” He says he’s sorry. He says he went to Halifax to talk to Gillian. Caroline says, “I knew you were infatuated with her.” He keeps quiet about the sex with Gillian. He offers to apologize to Celia.
Then Alan asks her about the hundreds – thousands – of times they had sex. He wants to know what she was thinking about.
She says she can’t remember. She says, “I was a good wife. You blew it, not me. I liked having sex with you. I’m sorry if that doesn’t compute but it’s true. I liked you. I loved you. I wanted to have children with you.”
He says he feels used. She talks about how sordid Judith’s flat is and how vulnerable Judith is. When John asks what she was doing with Judith she answers, “I was having sex with her.” He believes it for a moment, but she quickly adds, “That was a joke.” She explains about Judith accidentally slashing her wrist in the garden, William fainting, and how it was a memorable birthday.
At the farm, Paul and Raff (Josh Bolt) are on the couch playing video games like old friends when Gillian and Alan arrive.
Alan and Gillian go in the kitchen where Alan continues to worry over his disappointment in Celia. He says, “She reads The Daily Mail.” Gillian turns very seriously and says, “How long have you known this?” Then they giggle. They talk about Celia’s honesty and plain spokenness, which Alan normally likes. Alan says he was shocked by how unkind and unthinking she had been toward Caroline. Gillian says, “You’re not going to fall out with her.” He doesn’t answer.
Celia comes to Caroline’s door and asks to talk to her. She says it’s been several days since she talked to Alan. He wants Celia to meet Kate. Caroline says she can cook dinner for Kate and Celia and Alan. Celia mutters Oh, god, under her breath as Caroline leaves. She’s only doing it for Alan.
The night of the dinner, the boys are helping with the table, Kate is helping make salads. Celia and Alan are in her cottage waiting for 8:00 to go to dinner. He tells her he thinks she’s bigoted, small minded and old fashioned. She denies it and claims she is not. She’s bewildered by his opinion.
Robbie (Dean Andrews) arrives at the farm. Gillian greets him with a big smile. Robbie’s brought wine for dinner with Gillian. He’s a bit surprised to see Paul still there, but he accepts it. Their dinner will include Robbie, Gillian, Paul and Raff. It’s odd, but it works for Gillian.
At the other dinner party at Caroline’s, Kate is trying very hard, talking to Celia and Alan about how wonderful their story is, which she calls uplifting and extraordinary. Celia is being difficult. Alan keeps attempting to jolly Celia in to behaving better. He says William and Raff put their names on Facebook. Kate says, “I know all about it. Caroline told me.” She takes Caroline’s hand when she says this. Celia looks horrified.
Alan reminds Celia to ask Caroline about using the chapel after all. She acts reluctant to ask. Kate offers a choir – seems she runs the choir at school.
William mentions he’s in the choir. Lawrence says that’s because William is a puff. He says William fainted.
Kate asks what music they would like and Alan mentions “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” Celia is still reluctant to talk about this with Kate. By now Caroline and Celia are shooting daggers at each other with their eyes.
Celia asks why William fainted and Lawrence says, Judith slashed an artery and he got sprayed in mad alkie-woman blood. Kate tries to make light of it, which lets Celia know she was there. Kate asks about honeymoon plans.
Caroline asks to talk to Celia in the other room. They leave the room, but everyone can hear them arguing. Caroline says, “Why are you being like this?” Celia says, “I can’t stand seeing you make a fool of yourself.”
Celia says that Kate is only being nice to Caroline because she wants a promotion. She says that Caroline doesn’t love Kate, a fact she thinks she knows because Caroline didn’t say it outright the other morning. Kate hears this and looks hurt. Alan is mortified on Kate’s behalf. Celia says, “It turned my stomach when she touched you.” Caroline says, “She touched my hand.”
Celia goes back to her cottage. Alan lingers. He asks Kate if she’s all right. She says she’s tough as an old boot. Kate calls a cab and goes outside to wait for it. Caroline chases her outside and asks her to stay. Kate says, “I always knew you didn’t feel the same about me as I feel about you.” She leaves even as Caroline asks her again not to go.
At Celia’s cottage, Celia says, “Well, that’s done.” Alan says, “Yes, that’s done,” in a sad voice. She asks if he’s all right. He says, “No, I’m disappointed.”
Morning in Halifax and Alan has come home on the train again. Gillian and Alan stop at the pub for a talk. He tells her that he thought Celia should try to get on with Kate. He was hurt because Celia told him that her relationship with Kate wasn’t any of his business. He told her they’d reached the end of the line. Celia answered that she couldn’t feel something she didn’t. Gillian is sorry that he thinks it’s ended. He looks terribly sad.
At home, Celia is sitting alone. It looks as if she’s been doing it for hours. Let’s hope she’s doing some soul searching. When Caroline gets home from work she asks to speak to her. She says Alan’s dumped her. Caroline just says, “Oh.” Celia says it’s all because of Caroline’s business. Caroline says, “Don’t you dare blame me.” Celia says, “I’ve been so happy.” Caroline says, “If it’s any consolation, Kate’s finished with me.” Kate handed in her resignation, which Caroline has in her purse.
Caroline calls her mother a nasty, small-minded old bitch. Celia recoils as if she’d been slapped. John comes in and says, “Don’t speak to your mother like that.” Caroline counters, “I haven’t got a mother.” Celia, who was already miserable about Alan, is clearly hurt deeply by Caroline’s venom. Then Caroline runs up to her room where she starts sobbing.
Gillian and Alan are on the couch at the farm. Gillian tells Alan that Robbie asked her out, proper. She reminds Alan that he apologized the other night. We learn that she went out with Robbie before she married Eddie. She says she always liked Robbie. Alan and Celia seem to have lost their second chance at love. Caroline seems to have lost her second chance at love. Here we are in the last episode of the season and we learn that Gillian is hoping for her own second chance at love. The writing on this show is so good!
Alan is rubbing his chest and dismisses it as indigestion when Gillian is concerned.
Celia goes to Kate’s house. Celia talks about her unhappy marriage, about how Caroline was the one thing that kept her going. She talks about how Caroline reminds her of her dad, whom she still misses. Celia says, “The thing that worried me when she told me when she was 18 – what worried me – was I thought it was my fault, by being so disappointed in Kenneth. I thought it was my fault.”
Kate says, “Celia, that’s not how it works.”
Celia says, “Now I know that.” She adds, ” I just want her to be happy.” She give’s Kate a plaintive look. “Don’t leave her.”
The next thing we see is Celia and Kate arriving at Caroline’s door. Caroline opens it and realizes what’s happened. Celia leaves and heads for the cottage. From Celia’s viewpoint outside the house, we see Kate and Caroline on a couch touching and laughing. Celia smiles.
At her own cottage, Celia sees Alan inside and she’s suddenly joyful, but when she gets the door open and turns on the light, he isn’t there.
In the morning Celia drives to the farm. Only Paul is inside. He tells her that Alan had a heart attack. He says the paramedics brought him back from the dead.
Celia rushes to the hospital where she finds Gillian and Raff in Alan’s room. Gillian is crying, she says she didn’t ring because they split up and he was so unhappy. Celia says she’s put everything right and she needs him to know.
Gillian explains what the doctors said and how bad it is. He hasn’t been conscious at all. Celia wants to sit with him and tell him that she’s put things right. Gillian tells her to go ahead.
Celia sits down and talks to the unconscious Alan telling him that it turns out that she’s not bigoted or small minded, but that she blamed herself for Caroline being “the other way inclined.” She says, “I’ve been on the road to Damascus, come out the other side. They’re back together, the ladies. I’m assuming you and I are back on.”
Caroline arrives at the hospital. She hugs Celia and they apologize to each other. She asks how Alan is and Celia whispers, “Not good.”
Alan is dreaming about their youth, about the time he asked Celia out, the time he asked her to meet him on the bridge at 6 PM and she agreed.
Alan awakes saying, “I always knew you’d turn up eventually, even if it took you 60 years.” Celia says, “Hello.” Alan asks, “Did I come to see you last night or were I dreaming?” He says he loves her and he doesn’t care. She says, “I went round to Kate’s house last night and they’re back together.” Celia says, “You’ll never guess. Kate can play the organ. She can play The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.”
Alan laughs. Celia smiles. The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba plays in the background. The first season ends on a happy note.
It’s the morning after everyone was up all night looking for Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) and after Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) announced to her husband John (Tony Gardner) that she’s been seeing someone.
Caroline parks at her school. She’s on the phone to Kate (Nina Sosanya), all chirpy voiced, asking her to come to her office.
In her office, she grabs Kate, pushes her up against a door, kisses her passionately and pulls up her shirt to reach under and have a feel. She steps back, smiling, and says, “I told John. It felt good.”
Kate asks Caroline if she wants to come round tonight. Caroline says, “Yep.” She studies Kate’s face and announces, “You’re very pretty.” Kate answers, “You’re magnificent.” I have to agree with both of them about it. Caroline whispers something we cannot hear in Kate’s ear, but we can assume it was naughty indeed. They almost kiss again but an assistant comes in with a cup of tea. The assistant talks about the day’s calendar, offers lunch, and heads off.
Caroline collapses in tears with the same passionate energy she had just devoted to kissing, and moans, “I thought she was dead last night. There was this one moment when I thought that’s it. And I thought how unfair that was, to find that one person again after all these years and then die.”
She realizes she sitting on the floor. Kate suggests maybe she should be home resting. Caroline asks if Kate will be home by 4 o’clock and Kate says, “I can be.”
At the farm, Alan is watching Celia sleep. She’s on the couch. He perched on the other end, enjoying the sight of her. He brings in tea and the rattling of the china wakes her. She says, “We keep having adventures!” He reminds her that their adventures have been her idea. They talk about the “distinct presence” in the old Hall last night. Celia says, “We’re back in the land of the living now.”
He starts to tell her something about when Gillian’s husband died, but Paul (Sacha Dhawan) comes crashing down the stairs and through the door. He writhes on the floor in pain muttering about keeping his fluids up as Alan explains who he is.
A knock on the door and it’s Alan’s two sidekicks (Paul Copley and Roy Barraclough) which leads Alan to ask, “Is it Tuesday?” The fellas apparently have a regular Tuesday thing.
Celia is on the phone to Caroline while outside a pub with Alan and the fellas. She asks Caroline to bring her fresh knickers, her toothbrush, and a nightie so she can stay in Halifax a few days. Caroline doesn’t want to do that but asks to call her later. Celia tries to make her feel guilty, apparently an old and well worn game with them, then asks her what she wants for her birthday tomorrow. Caroline manages to get off the phone by promising to call her later. In the pub, Paul is there, trying to drink a pint. Guess they didn’t want to leave him alone at the farm. Alan and his sidekicks discuss Gillian’s birthday tomorrow. Well, well, well, isn’t that interesting. Caroline and Gillian have the same birthday. Alan wants to buy Gillian a used Land Rover and knows where he can find one. He wants to go have a look at it.
Sidekick number one lists his qualifications to be Alan’s best man. Alan won’t commit.
Celia comes in to join them. She says to Paul, “I hope you’re not taking pain killers and drinking alcohol.” He asks her to get him a straw. Cheeky.
Gillian (Nicola Walker) arrives at the house to find it empty. She calls her dad but his phone is on the table. She picks it up and talks to herself on two phones for a funny moment. Then she calls Caroline who explains they’re at a pub. Caroline asks Gillian if she can get her mom a few things – she doesn’t explain why, but we know it will leave her free to go to Kate’s. Gillian can do.
Out in a muddy field, Alan is trying out the used Land Rover. Paul and the two sidekicks are stuffed in the back. Gillian calls and says they are to take Paul to his mother’s house and she asks what size knickers to buy. Celia pretends she can’t hear – no way she’ll discuss knickers in front of these blokes – and hangs up. Sidekick number two announces that the clutch needs to be replaced. And – they are stuck in the mud.
Caroline rings Kate’s doorbell, looking incredibly eager. Just as they are about to start kissing again, Gillian calls asking about knicker sizes for Caroline’s mum. This gives Kate the giggles and we get to see Sarah Lancashire show off her physical comedy skills.
Alan buys a new clutch, and sidekick number two makes his pitch to be best man. Alan doesn’t commit.
Alan and Celia hide the Land Rover in the barn and go inside. He makes tea and tells Celia his story. When Gillian’s husband Eddie put his head in the log splitter, he didn’t die immediately. Gillian stood and watched him die without calling an ambulance. After about an hour, Alan arrived. Gillian told him what had happened and that she had called the police. Alan feels guilty and responsible for being a party to something that wasn’t right. He doesn’t blame Gillian, he just feels guilty about his part. Celia does not blame him or Gillian and reminds Alan about wanting to kill her own husband. Alan says sometimes he feels as if Eddie’s ghost is in the barn and that’s why the Hall bothered him.
They talk about jiving in the old days, and move on to happier thoughts. When Gillian gets back, she hears music and finds them dancing in the living room, much to her delight. (Derek Jocobi is a damn good dancer, by the way.) Gillian snaps their picture and texts it to Caroline. They stop dancing when they see Gillian. Alan is winded, but not having any chest pains.
Gillian says Robbie is bringing Raff back home tonight. She’s invited Robbie (Dean Andrews) to dinner and seems excited about it. She’s bought food and wine and wants to celebrate. She tells her dad Robbie apologized last night.
Caroline breezes in at home – her afternoon with Kate must have gone well, she’s very happy. John wants to know where she’s been. He wants to know who it is. Caroline wants to know if Judith is pretty – he says no. He says he thought they were going to try to make it work for the boys. He says he can’t stay there if she’s going to sleep around. She says, well maybe we should get divorced. She says if she’s going to be with someone she wants to have them at the house where she can have them any time she’d like. Caroline says it’s like a fog has lifted from her, that she’s happy for the first time in years. John says, “You’re not moving him in here.” Caroline says, “It’s not a he.”
Tony Gardner’s rendition of processing this announcement is absolutely perfect! Caroline is going on and on about something related to the boys but I can’t hear it for laughing so hard at the expressions rolling across Tony Gardners’ face. He’s gobsmacked.
Gillian phones and the two women discover that they share the same birthday. They both turn 46 tomorrow. They’re twins!
John, in the garden, calls Judith (Ronni Ancona).
Robbie and Gillian are saying goodnight. He asks her out for a meal and she says yes. He kisses her, a move she rather likes. She asks him to stay. He refuses.
William (Edward Ashley) wakes Caroline on the couch and says she should go to bed. He asks her if she’s seeing someone and if it’s Kate McKenzie. She bumbles around a bit and he says, “She’s nice, she’s interesting, she’s kind. I want you to be happy.”
Next morning Alan presents the Land Rover – and the clutch – to Gillian. She’ll have to install the clutch herself.
A car roars up and dumps Paul on the ground. His mother won’t have him. Maybe because he keeps calling her a bitch. Gillian walks away and leaves him in sprawled in the dirt.
At Judith’s, John is talking to Judith about how Caroline couldn’t be a lesbian. “Aren’t you quaint?” says Judith. She wants to know what it’s like to get hot and steamy with a woman. Then she points out that the woman he’s been living with for 18 years has probably been faking it every single time. Caroline calls and tells him she’s cooking for her “friend” and the boys that night for her birthday. She wants him to join them if he can behave like an adult. He finally clicks on the fact that he knows who the woman must be – the woman Caroline had in the garden.
Celia and Alan, still searching for a wedding venue, are looking at an impersonal public space. They talk about a chapel at Caroline’s school. That might be the answer.
Gillian is installing the clutch when John calls. He says she gives such good advice he wants to come talk to her. She tells him okay.
Caroline is cooking, drinking wine, and so happy she’s almost dancing. She answers the door to find Kate. William wants Kate to come play Scrabble with him and Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) before dinner.
Kate agrees to Scrabble, but steals a few kisses before she goes. Caroline says William knows about them and is being brilliant about it.
On the farm, John, Robbie, Paul and Raff are lined up like ducks in the living room. Gillian is pacing the floor in her bedroom. Alan and Celia arrive from their venue search. Alan again brings up the “manslaughter” he confessed earlier. She again reassures him. They go in laden with boxes and sacks from shopping.
Gillian tries to warn Celia about John and what’s going on. She can’t quite get it out about Caroline and Kate. John, who naturally is drunk, manages to announce that Caroline is a lesbian in the most offensive way. And Celia is indeed offended – both by the thought that her daughter is a lesbian and by John’s behavior. She gets very upset. Alan and Robbie try to shut John’s ranting down. Celia says it’s wicked to say things like that. She wants to go home.
Caroline’s dinner with Kate and the boys is going well when Judith appears at the door. She’s drunk and looking for John. She’s dropped a wine bottle on the sidewalk. She talks about how she always wanted to be with a woman. She keels over backwards and when Caroline goes to help her Judith is covered with blood from the broken glass. Caroline takes her to the hospital.
Caroline’s at the hospital and Kate is back at Caroline’s with the boys. She’s talking with Lawrence. He knows his mother is seeing someone but doesn’t know who it is for sure. Gillian calls and wants him to tell his mother that Celia is on her way home and very upset about Caroline’s relationship with . . . with . . . with . . . Gillian can’t say it, but Lawrence says, “Kate.” Gillian says, yes, Kate. Everyone important to Caroline now knows about Kate.
Robbie is leaving for the evening. He says good night and kisses Gillian again. She goes into the living room and sits down to have a drink with John. John says he only came over because he wanted to see her again. He keeps thinking about her.
It’s late, Alan is tired. He’s driving Celia back home. He pulls the car over to rest his eyes for a few minutes. Celia is upset, won’t look at him. We got a glimpse at Celia’s conservative politics when she and Alan were taking politics a couple of days ago in the church. Her conservatism may cause trouble between her and her daughter when she gets home. Gillian got a new car for her birthday. Caroline’s about to get an earful for hers.
Gillian and John have a few drinks. Gillian tells John she can’t decide if he’s an evil git. He says he’s not horrible, just disappointingly human. She says, “Do you want to go upstairs,” and rubs his thigh. Paul is out of commission, Robbie’s being honorable. John it is. Will he be honorable, too? We don’t find out in this episode.
This is Caroline and Gillian’s episode. It’s the rainy evening when Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) are trapped in the spooky hall they scouted as a wedding location. Gillian (Nicola Walker) is outside with firemen who responded to her flaming Land Rover. She returns to the house, anxious because her dad isn’t home yet and isn’t answering his phone.
Paul (Sacha Dhawan), in all his bloody, beat-up glory on her couch, asks how the fire started. She says they don’t know, but he says someone torched it.
In the old hall, Celia and Alan found candles, food, a deck of cards and a bed. They are on the bed, still wearing their coats. They sing and talk to the creaking noises that might be a ghost. Alan is having chest pains, which he hides from Celia. Alan says, “Do you think anyone’s realized that we’re missing?”
Indeed, pretty much everyone will know they are missing before long. Gillian calls John (Tony Gardner) looking for the two tardy lovers. John gives the phone to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), who takes note of the fact that John has Gillian’s number and she has his while talking to Gillian about calling her mother. Celia doesn’t answer her phone either.
Gillian mentions that her dad doesn’t have his heart pills and shows her worry, which gets through to Caroline.
Celia flushes a noisy toilet in the old hall, while Alan stands guard with candles and a guide book to the age of this ancient structure they’re stuck in. Drafts and noisy spook them a bit.
Gillian calls her son Raff (Josh Bolt) looking for Alan. Robbie (Dean Andrews) offers his usual trash talk about Gillian and Raff actually stands up for her. Raff offers to go to the farm and to help find his grandad.
Caroline sets off for the police station, as the fears about the missing parents have infected her too.
The fearful spookiness of the hall is making Celia angry and she’s talking about suing. They climb back into the big bed as candles move around and doors open themselves.
Raff and Robbie reach the farm. A couple of Alan’s friends show up, mainly for comic relief. At least they notice Paul sitting on the couch, which is more than Robbie and Raff have mentioned yet.
In the car, Caroline is on the phone with Kate (Nina Sosanya), who brings up Caroline’s suggestion that they go away for the weekend. Kate is looking at a web site about Barcelona and is ready to book a getaway. Caroline says, “Can we talk about it later?” When she reaches the police station, the two old buddies of Alan’s are still about, still bringing the comic relief. Robbie explains that police cameras will tell them where the car was last seen. Gillian suggests they all go home.
Caroline goes with them to the farm. Caroline points at Paul on the couch, asks who he is. Robbie and Raff explain that he’s Paul, an idiot, who was beat up because he’s “not popular.”
Robbie follows Gillian into the kitchen and they finally have the conversation they’ve needed to have for days about what she’s doing with Paul. She says, “It’s been 10 years, do you seriously think I haven’t slept with other people?” He stumbles around and finally admits that all his lashing out was because he likes Gillian himself, a fact obvious to everyone but Gillian all this time. He basically apologizes and she says she appreciates it.
A phone call informs them the car was seen driving on Godley Lane. There’s a discussion about what’s on that road. Nobody knows why they are there, until Paul says, “You can get married at South Whatever Hall.” (I still can’t get the name.) They realize then that Alan and Celia were there looking for a wedding venue.
Cops arrive outside the hall where Alan and Celia are now sleeping peacefully. The cops find the empty car parked there but don’t think to look inside the hall because the manager of the place tells them the Hall was closed all day.
John, home with his boys, talks about not wanting to get a divorce. The younger son gets quite upset over the idea of a divorce.
Caroline and Gillian are cleaning up the kitchen at the farm, washing dishes. They talk. Really talk. They talk about Raff, Paul, John, themselves. Caroline isn’t holding it together very well and welcomes the offer of brandy with enthusiasm. They are starting to care about each other. If two women ever needed a friend, it’s these two. Happy as I am that Alan and Celia found each other, I’m even happier to see these two connect – they both desperately need someone to talk with.
A phone call tells them they’ve found the car, but not Alan and Celia. The police think Alan and Celia have killed themselves, to which Gillian answers, “They’re in love. They’ve never been happier.” Robbie reassures everyone about the situation and offers to go to the hall.
Morning comes and Caroline and Gillian sit outside drinking coffee (tea?). Again, they have a meaningful conversation. This time about Gillian’s husband’s death, about how beautiful what their parents feel for each other is. Gillian talks about how much it bothers her that her mother didn’t pass on the message from Caroline’s mum. Caroline tells her that her mother was a teenager then, and it shouldn’t be held against her. Gillian’s parents were happy. Caroline’s were not. They talk about that, laugh that they might have been sisters.
Celia and Alan wake up, snuggled deep in the covers of their borrowed bed. Celia complains about being stiff but is in a hurry to get out of there. When they get downstairs there are people there who tell them that you have to dial 9 for an outside line and the door was open yesterday for a delivery. Celia wants to call home and finds out the police have been looking for them.
Caroline talks to John about how things are at home with the boys as the phone rings at the farm. It’s Celia calling to say everything is fine. Caroline runs outside with Raff to tell Gillian. There are happy hugs all round, including Gillian and Raff, who definitely needed the shared moment.
John tells his boys they can stay home from school and he heads off for the “supermarket.”
Caroline and Gillian help Paul up the stairs and into bed. This removes him from the living room, but, alas, installs him in Gillian’s bed. Gillian tells him he’ll be out on his ass sooner than he can say compound fracture if he says anything vulgar to Celia.
Alan’s first thought on getting home is for the Land Rover. They go in for tea and Alan’s pills. Gillian explains why Paul’s car is in the yard.
John’s in a coffee shop, where he gives Judith (Ronni Ancona) money for her rent. She wants to be a writer and thought he was going to be a help to her. He tells her she has to put in the work or it won’t happen. She’s mad. He’s busy trying to dump her for good.
Tea in hand, Celia still wants to sue. Caroline points out that you can’t accept the very classy venue free of charge for the wedding and sue at the same time.
In the kitchen, Alan, Gillian and Raff have a family discussion about Paul. Alan says, “You always did pick ’em.” To Raff, he says, “You can’t be stopping with Robbie.” Raff answers he doesn’t mind his mom having a boyfriend but why can’t she pick on somebody who, A, isn’t a dickhead; B, isn’t 300 years younger than she is; and C, isn’t engaged to somebody else. After this most excellent speech he exits. This gives Alan the opportunity to say he wants to go to the doctor. He makes light of his condition, but Gillian knows it’s serious. She makes him promise to call immediately.
When Caroline leaves Gillian hugs her and tells her not to be depressed. Instead of going straight home, Caroline stops for coffee. She watches a happy family and smiles – some decision made, she relaxes visibly.
Alan tells Celia he’s poured her a bubble bath. She says he’s spoiling her. He gives her a kiss. He offers to have coffee ready when she gets out of the bath and heads for the kitchen, where we see him stunned by more chest pain.
Caroline arrives home where John is being cloyingly nice. He brags that he promised himself never to lie to her again, and tells her about giving money to Judith. Everyone is exhausted from being up all night, but John is invigorated by his honestly. Caroline says, “This can work. We can be civil for the boys. I’m seeing someone.” Boom! She won’t tell John who it is. John yells and rages. William comes in and John asks who Caroline could be seeing at school. William instantly realizes it’s Kate, but doesn’t tell his dad that. He’s been so angry with his dad for cheating on his mom. I hope he doesn’t transfer that anger to his mom, because I think his little brother really needs him now. John won’t take finding out about Kate well and Caroline isn’t the best at explaining herself to her children.
Whee! What did you think of this week’s developments?
Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.
Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.
Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.
Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.
In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.
PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.