Give us more charming and lovely men on TV

It’s been fun watching Derek Jacobi on Sunday night’s on PBS. First in Last Tango in Halifax where he is a sweetheart of a man. Then in Vicious where he is a parody of a parody as half of a gay couple (with Ian McKellen).

I wrote this in last week’s recap of Last Tango in Halifax.

I know actors love the meaty parts, the villainous parts, because they are so much fun to act. I hope Derek Jacobi enjoys playing the charming and lovely Alan as much as I enjoy watching him at it. Charming, lovely male characters are so rare. We need more of them.

I want to expand on this idea.

Jacobi’s character in Last Tango in Halifax is kind, thoughtful, and generous. He’s supportive of the women in his life and of women in general. He’s the same way with the men in his life. I’m not sure when I’ve ever seen a man written quite this way in a film or TV show. Kudos to the show’s writer Sally Wainwright for creating Alan Buttershaw.

One reason why I love Last Tango in Halifax so much is because the relationship between Derek Jacobi and co-star Anne Reid is rare and beautiful. Not perfect, but perfectly loving. What a rare thing this is to see on television. Why isn’t there more of this? We need so desperately to see men who act this way held up before us as examples.

Vicious

Vicious, on the other hand, is over-the-top satire. It pokes fun at the way gay men have been portrayed in film and TV for years by taking it to the extreme. It’s ridiculous. It’s supposed to be. The two men have been together for decades, yet can do nothing but cut and jab at each other. Most of the time.

Both of these Derek Jacobi vehicles make a point. They both look at what a man is, what a man should be. One by offering a palpable example of good. One by showing us just how silly past stereotypes are.

It’s delightful watching Jacobi and McKellen do comedy. It isn’t something we see often. But I love the quiet message in Last Tango in Halifax more than the reverse-psychology message in Vicious. Not because Jacobi is playing a straight man in one and a gay man in the other. I’d love to see him play a gay man with as much character and love as we get to see in the Alan Buttershaw part. I have a feeling both he and McKellen would jump at a chance to play a part like that.

A Few Good Men

What we need are more examples of good men – both straight and gay. Good men instead of big-muscled killers. Good men instead of men who only use women as window dressing or as object.

Give us more good men.

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax, S2 E4

This episode of Last Tango in Halifax begins in the cafe where Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) continue to talk about the death of Eddie. Alan says he is an accessory after the fact.

Celia says he probably did the best thing under the circumstances. He tells her that Robbie and the police asked lots of questions. He says that’s why, 10 years on, he doesn’t mind putting a little distance between himself and Gillian (Nicola Walker).

Who's car is that
Who’s car is that?

Raff (Josh Bolt) walks up the road from school and sees a strange car in front of the house. He finds John (Tony Gardner) inside, working at his computer, and watching the baby. Raff doesn’t understand why Gillian asked John to babysit. John’s explanation is a bit lame. Raff tells John he can leave, but John says he’s invited for supper.

Get your name on the birth certificate
Get your name on the birth certificate

John asks about Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) and Raff explains that he doesn’t know how things are with her legally. He doesn’t know if Ellie left the baby with him or if she can just come back and take it.

John, because this is really his business – right? – tells Raff he must go to the registrar and get his name on the birth certificate. Because mothers have all the rights where kids are concerned, look at all the problems he’s having with his kids. Raff says, oh, I thought that was because you had a fling with Judith. Good one, Raff!

Rugby at 9:30
Rugby at 9:30

In Harrogate, Caroline is lining out Celia on the boys’ schedules for the weekend. Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) has a rugby game in the morning. Lawrence says he’s invited Angus (Felix Johnson) for a sleepover. When Celia hears the name Angus she asks, “Is he Scottish?” in a funny callback to the first time she heard the name Kate McKenzie. William (Edward Ashley) is going to work. (William’s back!) William throws down his newspaper and complains about his job.

Something literary for a name
Something literary for a name

John has assembled Raff, Ellie, Harry (Paul Copley) and Maurice (Roy Barraclough) in the registry office to get the birth certificate filled out for the little girl. No one seems to question his right to do this, although Harry and Maurice do want to know why he’s hanging about. He explains he’s writing a novel about farming and that he’s Celia’s son in law. Everyone groans.

They argue over names. John wants a literary name. Raff likes Elsie. Ellie does not. They finally agree on Emily Jane, which prompts John to quote Emily Jane Brontë. I’m the one groaning now.

John’s phone rings. It’s Lawrence, who learns that his dad is in Halifax.

We put both surnames
We put both surnames

John, Raff, and the newly named Emily Jane Greenwood Wallace stop by the grocery. They show Gillian the birth certificate. Raff says they put both surnames, because they couldn’t decide which to use. Gillian likes the new name, and comments that it’s a lot of name for a 6 and a half pound girl. That’s hilarious, because the baby they are hauling around, supposedly less than a week old, can sit up and hold up her head.

A weekend getaway
A weekend getaway

Caroline’s black SUV rolls down the highway toward the weekend getaway. The camera does love Yorkshire, doesn’t it? My gratitude to whoever finds these gorgeous locations. As they walk up to the hotel, Caroline and Kate (Nina Sosanya) talk about Celia wanting Caroline to call Alan Dad.

A happy moment
A happy moment

Caroline smiles happily at Kate and they go inside to register. Caroline tells the desk clerk, “We have reservations.”

In Harrogate, Alan and Celia are rehashing the Eddie story once again. Alan just can’t let it go. He keeps coming back to his notion that maybe it wasn’t suicide at all. Celia says, “Let’s live with what’s on the table.” The doorbell rings and Lawrence answers it thinking it’s Angus.

Oh, you're alan and celia
Oh, you’re Alan and Celia

It’s Judith (Ronni Ancona). She’s looking for John. Celia says she doesn’t know where he is. Celia says, “So you’re her, eh? You’re the whore.”

Angus arrives, Alan’s phone rings. Judith suddenly realizes who Alan and Celia are and gets all gushy about how sweet their story is. On the phone, Raff is talking over very loud music.

You can't name a baby that
They named her Calamity Jane

In all the commotion Alan cannot hear Raff telling him the baby’s name. He thinks it’s Calamity Jane. He says, “You can’t name a baby that.” Finally, he gets the name right. Lawrence tells Judith that John’s in Halifax and she leaves.

Caroline is sitting alone in the hotel drinking wine. Kate walks up and asks if she can sit there.

An angry woman
Now you made her mad

Kate is very angry, which Caroline can see, but she tries to make small talk about Greg (Marcus Garvey) anyway, and tells Kate she looks beautiful.

Kate says, “You’re unbelievable. I was so happy to be here, that you were going to treat me like your partner when we were outside the house. And then you go and book two separate rooms. Mentally I’ve left. Physically I’m here because Greg’s coming.”

Caroline tries to explain and they talk over each other for a while. Kate says, “You’re not fooling anyone. It just looks sad.”

Caroline says, “I’m not trying to fool anyone.” She says, “I was going to book a double room when I rang but I couldn’t.” She whispers they can still sleep together.

Kate says, “Sod it. Sneaking around like a couple of idiots from a 1970s bedroom comedy. I’m not having it.”

I panicked
I panicked

Caroline says, “I panicked.”

Kate says, “You have a doctor of philosophy. You’re 46 years old. You have the welfare of 857 children on your hands on a daily basis. You don’t panic. You’ve blown it.”

Greg is here
Greg is here

Greg arrives, he’s checked in, he can stay for dinner. Kate’s really happy to see him.

At the farm it’s dinner time. Gillian is grilling John about the novel he’s writing. Gillian bounces the baby on one knee as she eats. This baby is in so many scenes, plus it’s handled so quickly at times, that I’m wondering if it isn’t a very real looking baby created in one of those studios where they build dinosaurs and vampires.

Raff wants to know if he’s in John’s novel. Gillian says, “Am I your muse?” She calls the baby Calamity, which Raff says he hope doesn’t stick. A knock at the door prompts Gillian to say in a silly voice, “Why, Calam, that sounds like a knock at the door.”

Could we have more Nicola Walker doing silly voices, please?

I'm sorry
I’m sorry

It’s Robbie (Dean Andrews) at the door. He says, “I’m sorry. I overreacted. It was a long time ago and you had a lot to deal with. I’m sorry.” So, Robbie didn’t dump Gillian as she assumed he would. Gillian introduces the baby by her new name as well as her Calamity nickname and invites him in for tea.

You remember him
Remember that time?

At the hotel, Greg and Kate share a grand time talking about the good old days and people they know. Caroline is in misery.

Judith knocks on the farmhouse door. She introduces herself and Gillian says, “Well, well, well,” and gives her a once over.

It's my idea!
It’s my idea!

Judith carries a handful of typed paper. When she sees John she says, “You bastard. You stole my story.” They argue at length about who had the idea to write a novel about Alan and Celia’s story and to include the sheep farmer in the tale. Each claims the idea as their own.

Judith gets really wound up and tells Robbie about how John and Gillian slept together. She gives Robbie the complete details about the night it happened.

John blusters, tells Robbie off, says he’s no good for the kind and wonderful Gillian. He says Robbie preys on her and tells him to get lost. Robbie asks Gillian if it’s true and after some hemming and hawing, she admits the part about sleeping with John is true.

Kapow
KAPOW

Robbie slugs John.

Dumb and dumber
Dumb and Dumber

Lawrence and Angus manage to get drunk and make a huge mess. Just as Celia is berating them about it, Alan comes in to say William’s in outpatient.

At the hotel, Greg is ready to talk about the baby. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom first. Caroline says she can’t stand Greg. Kate says, “Okay. Good night then.”

Looking back
You blew it, Caroline

Caroline leaves to go to her room. She looks back sadly but doesn’t say anything. Kate stays at the table, clinching her teeth. If she had nails to crunch, she’d be spitting them.

Celia brings home a beat up William. He sits down with Alan as Celia goes to make tea.

I couldn't stand it anymore
I couldn’t stand it anymore

William tells Alan he left work because he couldn’t stand it. He was getting cash to meet a girl he likes at a club when he was attacked by two guys who beat him up.

Alan gives him a talk about confidence and what a smashing fellow he is. By the time Alan finishes, William is feeling better. Alan is the best granddad ever, even to William.

I know actors love the meaty parts, the villainous parts, because they are so much fun to act. I hope Derek Jacobi enjoys playing the charming and lovely Alan as much as I enjoy watching him at it. Charming, lovely male characters are so rare. We need more of them.

In the morning, Caroline is eating breakfast when Kate comes in. Caroline asks her where she was last night. Caroline looked everywhere for her.

I was in Greg's room
I was in Greg’s room

Kate says she went to Greg’s room for a night cap. Oh, Caroline says, you’ve made a start. Kate says no, we just talked.

Greg won't work for me
Greg won’t work for me

Caroline apologizes. She says, “I was a coward. I won’t be again. But if we are going to be parents, this bloke is the wrong person.”

Kate says, “He’s perfect from my point of view.”

Caroline sighs, leans back in a long pause. Then she says she’s going to have to give up on the idea of keeping the house. It’s unrealistic.

Kate says, “I want to have a child. I don’t need your blessing. Not after yesterday. And what you just said about the house shows me you were doing for the wrong reasons anyway. It will always be about you.”

“Are you dumping me?” Caroline asks.

“I don’t think anything ever started, did it? Just embarrassed fumbles.” Caroline looks unbearably sad. Kate tells her she and Greg didn’t do anything last night but they plan to and she’s staying there again tonight. Kate tells her she blew it before Greg even showed up. Kate gets up to leave.

Grow up
Grow up

This is hard for me, Caroline says. “Yeah, well, grow up. You think it’s easy for anyone?” says Kate.

If season 2 is about Caroline learning to be out and proud, she’s made a big mess of it so far.

Quite a shiner
Quite a shiner

At the farm, John has a bruised eye matching almost exactly the one William has. Yes, he spent the night at the farm. No, I don’t know where he slept.

I know Raff slept on the couch with the baby beside him in a box because Judith drank two bottles of wine and all the medicinal brandy in the time it takes Gillian to tie one shoelace, then passed out in Raff’s bed.

Gillian tells Raff that Robbie’s fallen out with her again. Forgiving the distant past is easier than forgiving recent betrayals – I’m backing Robbie on this.

The phone rings at the farm. It’s Harry with bad news.

Alan and Celia are tormenting Lawrence and Angus with conversation about food as they lay hungover on the couch, rugby practice forgotten. The phone rings and Gillian asks to talk to Celia. She wants Celia to tell her Dad something that will upset him.

Maurice is dead
Maurice is dead

Celia takes Alan aside and tells him that Maurice died. Apparently it was a stroke.

He was a great guy
He was a great guy

Gillian and her dad cry over Maurice while 60 miles apart. She talks to John about it.

He was fine the last time I saw him
He was fine the last time I saw him

Alan cries about Maurice with Celia.

Caroline arrives home. Alone. She has tea in the cottage with her mother. Celia tells her about buying the bungalow and not giving her money for the big house. Caroline assures her it’s okay, she just didn’t want to face up to letting the house go.

I blew it
I blew it

Celia asks about Kate and Caroline says, “I’ve blown it.” Good lord, does she look sad. She’s had her face smacked into her own inadequacies in the relationship department by Kate. Will she grow from it or continue to squirm in her own fears? Now she’s finally facing the house issue realistically. Caroline, I cannot wait to see what you do in the next episode.

Maurice was a kind and honest man
Maurice was a kind and honest man

Move forward a few days to Maurice’s funeral. Alan speaks. He mentions how badly he feels about not having Maurice at the wedding because he wasn’t able to choose between Harry and Maurice as his best man.

What should she say
What can she say?

Caroline enters a classroom where Kate is picking up papers. Caroline looks like she wants to say about 100 things, but she asks about Greg and Kate says they did the deed.

I'm leaving this room
I’m leaving this room

Caroline seems to want to say more but Kate says she finished what she came into the room to do and she’s leaving it. She walks out without another word, leaving us looking at another broken-hearted expression on Caroline’s face.

Everyone from the funeral has gone out to a pub for a drink in Maurice’s honor. Alan says that he and Celia should get married again – a big do – invite everybody. He asks Harry to be the best man. Harry hesitates and Gillian says, do it. Then she asks to make sure she’s invited.

Yes
Yes

Alan thinks to ask Celia if she’ll marry him again. She says yes and gives him a kiss. Raff says, “Get a room,” and the episode ends with a laugh.

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax S2, E3

This episode of Last Tango in Halifax opens with the two great granddads (Derek Jacobi and Paul Copley) as well as Alan’s other sidekick (Roy Barraclough) with the baby at the pub. They talk about what the little girl should be named.

What about a name?
What about a name?

Both of Alan’s sidekicks think they were asked to be the best man and are hurt because they weren’t invited to the wedding. Alan tells them neither of them were asked to be best man and they should let it drop.

Celia (Anne Reid) is in Harrogate picking up bits to take back to Halifax. She’s in the kitchen telling Kate (Nina Sosanya) about how shocked and unprepared Raff (Josh Bolt) and Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) are to be parents. Celia thinks they are scared of the baby.

John (Tony Gardner) comes in to ask Celia several questions about Gillian (Nicola Walker), all of which Celia ignores. As far as Celia is concerned, John isn’t even in the room.

I know a few names for little girls
I know a few names for little girls

Kate asks if it’s really Raff’s and Celia says that’s been confirmed by the chemist. Ellie’s parents aren’t helping with the baby so Ellie and the baby are at the farm. Celia says the child hasn’t even got a name. Kate rattles off 4837 girls’ names as in a long monologue. Then she says, “I don’t know. It all depends on what Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) thinks.” Oops.

Celia and John both say, “You and Caroline?”

Celia doesn’t know how ladies have babies, although John opines that they do. Celia says Caroline wouldn’t want to go through all that again at her age. Kate glances down and says, “No,” but she points out that both of them are still capable of having a child. John asks if they are serious about a child and Kate tells him of course not.

Celia asks where Caroline is and Kate says she had to stay late for a school production of King Lear. Celia leaves saying, “Tell her to pop round, but not tonight. If she has to sit through King Lear she’ll just want to lie down.” Since Derek Jacobi recently did a production of King Lear and is an old hand at Shakespeare, I found this very funny.

John calls Gillian
John calls Gillian

John immediately calls Gillian. She’s squirting something into the mouths of her sheep, but manages to answer the phone. He asks her how things are and she says, “Complicated.” He says he thinks about her all the time and she says, “About putting money in the farm?” He says, well, yes, but he’s been writing again. He’s writing about his real life and Gillian is the star of the story.

Too messy
Too messy

John asks Gillian out for a drink or dinner. She says, “I can’t. Too messy.”

the parents
The Parents

Alan and Harry arrive at the farm with the baby to find Raff and Ellie playing video games. When they don’t respond to the need for a clean nappy, Harry turns off the TV.

The Blitz was real
the Blitz was real

They complain and he says, “It’s not real. Me and your granddad lived through the Blitz.” Ellie smarts off and Harry says they know everything except how to avoid getting pregnant. Raff throws the game controller and runs upstairs.

Raff wants to get a job
Raff wants to get a job

Alan goes to him. He is the world’s greatest grandad. Raff is crying and scared and talking about needing to get a job and quit school. Alan encourages him to stay in school. Raff thinks going to school now is ridiculous.

Later, Alan and Celia chat on the phone. While they are talking, Celia’s on the computer. She books an appointment on a real estate web site to look at a house – a bungalow, she calls it. Alan talks about the mess things are in with the baby and Celia tells him not to get stressed. She says, “I’m missing you.” Celia brings up the topic of girls’ names again, and suggests Cordelia and Goneril from King Lear. The way she says Goneril it sounds like a social disease. Anne Reid is having fun with Shakespeare tonight.

Caroline is home
Caroline is home

Caroline arrives home. She sees Kate sleeping on a couch and smiles affectionately. She walks over to Kate, kneels down on the floor beside her, caresses her cheek to wake her up. When Kate opens her eyes, Caroline says, “You’ve been crying.” Kate tells her she was feeling a bit sorry for herself. Caroline says, “Was it John? My mother?” Kate shakes her head no. Caroline asks if Kate wants to tell her about it in bed, and Kate says yes.

A dangerous kiss
A dangerous kiss

Caroline gives Kate a brief kiss. Almost immediately, Kate says, “Have you been eating peanuts?” Caroline ate some popcorn during the play, which was peanutty enough to set Kate off into an allergic reaction. Kate lies down on the floor, panting and wheezing. Caroline grabs an EpiPen device from Kate’s purse and shoots Kate in the leg with it as she calls for an ambulance.

What ARE you doing?
What ARE you doing?

Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) walks by just as Caroline is bent over Kate, vigorously rubbing her leg to encourage the epinephrine on its way. Caroline’s been calm and in control through the whole scene, holding Kate’s hand while efficiently giving her the shot, but she gets flustered and funny when she tries to explain their position on the floor to Lawrence.

Caroline tells Kate she’s so sorry about the popcorn. Kate says she was crying about a baby. The conversation with Celia and John did upset her, after all.

Get to bed
Get to bed

Gillian tells Raff to get to bed. He’s full of excuses about why he doesn’t want to sleep in the room with Ellie and the baby. Gillian goes to get him a blanket and, from behind Raff’s back, signals to Robbie that she wants him to come upstairs. He will.

At breakfast the next morning, Caroline explains about Kate being in the hospital to Celia as John comes in demanding his computer and papers, which Caroline says she confiscated.

Faded fruit
Faded fruit? Nah.

Caroline mocks John’s writing. He’s compared her to overripe fruit, but the sheep farmer in his story has the body of a teenaged boy. He also has 70-somethings in his story who reunite after 60 years. She threatens to ring Gillian to share the story she’s found, but finally tosses the whole mess, including the computer, across the counter to him. John grabs it all and leaves the room. Celia wants to know why he’s even there. Caroline says he has no where else to go and asks Celia if she’s made any decisions about the money Caroline wants to buy John out. Celia says no. Celia asks about Kate’s baby remarks.

Caroline chases off Lawrence, who’s in the middle of his cereal, and closes the kitchen door. By the way, William’s absence has been explained so far in series 2 by saying he has a job, but shouldn’t he be home for breakfast? I miss William.

I want to talk her out of it
I want to talk her out of it

Caroline first tells Celia that Kate’s house is on the market. Then she admits Kate does want a baby. Caroline says, “It’s unlikely that she’d get pregnant. She’s 42. She was pregnant 4 times when she was married to Richard and she never got past 12 weeks.”

Caroline plans to take her to a little hotel for her birthday next week and try to talk her out of it – for Kate’s sake, she explains – so she won’t be tearful and unhappy if it doesn’t happen. She asks Celia to watch the boys so she and Kate can have the weekend away.

Celia says she and Alan are going to look at a bungalow over at Ripponden.

smashing view
smashing view

They take the baby to see the bungalow. Alan is doing everything with that baby. The bungalow has a gorgeous view, they love the house, but they aren’t sure they can afford it.

Why not sell your little house
Why not sell your little house

After viewing the bungalow, they stop for tea and have an argument. They argue with so much love, even while being utterly honest. Celia wants him to offer his renters an opportunity to buy his house. Alan says Caroline should sell her great big house and move into something more suitable in size. Celia thinks Raff should be allowed to quit school and take responsibility for his child.

Back at the farm, Celia is in the kitchen looking at the web site with photos of the bungalow as Robbie (Dean Andrews) prepares dinner. Alan’s asleep in the living room. Robbie asks if Gillian and Alan are all right now. Robbie says something was up that whole 2 weeks you were in Harrogate. Celia says, it was something about Gillian’s mother being disappointed. “Oh,” Celia remembers, “I know what it was. Gillian had an abortion when she was 15. Had to leave school.”

Not good news for Robbie
Not good news for Robbie

We know that Gillian dated Robbie before Eddie, but Celia doesn’t. Her remarks hit Robbie hard.

An evening at home
An evening at home

Caroline and Kate snuggle in front of the TV. (This is the sort of homey relationship stuff I wanted to see in episode 2.) Kate says she asked Greg – her sperm donor of choice – to pop over for her birthday. Caroline says, “I made plans for your birthday.” Kate thought Caroline would want to meet Greg. They go back and forth on the issue a bit.

I thought you'd want to meet him
I thought you’d want to meet him

Caroline tells her about the weekend away plan and they decide they could meet him at the hotel. Caroline talks about what would happen if Kate did get pregnant and lost the baby. Kate wants to try anyway. Caroline talks about Kate’s career and that she has what it takes to move up. Career be damned. Kate wants to be somebody’s mom.

Don't be daft
Don’t be daft

At the farm, Raff looks at Alan and Celia sleeping in front of the TV on the couch and says to Ellie, “Maybe we should get married.” She answers, “Don’t be daft.”

Robbie sits in the kitchen, waiting. The moment Gillian arrives from work, he leaves, saying there’s a casserole in the oven. “What’s up?” Gillian asks.

“Did you have an abortion when you were 15? Was it mine?”

Gillian says yes. She asks how he knows. He wants to know why she didn’t tell him. Gillian says there was no point in telling him. She said, “I’m sorry.”

He gets in his truck and she says, “Are you dumping me?” He answers, “I just don’t want to be here for a bit.”

I spared you
I spared you

Gillian says, “I was the one who had to leave school. I was the one who never got a crack at my A levels. I never told you but I never inflicted anything on you either.” Robbie drives off.

That's poisonous
What did you say, Celia?

Gillian goes inside, furious. She sends Raff to get Ellie and says, “Robbie’s gone.” She tells her dad that Celia told Robbie about the abortion and that the baby was Robbie’s. Alan had no idea it was Robbie’s before now.

Celia says she’s sorry. She didn’t know.

Gillian is unusually articulate in her anger. “But what you do know, Celia, what you must know, is that’s a pretty indiscreet thing to be saying about somebody to people.” Celia apologizes again.

I'm sorry
Poisonous

Gillian says, “That’s poisonous, saying something like that to somebody when you’ve got no idea of the consequences.”

Not my dad's?
Not my dad’s?

Raff asks what’s going on and Gillian tells him the whole story. He’s shocked both by the abortion and by the Robbie revelation.

Alan says, “Celia made a mistake, she’s apologized.” Celia wants to go back to Harrogate and Alan says he’ll go, too. Gillian blames Celia, blames Harrogate, blames Alan for defending Celia.

Don't you dare
Don’t you dare

Gillian talks about how much he’s changed and that she doesn’t like it. Alan gets in her face and says, “I’ve spent my life watching you go out with unsuitable buggers. Have I ever fallen out with you about it? Ever? Don’t you dare say anything about Celia to me.”

When Derek Jacobi puts power in his voice, you hear every imperial majesty he’s ever played hiding inside sweet, kindhearted Alan.

In Harrogate, Celia tells Caroline the story about how Alan put up with Gillian’s green hair and pink eyebrows, her shoplifting, her wild behavior, and all sorts of things that we hadn’t heard about before. Caroline offers to call Gillian, but Celia says not to because Gillian doesn’t like her. Kate leaves for school.

On the farm, Raff calls Gillian inside to answer the phone. It’s pouring rain and Gillian is stacking hay in the barn. Gillian may still be a mess all these decades after being so broken at age 15, but she works like a dog on that farm. Inside, Raff holds the baby awkwardly and says Ellie is gone. When Gillian finally reaches the phone, it’s Caroline. So much for Caroline listening to her mother.

Caroline was in the car with Lawrence, on the way to school when she phoned Gillian. Caroline apologizes for her mother. They have an unfriendly conversation. When Caroline asks about the baby, Gillian softens and says, “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.” She says she’s sorry for having a go at Celia and asks Caroline to apologize for her. Caroline promises to keep an eye on Alan for her.

Celia enters her little flat with both a Guardian and a Daily Mail and a carton of milk. Alan is on the phone with his renters, who do want to buy his house. Celia says, are you sure that’s what you want to do? I’m not forcing you, I’m not manipulating you. Alan says, “You can manipulate me any time you want.” Celia asks about Gillian and Alan says, “Bugger Gillian.” Celia doesn’t like all the bad feelings between them.

Celia will tell Caroline she won’t be giving her any money. She plans to tell Caroline after she and Kate get back from their weekend. Parallel to this, Caroline is telling Lawrence about the weekend away with Kate.

Why don't you and Miss McKenzie just come to school together?
Why don’t you and Miss McKenzie come to school together?

At the school, Kate is getting out of one car, Caroline and Lawrence out of another. Lawrence says, “Why don’t you and Miss McKenzie come to school together?” Caroline says it’s because they don’t always leave at the same time. Yeah, right.

Lawrence replies, “Everyone knows, you know. You need to stop kidding yourself because you just look like a hypocrite, which is not a cool message to be sending out to the 2.7% of the kids in this school who will one day turn out to be muff munching shirt lifters.” The promos and PR for season 2 talked about Caroline’s struggle to be out and proud. It would certainly be an interesting twist if Lawrence’s macho machinations are a precipitating factor for Caroline in that journey.

Caroline can only get out, “I see,” as Lawrence jumps out into the rain. Lawrence walks with a friend and invites him over to get pissed and trash the place while his granny is babysitting.

John arrives at the farm. Gillian called and invited him. They make tea. Gillian tells him she’s up shit creek without a paddle. “It’s a bit mad, you and me,” she says.  She tells him the story we’ve heard before about Eddie’s death.

Gillian tells about Eddie
Gillian tells about Eddie

She also tells him that Robbie never cared for anyone but Eddie and her. She thinks she’s ruined it for good with Robbie and that she’s nervous about getting in any deeper with Robbie.

I love you
I love you

Meanwhile, Celia and Alan are in a lovely restaurant talking about how much they love each other and how happy they are. Celia feels guilty about what she told Robbie, but Alan tells her not to worry about it. Alan tells her more about the story of Eddie’s death.

I still have nightmares
I still have nightmares

Alan says Gillian actually finished Eddie off with a block of wood. She didn’t just stand and wait for him to die, as they said before. Robbie knew it and called the police. Alan has nightmares about it to this day. “I sometimes wonder if it weren’t even suicide,” Alan says. “The point is – I’ve done enough for her over the years. We’re buying this bungalow and I’m putting it all behind me.”

John’s selling his merits to Gillian and thinks they could be good together. He offers to watch the baby while Gillian goes to work. He says he can do babies.

oh, gillian
Gillian, really? Really?

Gillian leans over and kisses him.

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax, S2, E2

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 bursts into the wedding
Gillian bursts into the wedding

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 cries
Gillian undone

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 calls Caroline
John calls Caroline

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.

I've moved on
I’ve moved on

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.

Accept what I've said
Accept what I’ve said

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.”

You ARE going to find time
You ARE going to find time

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.

Lawrence plants a seed
Lawrence plants a seed

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.

Mrs. Buttershaw
Mrs. Buttershaw

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.

Congratulations
Congratulations

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.

What a conversation!
What a conversation!

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.

No, you really can't.
No, you really can’t.

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.

I think it's contractions
I think it’s contractions

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.

I can't sell that house
I can’t sell that house

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.

That was before the swinging 60s
That was before the swinging 60s

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.

I need to meet him
I need to meet him

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.

It's a girl
It’s a girl

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.

Recap: Last Tango in Halifax, S2, E1

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.”

Gillian at Alan's bedside
Gillian at Alan’s bedside

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.

Thank you for making him so happy
Thank you for making him so happy

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 helps out on the farm
Robbie helps out on the farm

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.

It really is all about you.
It really is all about you.

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.

We'll do something tomorrow
We’ll do something tomorrow

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.

Gillian talks to John
Gillian talks to John

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.

Let's do it
Let’s do it

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.

I didn't want it to be like that, actually
I didn’t want it to be like that, actually

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.

I want to tell you something
I want to tell you something

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.

Gillian told me about John
Gillian told me about 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.

Atop a scenic rock
Atop a scenic rock

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 isn't happy about Alan leaving
Gillian isn’t happy about Alan leaving

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.

A Troubled Gillian
A troubled Gillian

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.

Gillian is coming?
Gillian is coming?

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.

How permanant is this?
How permanent is this?

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.

You're not supposed to be here
You’re not supposed to be here

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.

the celia death stare
the Celia death stare

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.

Review: Season 1 of The Paradise

Season one of the BBC period drama The Paradise is available now on Netflix and DVD or from Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes. Season 2 has shown on BBC One, but it isn’t available in the U.S. yet at any of the sources I mentioned.

The series is about the people who work in the first department store in England, The Paradise, and others who are connected to the store as friends, customers or family. Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, with all the British class issues of the time at front and center, The Paradise teems with interesting characters and events.

Carrying us into the story is Denise (Joanna Vanderham from What Maisie Knew). She is hired as a shopgirl at The Paradise.

Joanna Vanderham as Denise
Joanna Vanderham as Denise

Denise is a brilliant salesperson and quickly becomes an asset to The Paradise and a threat to her her colleagues and her immediate supervisor, Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire). Denise is smarter about sales and business than anyone in the store, including the owner, and quickly realizes that she wants to BE the owner. She has a gift for describing fabrics and colors in the most sensuous terms that make customers almost fall over themselves to buy.

Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey
Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey

Unmarried and an early example of what would now be called a career woman, Miss Audrey has been at The Paradise for many years. This is the show Sarah Lancashire left to play Caroline in Last Tango in Halifax. While I’ll miss her when season 2 finally makes it across the pond, I applaud her wisdom is seeing the opportunity and star potential of Last Tango in Halifax over this interesting but typical costume drama. Miss Audrey is well played and pivotal to Denise’s career, but not the best thing about The Paradise. Caroline Elliot is definitely the best thing about Last Tango in Halifax.

Emun Elliott as Mr. Moray
Emun Elliott as Mr. Moray

The owner and mastermind behind the concept of retail department store selling in England is the boss, Mr. Moray (Emun Elliott). Mr. Moray is charming and handsome and persuasive where business is concerned. He’s in mourning for his first wife while half-heartedly courting Katherine and falling in love with Denise. It might be more accurate to say he’s courting Katherine’s father who has the money to be a business investor in the store, while paying attention to Katherine in the process.

Elaine Cassidy as Katherine
Elaine Cassidy as Katherine

Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) is in love with Moray and rejects other more suitable men in favor of this fellow who really doesn’t care for her at all. She may grow a bit bitter about her situation in season 2.

Swirling around this key cast of characters are workers at The Paradise, members of the British upper class who revolve around Katherine’s family, and some family and friends of the characters. One in particular who is important is Edmund, (Peter Wight) who is both Denise’s uncle and a former suitor of Miss Audrey’s. Edmund runs a failing shop directly across the street from The Paradise. By the end of season 1, Denise is using her business smarts to help bring his business back.

Here’s an official trailer.

This is a fan trailer. It’s good, but the ‘viewer discretion advised’ line is kinda silly.

You can read more at the BBC One site for The Paradise. I recommend the show wholeheartedly if you have access to it on any of the streaming services I mentioned.

From Twitter Friends

I asked if any of my Twitter followers had comments about the show, and NptexasNancy responded with a comment about the shortcuts used at the end of season 1:


All photos ©BBC One

5 Reasons to Love Scott & Bailey

Scott & Bailey is a British detective series from iTV. It’s run for 5 seasons. It makes its way across the pond to American TV on PBS. Some local PBS stations may have episodes you can watch right now, but it depends on your locality. You’ll also find every episode available on YouTube.

There are so many things about Scott & Bailey that I really enjoyed, a list seems in order.

1. The Main Characters are Women

Suranne Jones is DC Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp is DC Janet Scott, and their boss is Amelia Bullmore as DCI Gill Murray. There are a lot of men in the police department and in the women’s lives, but the police procedural stories which form the bulk of the drama are the cases that Scott and Bailey take the lead on.

Scott & Bailey
Scott & Bailey

Janet Scott, Rachel Bailey, and Gill Murray are real women. Smart, tough, dedicated and thoroughly flawed. Scott and Bailey are great friends and understand each other very well.

In the flaw department, Bailey excels completely, to the dismay of her co-workers and to the detriment of her personal relationships. She makes up for it by being a brilliant detective. She has an older sister who helped raise her, a younger brother just out of prison, and a horrifyingly awful mom. Alison, the older sister, is played by Sally Lindsay who is also one of the writers on the series.

Scott is a bit older, with a husband, teen aged daughters, and a mom who is around a lot. She’s unflappable and efficient, but does manage to have a few issues of interest going on in her personal life.

DCI Gill Murray
DCI Gill Murray

Bailey calls the boss “Godzilla” but she’s one of the best bosses I’ve seen. Like Scott & Bailey, Gill Murray is a brilliant detective. She’s also capable of leading a large team of investigators straight in to a confusing morass of information and bringing them out with an answer.

2. The Writers!

The series was written mainly by Sally Wainwright and Diane Taylor. You may know other shows that Sally Wainwright has done, especially Last Tango in Halifax. Diane Taylor also acted as producer and police consultant on the series. Other writing credits go to Sally Lindsay, Suranne Jones, Amelia Bullmore and Nicole Taylor.

Nobody had to remind these writers to write “strong female characters.” They couldn’t do it any other way. They’ve created some of the most interesting women on television.

3. The Guest Stars

It may take more than one episode to solve a crime, which means a major guest star may be around for several episodes. Kevin Doyle, Mr. Molesley from Downton Abbey, is there for several episodes while he’s under investigation for a series of crimes. Josh Bolt, Raff from Last Tango in Halifax, was on one episode with a wild head of hair and a bad attitude.

A troubled daughter
A troubled daughter

Joe Bevan’s (George Costigan) nasty crimes took several episodes to investigate. Costigan made his character so creepy. It was masterfully done. (If you’ve seen Sally Wainwright’s drama Happy Valley, you can see Costigan in a much different role.) Helping the police with that investigation was his troubled and abused daughter Helen, played by Nicola Walker, who also worked on Last Tango in Halifax.

4. The British Style of Policing

A police procedural is such a common genre, but the British do it in their own way and it’s a refreshing change from American shows like Castle or Bones. Not that I don’t enjoy Castle and Bones or any other American police procedural like Rizzoli and Isles. But the style of inquiry, the method of interrogation, the lack of guns, and the calm attitude of the police toward the people under investigation is a window into how it can be done with less violence.

5. Great Performances

The acting is top notch from everyone in the series. There are many characters I haven’t mentioned who are played to perfection. The lead characters are excellently acted, completely real and believable. The show has an all-round outstanding cast. Nicholas Gleaves is terrific as DC Andy Roper, Tony Pitts is fabulous as Janet Scott’s husband, Liam Boyle is excellent as Rachel Bailey’s brother, Sean Maguire does a wonderful turn as Rachel’s mistreated love interest.

You might enjoy watching a few short promos and trailers for some of the shows and seasons. It will give you a glimpse of the characters in action. If you have seen the series, I’d love to hear your reactions to it in the comments.

Promo for season 1

A Season 3 Promo

Recommended: McLeod’s Daughters

McLeod’s Daughters ran for 224 episodes in Australia, lasting for 8 seasons. A show that popular for that long must have something going for it. It’s a female-centric drama. The original premise of the show was that half sisters Claire and Tess McLeod run a farm after their father’s death. The help that works the farm with them are all women. Posie Graeme-Evans developed the series.

Continue reading “Recommended: McLeod’s Daughters”

Sarah Lancashire in Rose and Maloney

I became a dedicated Sarah Lancashire devotee as I watched Last Tango in Halifax. Being an American who rarely gets to see British TV unless it’s broadcast on PBS, I had never heard of her before.

It’s surprisingly difficult to learn anything about British actors in America. Europeans don’t have much interest in filling out information for IMDB.com and places like Wikipedia are sketchy at best. When I saw that Sarah Lancashire was in a series called Rose and Maloney, I looked for it on Netflix and Amazon Prime but couldn’t find it. A couple of days ago, I discovered that YouTube runs full episodes of the series via All3Media and other kind souls who’ve shared. (See the update below.)

Sarah Lancashire as Rose Linden in season 1
Sarah Lancashire as Rose Linden in season 1

The series, which premiered in 2002, is uneven: storylines get mysteriously dropped, the characters change in inexplicable ways. It feels like they tried the first two episodes (which amount to season 1), got some positive response, and did a bit of a makeover in season 2 and 3 to try to keep things going. Rose in particular gets a bit of a redo – new hair, a different look with jeans and checkered shirts rolled up to the elbows, and slightly less drunkenness and fewer diabetic meltdowns.

Sarah Lancashine and Phil Davis and Rose and Maloney
Sarah Lancashine and Phil Davis and Rose and Maloney

Sarah Lancashire is devastatingly real as Rose in every episode.Rose and Maloney (Phil Davis plays Maloney) work for a fictional agency called CJRA, which reviews cases to make sure that justice was served. Sarah Lancashire as Rose Linden is a hard-drinking, smoking, cursing, rule-breaking investigator with relentless doggedness when it comes to finding truth and justice. She’s diabetic, messy, brilliant, and unafraid. Even though the series itself is inconsistent, Sarah Lancashire is devastatingly real as Rose in every episode.

Phil Davis is the perfect suit-and-tie establishment foil to her excess.Maloney’s a straight and narrow kind of guy who can’t believe some of the stunts Rose pulls, but who admires her skills in finding the truth about the cases they review. Phil Davis is the perfect suit-and-tie establishment foil to her excess.

Rose changes a lot in season 2 and 3. Her appearance changes, the boyfriend in prison somehow vanishes from her mind. Her boss changes from a man she shags on his desk late at night to a woman she drives crazy with her rebelliousness. The woman playing her mother changes. Nevertheless, Rose still is the same basic person with her snarky attitude and her determination to find the truth about her cases.

There are some delightful guest stars, Anthony Stewart Head and Eamonn Walker being two examples.

I’m never exactly sure what on-screen chemistry is other than good acting, but whatever it is, these two have it.Anne Reid joins the cast as Rose’s mother in a couple of episodes. Seeing Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire as mother and daughter in Rose and Maloney makes it obvious why they were cast together again in Last Tango in Halifax. Their chemistry, honed to razor sharpness in Last Tango in Halifax, is perfectly complementary. I’m never exactly sure what on-screen chemistry is other than good acting, but whatever it is, these two have it. Maybe they vibrate at the same frequency.

Update

As of February 2021, all three seasons of the series are now available on Prime Video.

Reflections on Season 1 of Last Tango in Halifax

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.

    Sarah Lancashire
    Sarah Lancashire, image ©BBC
  • 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.
  • Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire have played mother and daughter before, in a series called Rose and Maloney, which I don’t find available for streaming in the US. (See also Sarah Lancashire in Rose and Maloney.)

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!