Inside Television: Why the new interest in the social lives of pensioners?


I've been thinking this week about J.J. Murphy, the actor who died, aged 86, four days into filming scenes for his role as Ser Denys Mallister in Game of Thrones. His friends have spoken of his excitement to be cast in the hit show and it’s undoubtedly a triumphant cap to a seven-decade career. Let’s hope producers find a way to include him in the finished series. 

Mr Murphy lived to see an era in which television actors have more opportunities than ever to continue working beyond what other industries might consider ‘retirement age’, and not just as kindly grandparents. Old dogs are still learning in New Tricks, the comedy drama about a squad of retired police officers which begins an eleventh series on Monday. Tonight on BBC One, a brand new series Boomers will debut. The sitcom, by Citizen Khan writer Richard Pinto is about a group of sixty-something friends and features story-lines about funerals, first grandchildren and waning sex drives. The talented cast includes Alison Steadman, Stephanie Beacham and - perhaps most poignantly - no-longer ‘Young One’ Nigel Planer as Mick.

Why the new interest in the social lives of pensioners? June Whitfield, 88, who plays the elderly mother of Stephanie Beacham’s character has an explanation: “I think with the success of Last Tango in Halifax, directors and producers are beginning to realise that there is life after 35,” she said. Actually, Sally Wainwright’s drama about the multi-generational fall-out of a late-in-life love affair was not the first to put older characters on screen.

Previous attempts to woo older viewers have included Last of The Summer Wine about a trio of young-at-heart Yorkshiremen which became the longest-running comedy programme in Britain. It’s a wonder that in those 37 years no one ever thought to make a crossover special with The Golden Girls, in which Compo took Sophia for a ride in the bathtub and Blanche exchanged style tips with Nora Batty. Last year, ITV even ventured a hidden camera prank show featuring only pensionable-age performers. The longevity of Off Their Rockers might not match that of its cast, but it has recently been commissioned for a third series. 

Last Tango in Halifax isn’t the first television programme about older people, but it might be the first to include characters, dialogue and dramatic situations so well-written that any viewer, of any age could immediately recognise its quality. Too many programmes made with a specific audience in mind - be it over 60s, under 30s, women or British-Pakistani cat lovers with rising moon in Aquarius rely on us to tune in out of blind demographic loyalty. So, the good news is that there’s now enough television made about later life that viewers can afford to be discerning. The bad news is these discerning viewers may yet be disappointed.

When Lauren Bacall met The Sopranos

One of Lauren Bacall’s most memorable qualities was her effortless cool, so in tribute to the actress, who passed away this week at the age of 89, let’s overlook her actual final screen credit, voicing a lecherous friend of Peter’s mother in Family Guy, and remember her cameo in The Sopranos instead. Hollywood and the Mafia have an uneasy relationship which long predates David Chase’s superlative drama, but this 2006 episode nicely summed up the dynamic. Christopher (Michael Imperioli) is in town to persuade Ben Kingsley to star in his dreadful-sounding mafia-slasher movie ‘Cleaver’. During their poolside meeting, Bacall drifts by and is unimpressed when Christopher says he loved her in “The Haves and Have Nots”. She was right to be. The episode ends with her being violently mugged, all for the sake of an awards show gift bag.


The Beauty of Anatomy, BBC iPlayer

If you’re still feeling unsettled by Gunther von Hagens’ human taxidermy in his Channel 4 programme, rest assured that Dr Adam Rutherford’s interest in the human body is much less ghoulish. He wants to illuminate the relationship between art and humanity’s hard-won knowledge of anatomy. Leonardo da Vinci’s famous sketches weren’t all the product of his imagination, you know.

Executed, ITV Player

It’s 50 years this week since the final state executions took place in most of the UK (Northern Ireland excepted). ITV marked the occasion with this documentary look at some of the cases which motivated a change in the law. Most moving are the interviews with surviving relatives of Derek Bentley and Timothy Evans - prisoners executed for crimes we now know they didn’t commit.

Utopia, 4oD

This second series of Dennis Kelly’s conspiracy thriller never quite lived up the promise of the first, but that’s not to say there weren’t a fair few moments in the Tuesday night finale worth savouring. Environmentalist doom-mongers and Malthusian misanthropes, in particular have been furnished with enough lines to win a thousand pub arguments.

Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, BBC iPlayer

Kate Adie’s contribution to the First World War centenary programming is offering us this new angle on the relationship between the war and the struggle for women’s liberation. It would be even more interesting if Adie, a pioneer in her own right, had added her personal perspective.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture