Review, BBC One
Last Tango in Halifax, Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid
It triumphed because it wasn't about old people or even elderly romance, but love, says Simon Usborne
The first half of Last Tango in Halifax viewed like an extended viral ad for Facebook. Celia and Alan (Anne Reid and Sir Derek Jacobi, both wonderful) had been fond of each other at school, but shyness and a missing note led them to separate lives and thoughts of what might have been.
Fifty years later, both widowed and in their seventies, they met on Facebook, and exchanged messages as nervous and awkward as any between teenagers. Alan struggled with tone (meet for a coffee, or for a cup of coffee?) and agonised about whether to sign off with an "X". Celia, too, hesitated before agreeing to meet in Skipton, where all roads would later meet.
Despite their marketing gift to social networks, the early messaging scenes were all the more effective for featuring the real Facebook (I can't bear unrealistic TV computing, but that might just be me). They also set the tone for a six-part romantic comedy to soften all but the hardest hearts. Last Tango could have patronised its aged protagonists or targeted only an ageing audience. But it triumphed because it wasn't about old people or even elderly romance, but love. This (sentimental) 30-year-old loved every minute.
It showed that the writer, Sally Wainwright (At Home with the Braithwaites, Scott & Bailey), was on home turf in two senses. As in her three-part ITV drama, Unforgiven (2009), she set Last Tango in the moors and market towns of her native Yorkshire. Celia's story was also that of Wainwright's own mother, who married an old friend she'd met via Friends Reunited (remember that?) "Every time I told anyone [the story], their face would light up in utter joy that two people had found something so special so late in life," she told the BBC last summer. "It was just so obvious that I should write about it."
As Celia and Alan remembered each other over tea, they seemed at times exasperated by their dysfunctional offspring, whose trials and secrets formed the background to the romance. Both were living with their respective daughters, whose disparate lives (Alan's was a checkout girl, Celia's a posh headmistress) were neatly if rather forcefully contrasted in a cut-together scene in which they walked down the aisles of a supermarket and a school chapel.
Their paths later met in a fight over a parking space as each arrived in Skipton to collect a parent, not knowing who the other was. Immediately hating each other and spitting class prejudice, they were only silenced when they learned that they would be stepsisters. After a day of reminiscences and soul-searching (and an unlikely car chase), Celia and Alan were engaged, having come to the swift realisation that, in her words, "we missed a trick, didn't we?"
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Louis van Gaal gets tough with Manchester United players, with Darren Fletcher and Luke Shaw berated in public and Phil Jones left looking bemused
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous film
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia