Television review: Cuba with Simon Reeve, BBC2; Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1

Last Night's Viewing

The condition of the Cuban economy was quite nicely illustrated by Cecilia’s bedroom, a relatively spacious Havana interior but for the robust timber scaffolding that is currently holding the ceiling in place. For many decades the fiscal equivalent of those home-made pit props were the generous subventions from the former soviet Union, who were happy to buy sugar at inflated prices in order to maintain a thorn in Uncle Sam’s shoe.

So, although the American trade embargo created the economic equivalent of a near permanent downpour, everything stayed dry inside. But then, as was pointed out in Cuba with Simon Reeve, the Soviets stopped the fraternal subsidies and the rain started to get in.

Now, acknowledging the weather for the first time in years, Raul Castro has loosened the state’s grip on local enterprise and reeve was visiting the island before time ran out to see it as it used to be.

His film started with a kind of check list of Cuban television clichés: Fifties cars bucketing through the potholed streets, locals with stogies the size of drainpipes, waves breaking over the Malecon and Havana’s crumbling stucco.

We also got fairly boilerplate stuff about the “world-class health system” and the splendour of the Ballet Nacional, before Reeve reminded us that dissent wasn’t permitted in Cuba and that he’d only been allowed in on condition that he didn’t meet known dissidents.

In the end, he didn’t really need to. No one said a word against the current government, but the ordinary details of daily life he filmed offered a steady, wordless rebuke to the dream of a centrally planned economy.

It wasn’t just Cecilia’s roof either, but the fact that the genial plumbing-supplies salesman he met on the street (everything including the kitchen sink) was supplementing his income as a qualified doctor.

With the state about to embark on its own austerity cuts in public services, the possibility that some workers will be able to top up their earnings while simultaneously contributing extra revenue to the state coffers means that economic liberalisation is probably irreversible. And, judging from Reeve’s film, the Cuban people appear to have taken to entrepreneurship with some zeal.

Everywhere he went, he found small enterprises starting out on the long haul to become big ones. Havana’s equivalent of Foxtons was Acaena, a young woman who was absolutely thrilled to be doing her bit to build Cuba’s youthful housing market (“I said to myself, ‘no more selling cheese for me’,” she said, recalling the thrill of her first commission.)

And its equivalent of McDonald’s, currently open in one outlet only, was La Pachanga, a thriving burger bar that already had a branded mascot and a VIP area (it has air conditioning and disco lighting). Whether Cuba will find it to be an unmixed blessing having their own equivalents of Foxtons and McDonald’s is another matter altogether, but Reeve fairly persuasively made his case that if you want to see the Cuba of the old tourist clichés you had better go soon.

I have caught up with Last Tango in Halifax a bit late, and, on the evidence of last night’s episode, I’m having a little difficulty seeing what all the fuss has been about.

It’s undemanding and warm-hearted, true, and it makes a change to have a drama centred on an older couple. but I’m not convinced that saying “reet” or “’appen” now and then really turns Derek Jacobi into a convincing Yorkshireman and whatever its leads do to overturn stereotypes of the old is surely counterbalanced by Alan’s “comedy geezer” friends maurice and Harry.

It also does not, to put it mildly, stick to Larry David’s Law, which decrees “no hugging, no learning”. There are passages when Last Tango in Halifax appears to consist of little else, animosities and ancient grudges melting away with every clinch. And there’ll be a lot more hugging before it’s over. Alan has “a twinge”.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
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

TV

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

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    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'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick