This week celebrate the returns of some of my favourite programmes and introduce a new chat show.
When Last Tango in Halifax debuted last year nobody expected the series to be as popular as it was. The series, about two pensioners finding love in their twilight years, captured the nation’s imagination and saw a lot of people head to Facebook to track down their long lost lovers. Whilst the first series concentrated on Alan and Celia’s romance it also saw the couple briefly separate after the latter revealed her feelings about her daughter’s lesbian love affair. This second series opens where we left off as Alan recovers from his heart attack and Celia learns that any other sudden shocks could finish him off. Meanwhile Alan’s daughter Gillian decides to come clean with Celia’s daughter Caroline about her one night stand with Caroline’s ex-husband John. Whilst Caroline had seemingly finished with John, it still upsets her about how flippant Gillian can be about the liaison. The news of the one night stand soon spreads to Celia and then to Alan who starts to fly off the handle as he feels it’s the latest in the long line of disappointments that Gillian has brought to his door. As Alan decides to move into Celia’s bungalow, mainly because he won’t have to worry about climbing stairs, Gillian feels that her father’s new family are cutting him out of her life. It seems that Gillian’s woes are increasing as she learns that she may be losing the family’s farm due to financial difficulties. Based on this episode alone it does feel like this series of Last Tango will be much darker in tone than its predecessor.
Before tonight’s episode aired, I did wonder how writer Sally Wainwright could continue the various plot threads of Last Tango for another series. But I needn’t have worried as, by the time the episode had come to an end, I’d fallen in love with the programme all over again. It does appear as if this series will be more about Caroline and Gillian than Alan and Celia and I for one have no problem with that. Nicola Walker’s performance as Gillian was absolutely fantastic in this episode as she began a downward spiral that I’m sure will continue as the series goes on. I believe that Walker is one of British television’s unsung heroes and I feel that a large scale drama such as this will showcase exactly what she has to offer. Similarly Sarah Lancashire was brilliant as Caroline continued to try and liver her life to the fullest by moving her lover Kate into the family home. Lancashire’s prickly headmistress thawed over series one and I’m interested to see where Wainwright will take the character this series. That’s not to say that Last Tango isn’t still concentrating on Alan and Celia as the couple decided to get married in secret during this episode. As with series one, Alan and Celia’s romance is utterly believable primarily due to the fantastic chemistry between Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid. Jacobi’s performance was particularly strong in this episode as he was able to let out Alan’s angrier side for the first time. The Yorkshire scenery is beautifully captured once again and almost becomes another character in and of itself. Ultimately this episode proved that sometimes drama doesn’t have to be depressing to feel realistic. The sweet-natured romance of Last Tango is something that we all fell for last time around and it looks like its set to continue through what looks to be another strong series.
As we descend into mid-November its time once again to head over to the Australian jungle as Ant and Dec introduce us to another crop of victims in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. This year’s series differed somewhat as the two teams of celebrities were chosen at random during the opening task. Thick-as-a-brick Joey Essex joined forces with snooker legend Steve Davis as they competed against someone from Emmerdale and Carlton Banks to construct a dream team. Steve and Joey reached each checkpoint first and were able to select beautiful model Amy Willerton, Olympic athlete Rebecca Adlington and Big Mo from Eastenders. Meanwhile the other team ended up with Matthew Wright, one of Westlife and fashion designer David Emmanuel who was the only celebrity I’d never heard of before the show began. Despite being presented as the weaker team, Carlton’s gang won the first group trial and with it the splendid Croc Creek camp. However that’s all they’ve won so far this week as Joey has beaten Matthew in the head-to-head trials which have both ended in a photo finish. Talking of Matthew, he’s become one of my favourite contestants so far thanks in part to his sarcastic attitude. I’ve also really warmed to Rebecca Adlington especially after we heard about her body issues that have been brought up due to her sharing a camp with the gorgeous Amy. Big Mo proved to me that she wasn’t doing a lot of acting on Eastenders to the extent that she lets her campmates call her Mo. I have to admit that I’m really irritated by Joey Essex whose dumb routine really doesn’t work for me and I don’t buy that anybody can be that stupid. It’s upsetting then that he’ll probably win the contest which really does say something about the state of this country. Luckily Ant and Dec were on hand to cheer me up as they proved once again that their comic banter is what’s kept this programme going for thirteen series.
Our only new show of the week is yet another showcase for the ubiquitous Jack Whitehall who has already graced our screens in A League of Their Own, Fresh Meat and Bad Education. Whitehall stays on BBC3 for Backchat, a new talk show in which he co-hosts with father Michael. Whilst Jack is irreverent, Michael is quite old-fashioned but at the same time comes out with some fairly shocking one-liners. The joke is that Jack is trying to get Michael to modernise his output whilst Michael is incredibly stuck in his ways. I really enjoyed the first ten minutes or so of the programme as Jack welcomed Jeremy Paxman. Here we saw Michael voice his disappointment with his son’s life choices and agree with Paxman over the whole M&S pants debacle. However, once second guest Danny Dyer entered, Michael barely said anything at all and the comedy mainly was based on the unlikeliness of Dyer and Paxman being on the same show. I have to say I would’ve liked more from Michael as his input was what made the show what it was and the fact that it was almost non-existent spoilt the second half of the programme for me. The least successful part of the show was a sketch in which Jack and Michael went to a plastic surgeon to see if the latter needed any work on his face. These segments didn’t really ring true and it really did beg the question if Michael was putting on his persona purely for the cameras. I really hope this isn’t the case as, with the exception of the sketch, everything that Michael did felt realistic. Without Michael this simply would’ve been the Jack Whitehall Talk Show and I honestly don’t think it would’ve panned out well at all. That being said there were definitely more hits than misses and, as tonight’s was the first show, I can forgive them for a few teething problems. I’m hoping in the upcoming weeks that BBC3 realises that Michael is the star turn and should showcase his input as much as possible. It’ll be interesting to see if Backchat will continue to improve over the weeks as I found it to be an interesting idea even if the execution wasn’t always a success.
One BBC3 comedy that has consistently proved to be a success is the fantastic Him and Her, which returned for its final series this week. I’ve long been a fan of Stephen Golaszewski’s sitcom and have often wondered why it hasn’t made it on to BBC2 as it would really appeal to a wider audience. Instead Him and Her has remained a cult sitcom which is fine in a way as it hasn’t had to change its humour to appease a mainstream audience. This series differs from those that have gone before it as Steve and Becky have moved from the flat and into a hotel where Laura and Paul’s wedding will take place. Each episode of this final run will focus on a different aspect of the couple’s big day with this opening instalment looking at the morning preparations for the event. Laura and Paul’s relationship has been frantic since the opening episode and it was recently revealed that he’s been conducting an affair with an older man. The fact that Paul’s lover Graham is one of the witnesses at the ceremony is obviously going to cause problems down the line. Meanwhile best man Steve has his work cut out for him as he has to convince Paul to go down the aisle in the first place. At the same time Steve is wary that Becky’s ex-boyfriend Lee is a guest at the wedding as he feels that Lee had always been the man that Becky’s parents saw her marrying. It’s a testament to Golaszewski that he can keep all of these stories going at once while at the same time keeping Him and Her incredibly funny. The humour always comes from realistic situations and there are often comic moments that most of us can identify with. If there’s one thing I can find fault with it’s that Steve’s upstairs neighbour Dan seems surplus to requirements and does very little in the first episode. Him and Her has also boasted an impressive ensemble cast with Kerry Howard dominating here as demanding bride Laura. As Steve and Becky, Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani have always had excellent chemistry which allows the audience to believe in their relationship. I have to say I am sad that Him and Her is coming to an end but I’m glad they’ve decided to bow out with a series that has such a unique structure.
Next Time: Legacy, Liberty of London and The Audience.