TV | Last Tango in Halifax – More Alan Bennett than Wuthering Heights

TV | Last Tango in Halifax – More Alan Bennett than Wuthering Heights

You could be forgiven for having missed the first series of the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax, not to be mistaken for the Marlon Brando film Last Tango in Paris, under any circumstances, students are not exactly its intended audience however, having earned universal acclaim from critics, drawing in huge audiences and earning numerous award nominations; it is worth giving it a go. With a cast headed up by the evergreen talents of Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, the show follows the story of two teenage sweethearts cum widowers reunited 60 years later through Facebook. Inspired by her elderly mother’s second marriage, Sally Wainwright has created a drama that is more Alan Bennett than Wuthering Heights: quiet and understated but still packing a hefty punch.

Jacobi and Reid are excellent as the shows leads Alan and Celia, the former surprisingly reserved given his history as a thespian and his Yorkshire twang convinces at least this southerner. More often than not however, the pair can take a back seat as their families clash.

The supporting cast do not disappoint when called upon to drive the show forward and it is arguably Tony Gardner as adulterous husband John, who has made a niche of playing scumbags (you may recognise him as Professor Shales or as that bloke from My Parents are Aliens), that steals the show by giving a performance so full of humour and self pity that you can’t help but feel your heart melt for him. Perhaps that is the show’s greatest strength; it is honest to its characters and recognises that each has their vices and their virtues.

Wainwright and the rest of the crew have created a show endearing in its honesty, without ever forcing it down our throats. It may lack the steaminess of its namesake but Last Tango is a rewarding watch for anyone interested in good television.

Last Tango in Halifax is on BBC1, Tuesdays at 9pm.

Ben Cook 

Photo: Property of theguardian.co.uk

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