Last Tango in Halifax is very English, in the best possible way. Only the English could produce a gentle love story between two pensioners falling back in love after nearly forty years but still include sub plots about suicide, alcoholism and whether your parents regret the relationship that produced you in the first. What also makes it feel so homely is every face feels familiar.
“That’s what’s-her-name from Spooks? The nice one.”
“Isn’t that the dad from My Parents Are Aliens?”
And, all of them have probably been in Doctor Who at some point or other! Without checking IMDB (Internet Movie Database for those out of the know) I couldn’t tell you what any of the characters are called. I know British veterans, Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, are playing the young lovers while Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire are their playing their daughters respectively. But their character names, who knows. The problem this creates is that the actors turn back into how you best remember them in previous shows. Nicola Walker character is just a Yorkshire version of Ruth from Spooks. Dean Andrews’ Robbie (one of the few character names I can remember) is basically Ray Carling from Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. When he turns up driving a police car in episode two you are hardly surprised.
But is this even an issue? Does not remembering a character’s name make them immediately un-memorable or a bad character? I’m not sure it does. None of the examples I gave above are bad characters, at worst they are good actors in typecast roles. It doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the programme.
One character that does reduce my enjoyment is Sarah Lancashire’s Caroline (name had to be check on IMDB of course!) I think the audience is meant to be sympathetic towards her as she tries to balance the difficulty of a demanding job, a divorce, single motherhood and possible lesbianism, but she just isn’t likeable. The way she dumps Nina Sosanya is just cold while the scene in episode one which compares Caroline and Nicola Walker’s characters preparing for the working day seems to show Caroline has everything and yet is still complaining. The sequence is beautiful shot though! However, she is becoming more bearable with some character development pulling down the barriers hiding the interesting person inside.
Last Tango in Halifax is a good fun watch with the comedy funny – the car chase in episode one is great – and the drama dramatic. You do care for these characters and hope everything ends up all ok in the end – even if it feels like some twists are being so heavy hinted at the director might as well write them on the side of the Yorkshire dales in fifty foot high letters. For examples see Derek Jacobi’s heart pills and the sexually tension between Nicola Walker and Dean Andrews!
I would recommend Last Tango in Halifax to anyone who wants to enjoy some very English telly. The kind of show where butter is only used to spread on scones!