WARM, romantic and BAFTA-winning, Last Tango In Halifax was a bona-fide hit last year, neatly refuting the idea that there’s no audience for “stuff about old people” on TV.
It’s even getting an American remake with Diane Keaton. So it’s no surprise that it has quickly been brought back, nor, given that much of its strength lies in its near real-time pace, that the story resumes moments later.
Yet pacing might prove to be an issue this year, as the reunited sweethearts Alan and Celia (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid) are now an established couple. Having missed 60 years together, they have surely too much sense to fall out again over minor misunderstandings. Their respective daughters (Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire) are still entangled in complicated love lives, but this can’t really take over the focus of the series from the older generation. So where will the drama lie?
In the first episode, this isn’t really resolved, as Alan recovers from his health scare and Celia organises their wedding, while the younger characters continue to flail. But it’s still such a warm and well-observed show – with lovely bits of dialogue and performances – that maybe it doesn’t matter.
Another golden oldie, Doctor Who, gears up for its 50th anniversary celebration with a charming one-off drama, An Adventure In Space And Time. It’s about the off-screen team who made the first episode in 1963, including producer Verity Lambert, wanting to be taken as seriously as her male colleagues, Indian-born director Waris Hussein and star William Hartnell, trying to break out of typecasting in ‘hard man’ roles (David Bradley recreates him perfectly).
Written by Mark Gatiss, with nods to the fandom (former companions Carole Ann Ford and William Russell pop up, as does voice-of-the-Daleks Nicholas Briggs), this is a labour of love. But it’s interesting for non-obsessive Whovians as well, in its recreation of a past TV culture when budgets were small but imagination made them bigger on the inside.
In a week with many programmes marking the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, JFK: News Of A Shooting is perhaps only for those with an especially avid interest, as it focuses on the reporting of the event by Walter Cronkite – a legendary figure in the USA but less well known here.
Still, this long documentary is narrated by George Clooney, who has a noted fascination for the ‘golden age’ of journalism and who – as Gravity shows us – has a voice so compelling that it can literally save freefalling astronauts. And there’s the interest of Cronkite’s story itself: the same age as JFK, he interviewed him at length only weeks previously, this veteran newspaperman had become TV’s first ‘anchorman’ and insisted on editorial control.
So when the first, confused reports came in, he had to balance personal reaction with hard-headed calculation about how to break the news. The result (re-constructed here with actors, as well as expert contributors and clips) was an iconic announcement, delivered with composure through obvious emotion, which still brings a shiver today.