Sunday, August 02, 2015

TV Watch: An enthusiastic thumbs-up for the just-completed Season 3 of "Last Tango in Halifax"


The preview for tonight's highly satisfying Season 3 finale of Last Tango in Halifax

by Ken

This illustrates the problem with having no writers about TV I can turn to for guidance. All through the six-episode Season 3 of Last Tango in Halifax, which aired tonight on many PBS stations, I kept thinking, somebody shoulda told me about this. I know that probably there are people who tried, but since I don't listen to them about anything else, why would I have listened to them about this?

So while I was aware through the previous seasons that a show of this name had popped up and gone away again, I mostly figured, well, they've gone and dragged Derek Jacobi to Nova Scotia for some sort of country-bumpkin shenanigans. Well, no. It's not even that Halifax. It's the original one, in West Yorkshire (so everyone gets to do appropriate accents.)

I guess with a show like this, either the characters command your attention or they don't, and coming in late, I was agreeably surprised to find that these characters did. In which case, it's a challenge but a good sort of challenge to get caught up on their lives -- at least enough to keep up with the new season's developments. There's still a fair amount about the first two seasons' goings-on that's blurry or even totally mysterious to me, and I imagine I'll need to plug that gap at some point.

But I enjoyed the company of the families that were sort of joined when -- 60 years after their teenage love went astray -- Alan (Derek J) and Celia (Anne Reid) refound each other and now, a lifetime later, decided to give it a go together. All manner of plotlines and complications are spun around their families, even though their own immediate offspring are limited to a daughter apiece, Alan's Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Celia's Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) -- or at least that's the way it was until this season, when, through the magic of TV writing, a "new" sibling was added -- the always-working Rupert Graves as Gary, a son Alan never knew existed.

Obviously these folks and their partners (past, present, and future) and kids (Gillian has one son; Caroline, two) had been through a lot grappling with life goals and romantic relationships, before I made their acquaintance -- some of which I've had sketched out, and some of which I haven't. I realize this isn't much for you to go on, especially with the "new" season now in the books. At the same time, previously aired shows have never been more accessible, and while I haven't yet tried to track down those Season 1 and 2 episodes, I know that the six of Season 3 can be found easily online.

People getting on with their lives, in the face of assorted obstacles -- it's not something today's TV programmers go out of their way to put on the air. Perhaps because it means you really have to create people and situations that really engage the interest and concerns of an audience. It's a challenge that doesn't seem to have fazed Sally Wainwright, who created Last Tango and has written all 18 episodes to date.

In the Season 3 finale I thought she did a masterful job of pressing ahead with current business (notably Gillian's wedding and major tensions between Alan and recovered son Gary) while tying up and advancing plot threads from the season and sending many of the characters off into off-season business I assume we'll learn more about come Season 4. I'm really looking forward to it.



At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so excited to see you write about this wonderful series! I have watched it from the beginning, as I always watch the PBS series. The growth of these characters has been really interesting - especially Celia, who has had to accept the fact that her daughter is a lesbian, her husband fathered an illegitimate child, and she has a multi-racial "granddaugter." I have really enjoyed it and you are correct that some of the stories in seasons one and two were a bit "muddled", as the British say, but all in all it is a really great series with really good acting. I particularly like Gillian, who I have seen in other British shows.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks for chiming in! I'm also extremely fond of Nicola Walker, who plays Gillian. She's done a huge amount of British series TV, but is probably best remembered for her longest run, as the ever patient and wise Ruth on Harry Pearce's MI-5 team. In Last Tango she does a wonderful job with a quite complex character.


At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(me again) I have been wondering and hoping if there will be a Season Four, since we still have a lot of characters in flux.


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