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Last Tango in Halifax - TV review

Entertainment | Published:

The Bronte sisters knew only too well that the breath-taking Yorkshire moors were the perfect backdrop to a romantic tale.

Two hundred years later and the dramatic landscape has not changed a jot, but the protagonists haven't quite got the youth and vitality of Heathcliff and Catherine.

The story of a widow and widower in their autumn years reuniting after 60 years didn't initially strike me as must-watch TV. But Bafta-winning script writer Sally Wainwright has created an absolute gem of a series with her latest offering for BBC1, Last Tango in Halifax.

The six-parter addresses the growing number of silver surfers who are turning to social networks to get back in touch with old friends, or even – gasp! – find love.

It's a subject that rarely features in dramas, usually only comic fodder and rarely realistically portrayed.

The story was, however, inspired by Wainwright's own mother's experiences of internet dating via Friends Reunited, so the result is a realistic and touching story of pensioner passion.

Alan and Celia's paths cross when their computer-savvy grandchildren create them both a profile on Facebook. They knew each other as teenagers growing up in West Yorkshire and almost went on a date, but a twist of fate meant they went their separate ways and lost touch. Sixty years later and both recently widowed, their passions are ignited once again through several emails and an eventual meeting in a cafe in Skipton. Watching someone type out a message doesn't often have gripping effects, but watching a nervous Alan type, then delete, then type some more out of fear of sounding too keen was just so sweet.

Love late in life seems to move just as fast as it does in youth, as one dramatic car chase and car crash later, Celia and Alan decide not to waste another moment without each other – they're getting married. It's fair to say their protective daughters are more than a little surprised.

There's a stellar cast. Derek Jacobi plays lovelorn Alan with such sweet sentiment, love burning in his eyes with the sheer mention of his new love's name. Anne Reid is straight-talking Celia, while the brilliant Sarah Lancashire plays her headmistress daughter, who has been having some major ups and downs in her own love life – her estranged husband is back on the scene after ditching his alcoholic lover, and she's been having lesbian liaisons with another teacher at school. You didn't get this sort of carry-on in Last of the Summer Wine.

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It's billed as a romantic comedy, and there certainly are some funny moments. Comic timing and a Yorkshire accent are two of Wainwright's fiercest weapons, so Anne's question: "What's a Crappacino, Alan?" was just hilarious.

As well as orchestrating a touching, funny, love story, Wainwright (whose credentials include At Home With The Braithwaites, Scott and Bailey and several episodes of Corrie and Emmerdale) has managed to weave in several sub plots that ensure last night's audience will definitely be back in front of the telly next week.

Becky Woods

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