Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex and Girls: I watch these shows religiously. I was a fan of BBC3’s Sun Sex and Suspicious Parents and nothing makes me happier than Channel 4’s First Dates. Now I’m waiting to run home from the office to catch up on TOWIE’s Essexmas (that’s the Christmas special, by the way).
This is television aimed at young people, and I love it all. Whether it’s the hotness, the gloss and the break-ups of reality TV or the hilarious, cringeworthy look at 20-something life from Lena Dunham, I’ll be watching, as will my friends.
But when I mention that I’m planning a night in to watch the Last Tango in Halifax Christmas special, there are a few raised eyebrows. “The one about old people?”, someone says. “Isn’t Derek Jacobi, like, 90?”. The assumption is that the millions of people who watch Sally Wainwright’s drama must be at least middle-aged.
And yes, Jacobi has a good few years (78, to be precise) under his belt and the BBC1 show, which has already aired three series, centres around his character Alan’s relationship with his wife Celia (Anne Reid) and their complex, warm and quite tiring family. But the assumption that young people have no interest in older people is misguided.
Of course, I am naturally attracted to shows depicting the lives of those at a similar stage to me. But my friends and I also spend a lot of time thinking about old age, relationships and family, more so than ever now that our grandparents are living longer and we can’t afford to move out of our parents’ home as quickly as previous generations. We’re in the thick of family life and not all so busy planning drunken escapades in Ibiza that we’re blind to the complexity of a world beyond our 20s and 30s.
But more than that, the Yorkshire-set Last Tango in Halifax, also starring Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire, proves that the age of the characters doesn’t matter when you’ve got dialogue as realistic – and acting as powerful – as that found in Sally Wainwright’s drama. It might not have the obvious melodrama of Hollyoaks but the action is there, just more subtly.
This Christmas special has grief, amateur dramatics, inebriation and heart-ache all depicted in such a funny, moving and genuinely insightful way that I wanted to hug Sally Wainwright for giving it to us.
So, while there’s little I like more than a beautifully dressed reality TV star throwing a drink down her cheating boyfriend’s white shirt at a birthday party, it turns out I love Last Tango in Halifax’s brilliant characters and gentle, unexpected plot twists even more.
The Last Tango in Halifax Christmas special starts tonight at 9pm on BBC1, concluding at the same time tomorrow night
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