Sometimes the BBC’s approach to commissioning shows is a complete mystery to me.
Take Me and Mrs Jones, a good humoured comedy about a middle-aged Gemma (beautifully played by Sarah Alexander) who finds herself torn between the safe but dull romantic approaches of her same-age admirer, or the passions of her 20-something son’s best mate (Robert Sheehan).
Despite actually being funny – not something one can say of most BBC Comedy output – the show has been axed. Viewers will never find out which of her suitors Gemma picks.
Auntie Beeb has form on this sort of thing when it comes to shows dealing with sex and sexuality – it also pulled the plug on Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful People, a show which had great reviews and won awards.
So it’s a testament to the cast and crew of Last Tango in Halifax that the BBC has overcome its aversion to relationships which deviate from the hetrosexual 2.4 children stereotype and commissioned a second series.
If you’ve missed it, the series stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as a couple re-united after 60 years.
The pair are supported by a cast which includes Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker, Tony Gardner, Dean Andrews and Ronni Ancona – all of them top tier actors who could easily headline a show in their own right.
But as great as the secondary cast members are, Last Tango in Halifax works primarily off the strength of its leads.
While they’ve been great every week, I think Jacobi and Reid shone brightest in an episode in which they got trapped overnight in a stately home.
The writing and acting produced a real sense of romance, warmth and mutual protection as the pair helped themselves to biscuits from the souvenir shop and settled down for a romantic night in the home’s grand old bed.
Here were two older characters undaunted by, and clearly loving, their misadventure.
What a welcome portrayal of strong, active older characters – something the BBC still rarely offers.
I think the show is also benefiting from the way it makes great use of its setting. re-enforcing the point I made earlier this year about how anonymised, placeless shows are nobbled from the outset.
It’ll be interesting to see if the show’s premise is strong enough for further runs, but Last Tango in Halifax has been a genuine pleasure to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing what the production team have in store next year.