** Waiting For God **
I have fond memories of this fairly short lived series which ran for 4 years from 1990 to 94. It broke the mould somewhat being more concerned with the world from the point of view of its 2 elderly main characters.
Those characters are Tom Ballard, a former accountant who goes off on flights of fancy about his past experiences and spins fictitious tales about his supposedly exciting achievements. Tom is my favourite character because I suppose I recognise in him our own tendencies to exaggerate stories to make our days and our lives seem more interesting exciting and less mundane than they really are.
The tough old Yang to Tom's Yin is provided by the other main character Diana is a cynical, slightly bad tempered but kind at heart retired photojournalist.
Tom and Diana have a magical chemistry between them, and not all the subject matter is throw away comedy stuff. There are serious points hidden in the show about dignity for elderly people and societies attitudes to them.
I wouldn't want to pick a favourite series as the show works brilliantly throughout its 4 year run as far as I'm concerned. But the second series is a very good and worthy contender for the thrown. The characters are by this point well developed as are the supporting and antagonistic characters and the sharp, funny, clever and sentimental interplay between Tom and Diana is in full swing.
There are 9 episodes in series 2;
Counselling for the Dying
Daisy Takes Charge
Tell the Truth
The Hip Operation
The Boring Son
They are all of consistent quality and well deserving of a second watch. We have all the series on DVD and if you haven't seen Waiting For God you are in for a treat.
The series I believe sits somewhere between Last Of The Summer Wine and One Foot In The Grave in its comedy leanings and genre.
A great comedy and a DVD well worth buying. It is currently £6.99 form Amazon.
Thanks for reading my review.
Waiting for god is a classic early 90's BBC comedy drama about life in the fictional 'Bayview Retirement Village'. The humour is inoffensive and is mostly built around the fact that old people don't always act in the way we expect them to. Although the show may look a little dated it is still incredibly watchable. WFG ran for five seasons, although the supporting cast are a little week it is well written and Stephanie Cole, Graham Crowden and Michael Bilton are outstanding.
Dianna Trent (Stephanie Cole.) is a very strong character who has had to retire from photo journalism due to health issues. Tom Ballard is an eccentric ex accountant who has a vivid imagination and a penchant for acting madder than he actually is. Tom and Dianna hit it off from the start although Dianna's volatile temper may test their relationship at times. Stephanie Cole is an acting institution with a massive amount of experience, check out the fantastic 80's show 'Tenko' more recently you may recognise her from 'Doc Martin.'
Basil (Michael Bilton.) is another of the 'inmates' at Bayview and is hilarious. Basil's exploits at the retirement village have earned him the nickname 'Basil The Bonker.' Sadly Michael Bilton passed away before season five, he had an illustrious acting career spanning five decades. Tom's son and daughter in law are Geoffrey (Andrew Tourell.) and Marion (Sandra Payne). Geoffrey is incredibly boring and almost the absolute opposite to tom whereas Marion is a neurotic drunk. Sandra Payne is not at her strongest here but it is worth checking out 'Triangle.'
Harvey Baines (Daniel Hill.) is the ineffective manager of Bayview, a Gus Hedges wannabe. Harvey is reluctant to make the lives of the residents any better yet Tom and Dianna almost always get their way in the end. Jane (Janine Duvitski.) is Harvey's number two, she's a bit of a wet lettuce and is infatuated with Harvey. As a character Jane is the hardest to believe as she is so sensitive.
By season two the characters are well established but Tom and Dianna's friendship has yet to develop into a romantic relationship. There are some elements of serial in series two but not as much as in the later series. My favourite episode from season two is 'Tell The Truth.' Where Tom decides to be completely truthful and ends up acting more obnoxiously than Dianna usually does. Season two can be bought online for around £7 but if you want the complete series it is worth waiting until you can buy it on a multibuy offer.
Diana is reluctantly stuck in the Bayview Retirement Home and in order to cope with life, makes it as difficult as possible for everyone around her. Her one friend and direct neighbour, Tom, tries to stop her from going too far as much as possible, but occasionally joins in with her plans, particularly when it is to stop the management - Harvey in particular - from getting things their own way. Tom's son Geoffrey and his wife Marion hate the influence that Diana has on Tom, but despite conspiring with Harvey, they fail to do very much to stop him. But there is no doubt that Diana and Tom are getting older; both are getting forgetful and then Diana has a serious fall. Is their freedom likely to be even more compromised in the future?
Waiting for God was televised between 1990 and 1994 on the BBC channel, with this, the second series, shown in 1991. It came 37th in a poll conducted by the BBC and Channel 4 to find Britain's best sitcom. Stephanie Cole as Diana is absolutely the best part of the show for me. Diana is a real grumpy old woman - she is rude to everyone around her and really resents the fact that she is getting old. She used to be a photographer and is used to her independence, having never been married. Cole is fabulous in the role, grumpy enough to be shocking at times, but with such a sensible outlook on life that it is hard not to like her. In fact, she puts into words many things that most of us are thinking, but are too polite to say - at her age, she clearly thinks it is too late to mess around! Diana truly is a great character and, without her, I'm sure this sitcom would have faded into obscurity long before it did.
The rest of the characters, unfortunately, are deeply silly and turn what could have been a very funny show into a mockery. Graham Crowden plays Tom, and is probably the least silly, but still manages to be exceptionally annoying at times. Tom is going slightly senile, although it is never entirely clear quite how much he is putting it on - he seems to think he has connections with a number of famous actresses and often goes off into a reverie for no apparent reason. Crowden overdoes the friendly old duffer act though and I always find myself glad when Diana tells him in no uncertain terms where to get off!
Daniel Hill and Janine Duvitski play Harvey and his assistant Jane. Harvey is always plotting ways to save money and is desperate to get rid of Diana, but always fails, mainly because he is too stupid. Jane is a ditzy frump who is in love with Harvey and is basically a good-natured woman, despite her lack of common sense. Both are incredibly annoying characters - Harvey is slimy and Jane is just too daft to be true - and over-act to such an extent that it is painful to watch at times. And as for Andrew Tourell and Sandra Payne who play Tom's son and daughter-in-law - they are a complete waste of time. The son is so boring it is just not funny and the daughter-in-law is a drunk with mental health problems - her behaviour is actually worrying rather than funny. I know it's supposed to be a comedy, but I think the joke was taken a bit too far.
Written by Michael Aitkens, the script is fairly rubbish, although it does have the odd moment of brilliance - thanks mainly to Stephanie Cole's superb delivery of her lines. Most of the ten episodes in this series revolve around Harvey's attempts to cut down on costs and Diana and Tom's attempts to ensure that life is as good as it possibly can be for the 'inmates' as Harvey calls them. Stephanie has a rival in episodes two and three, when a new 'inmate' called Daisy arrives, and tries to turn the home into a type of commune. Then there is Diana's niece and her marriage to a no good businessman, and of couse, Diana's accident. The humour is there, but it is buried under the slightly boring storylines, which are really all very similar to each other. Perhaps it was a bad idea to cram ten episodes into this series.
I think the aim of the sitcom, to show that old people are not just numbers and do have feelings, is a good one. And to a certain extent it is successful. Where it falls down is that the other elderly residents, apart from Diana and to a certain extent Tom, are portrayed as being completely gaga. This means that the helpers all treat them as if they are stupid, which manages to perpetuate the myth that you need to shout at old people in order to make them understand. I'm perhaps a bit overly sensitive to this because my Gran lives in sheltered housing and I've seen her treated that way, but I do find it annoying.
Apart from that, there isn't all that much to offend in the show. The basic premise is that good will overcome evil. However, there is some swearing - Diana uses bu&%£r and bo£$&%ks quite often, so it probably isn't suitable for young children. And there is some treatment of foreign workers that is uncalled for - Diana is always throwing things at the Portuguese gardener, for example, just because he can't understand what she is saying, and other foreign workers are treated as though they are stupid.
There are no extras with the DVD, just the ten episodes over two discs.
This sitcom is worth watching for Stephanie Cole and her performance as Diana. She really is excellent. If the rest of the show was as good as her performance, this would be a truly outstanding sitcom. As it is, I find it average, with characters such as Harvey and Jane bringing the quality way down. If you don't mind your comedy silly and slapstick, however, you might well enjoy it more than I did - it wasn't voted the 37th best British sitcom for nothing after all. I won't be going out of my way to watch any more episodes though. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99.
Running time: 287 minutes