A lot of people seem to be gay nowadays. Previewing the Christmas TV, I discovered that a lead character in Last Tango in Halifax is a lesbian. After that, I watched Two Doors Down, a Scottish comedy, which features a gay couple.
Meanwhile, an interested party informs me that there are no fewer than three gay storylines running in Emmerdale at the moment, a turn-up for the books given that it used to be said that there was only one gay in the village. Coronation Street has a gay vicar dating the bad boy who runs the card shop. An Anglican vicar friend says the scenario is unrealistic: in this version of reality, the bishop disapproves.
Gay characters are ten a penny, but it still sometimes feels like non-London accents are rare – so I’m actually drawn to Last Tango in Halifax (BBC One, Mondays, 9pm) and Two Doors Down (BBC Two, Mondays, 10pm) by their settings. Last Tango, in Yorkshire, focuses on a grandmother who has entered into an autumnal relationship with her childhood sweetheart, and the two of them sponge off her wealthy daughter like a pair of feckless teenage lovers.
It’s cute, yet the humour is surprisingly acerbic. Sarah Lancashire, who once upon a time was bubbly-headed Raquel in Coronation Street, steals the show as the put-upon daughter. Lancashire is one of our finest television actresses – so intelligent and sympathetic.
Two Doors Down, meanwhile, is a sitcom set on a suburban estate in Glasgow. It’s not terribly good; the laughs, derived from the awfulness of unwanted neighbours, are strangely mean-spirited. But it’s worth watching for another great British actress who doesn’t talk like the Queen – Elaine C Smith, famous for playing “Mary Doll” in Rab C Nesbitt. There’s a scene in the final episode at a party when she has one glass of wine too many and, in the middle of a conversation, begins sweetly singing to herself.
Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to watch Her Majesty after lunch. That’s always the greatest show of the season.
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