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Waiting for God (1990-94)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Waiting for God (1990-94)
BBC, tx. 28/6/1990 - 27/10/1994
46 x 30 min and 1 x 45 min episode across 5 series and 2 specials, colour
DirectorGareth Gwenlan
Production CompanyBBC Television
ProducerGareth Gwenlan
ScriptMichael Aitkens
Title MusicThe Nash Ensemble

Cast: Graham Crowden (Tom Ballard); Stephanie Cole (Diana Trent); Daniel Hill (Harvey Bains); Janine Duvitski (Jane); Andrew Tourell (Geoffrey); Sandra Payne (Marion)

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The residents of Bayview Retirement Home discover a new lease of life as they battle the establishment.

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Despite taking its title from Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's tragic-absurd drama of despair first performed in 1953, Waiting for God proved less a bittersweet elegy of old age decline than an affirmation of the adage that while there's life, there's hope. Writer Michael Aitkens' depiction of his elderly protagonists as a force to be reckoned with - rather than a burden to be hidden away - won huge audiences over its five-year run, earning a BAFTA nomination for Best Comedy Series and a Best Actress award for Stephanie Cole.

The series opened with the arrival of new Bayview resident Tom Ballard, a widower whose decision to live in a fantasy world of his own making has finally proven too much for downtrodden son Geoffrey and his unpleasant wife, Marion. Tom's new neighbour, retired photo-journalist Diana Trent, is bitter that her body is deteriorating while her mind remains intact, and rails against staff and fellow residents alike. Diana reserves her fiercest contempt for Harvey 'the Idiot' Bains, the scheming home manager more concerned with feathering his own nest than with the wellbeing of his charges. Diana is equally disdainful of Harvey's besotted assistant, Jane Edwards, though she does at least attempt to enlighten Jane on the way Harvey exploits her affections.

The first series saw Tom and Diana's initially fractious relationship develop into an unlikely alliance against the corrupt management. Each of them having in their own ways given up on life, the pair are both galvanised into renewed vigour by their blossoming friendship, with Tom's often naïve optimism tempering Diana's extreme cynicism. Diana even thaws enough to resume contact with her estranged but devoted niece, Sarah - a model who Diana has always claimed is a pornographer with designs on her life - and gradually warms to some of her fellow inmates, notably philandering octogenarian Basil Makepeace.

In later episodes Diana and Tom's relationship grows beyond the platonic, and the two eventually opt to co-habit when Diana experiences financial difficulties. The series finale saw Harvey and Jane and Tom and Diana poised for a double wedding, until Tom divines that marriage is not what the independent Diana really wants. Waiting for God's central innovation was its depiction of its grey heroes as more courageous and ingenious than their callow adversaries, forever winning the upper hand over the weak and foolish Harvey.

Richard Hewett

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