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Series / Last Tango in Halifax

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A British dramedy series created by Sally Wainwright and airing on The BBC from 2012 to 2020.

Due to a failure in communication back in the 1950s, Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) and Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) never got the chance to go on their first date. Over the decades, they meet and marry other people, have children, and are both widowed. They are reunited 50 years later when their respective grandsons add them on Facebook and they rekindle their relationship over email. The day they meet up again for the first time they decide to get married, much to the initial dismay of their daughters from their respective first marriages, Gillian (Nicola Walker) and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire).

Alan lives with Gillian and her teenage son Raff (Josh Bolt) on their farm near Halifax. He moved in after his son-in-law Eddie died about ten years ago after what was allegedly an accident. Eddie's brother Robbie (Dean Andrews), a copper and bike enthusiast, is still on the scene, taking Raff out for rides and antagonising Gillian. Celia lives with Caroline and her two grandsons, William (Edward Ashley) and Lawrence (Louis Greatorex). Caroline is an Oxford graduate who is the headmistress of Sulgrave Heath, a prestigious public school. Her estranged husband John (Tony Gardner), a washed-up novelist and academic, has turned up at their door after realising that Judith (Ronni Ancona), the woman he left Caroline for, is an alcoholic; Caroline allows him to move back in for the sake of their kids. For the same reason, she also calls off her relationship with Kate (Nina Sosanya), one of the teachers at Sulgrave.

Provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Judith. She can't even quit drinking when she's pregnant.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Kate wants a baby. At 42 and with four previous miscarriages, she doesn't want to waste any time. Caroline is more hesitant on the matter, thinking Kate will only end up being disappointed when it doesn't work out. The storyline does dabble some of this trope's hallmark clichés by having it at least partly focus on the sperm-quest and having Kate opt for insemination via sex, but it does try to rationalise it by having Kate say that that was what was most likely to work when compared with any artificial methods. However, once Kate gets pregnant with the help of her friend Greg, she doesn't feel any particular need to involve him any further. All of this ends in tragedy with Kate's death in Series 3, though the doctors are able to save her daughter, who Caroline names Flora.
  • Alone Among the Couples: Caroline at Alan and Celia's wedding in the Series 2 finale.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    • When Celia confronts Caroline about her relationship with a woman.
      Caroline: I'd like you, both of you, to meet... Kate.
      Celia: Is that her name?
      Caroline: No, she's called Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate. I just call her Kate for short, it's easier.
    • Subverted moments later:
      Caroline: She's called Kate McKenzie. She's nice, she's kind, she's thoughtful, she's-
      Celia: Is she Scottish?
      Caroline: No, she's Nigerian. (Beat) No, I mean she is Nigerian, that wasn't me being sarcastic.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Caroline finds Lawrence crying in his bedroom after John outs her to Celia and Lawrence gets the news from Gillian over the phone, you could be forgiven for thinking that he's going to turn on her and ask her how she could have done something like this to him, but instead he just hugs her and sobs:
    "I don't want them to be mean to you."
    • At first, it seems like Eddie died in a biking accident, but in actual fact, it was murder made to look like suicide by log-splitter.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Gillian once caught a teenager interfering with one of her stock. The weird thing was that he kept coming back to the same sheep.
  • Brits Love Tea: The kettle's never off for long no matter what's happening.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: An inversion when Gillian's much younger casual boyfriend Paul gets jealous of John.
    Gillian: He is a very erudite man.
    Paul: So am I.
    Gillian: Yeah, you don't know what it means.
    Paul: Yeah, but if I did, I would be.
    Gillian: Yeah, good point, Paul. Can't argue with that.
  • Character Death: Kate dies from being hit by a car midway through Series 3.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • The last episode of Series 2 has Alan and Celia's second wedding take place on Christmas Eve.
    • Series 4 in 2016 consisted of a two-part Christmas Special.
  • Coming-Out Story: Caroline tried to come out to her mum while she was a student, but Celia took it very badly and told her never to tell anyone else, especially Kenneth. One failed marriage and two kids later, she starts up a relationship with Kate. She tells John that she has been seeing "someone", which he is not very gracious about considering he cheated on her with Judith before he walked out. When Caroline clarifies that this someone is not a he, John gets drunk and maliciously outs her to Celia.
  • The Confidant: Over the course of the show, Caroline and Gillian become this for each other. Caroline keeps Gillian's secret that she killed her husband), and Gillian keeps Caroline's (that she was forced out of her headship for being gay).
  • Contrived Coincidence: Caroline and Gillian were born on the same day, leading them to start calling themselves sisters even before Alan and Celia marry.
  • Domestic Abuse: Part of Gillian's backstory, and the major reason she killed Eddie, her abuser.
  • Elaborate University High: Sulgrave Heath, most likely, although we don't see much of the building itself. The script describes it as "very posh and very traditional. Like Christ's Hospital, but in Harrogate."
  • Fictional Counterpart: Greenhough's, the supermarket where Gillian works, is a fictional counterpart of The Co-op.
  • First Guy Wins: Alan for Celia, after her tortured marriage with Kenneth, and the generally happy Second Love between Alan and Eileen. This seems to be the case for Gillian and Robbie when they get married, but it doesn't end well.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted by Gillian when she was 15 and still at school. Played straight with Ellie although when everyone else discusses the matter, the implication seems to be that they would have been in favour of her getting an abortion if she had known she was pregnant earlier on.
  • I Regret Nothing: Said lovingly by Alan at Eileen's grave when he posthumously forgives her for not passing on Celia's message after she moved to Sheffield.
  • Jerkass: John seems like this most of the time.
  • The Last Title: The title of the series.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Gary, introduced in Season 3, reveals that Alan is his father, the result of an affair in the 1960s. Alan confirms that the affair took place, much to the shock of Gillian and Celia.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's left unclear as to whether Eddie really was haunting or whether Gillian was just paranoid and guilty.
  • Meaningful Name: Gillian Greenwood is a sheep farmer, and spends most of her time outside.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Alan and Celia plan a quick no-frills wedding after Alan's heart attack, thinking that everyone would be pleased for them, but Gillian is heartbroken that her Dad would want to exclude her and Raff from something so important. Harry and Maurice also tell him that they're disappointed that they missed out on the chance to be there as well.
  • Nice Guy: William, Caroline's son is the closest there is the in series, being consistently kind and supportive to his mom and brother. Kate, Caroline's girlfriend, and Raff, Gillian's son, also qualify.
  • No Accounting for Taste: Having failed to get back in touch with Alan and a subsequent boyfriend taking up with her sister, Celia ended up being thoroughly miserable with her first husband Kenneth, with the two of them only ever speaking to each other if they had to. This had a knock-on effect on Caroline, who admitted that she grew up never knowing how to make a proper relationship happen. It seems that she and John were probably really good friends in the past, but when she tells her mum that she's "too old to pretend", this suggests that their relationship was always a pretence for her on some level. While Caroline probably wasn't as unhappy as her mum was, it's interesting that they both ended up making what is essentially the same mistake.
  • No Bisexuals:
    • John is horrified when he finds out that Caroline has been seeing Kate because he thinks it means that Caroline must have been faking it every time she had sex with him. It doesn't cross his mind that wife might be bisexual and simply met someone new after he left her. To be honest though, the evidence does seem to suggest that Caroline is gay - her dig at John's manuscript may be indirect, but it's as close as she gets to attaching a label to herself. There are however indications of Kate being Ambiguously Bi, given that she has had previous relationships with men, such as Greg, her friend from university. She also never says exactly why her marriage to Richard fell apart. It could just as easily been from the strain of her pregnancy troubles as it could have been a consequence of her coming out as gay later in life.
    • This comes up again in series 5, when Caroline talks with one of her subordinate teachers about her relationships with John and Kate, the teacher immediately interprets this as her being gay all along (and that she was making a pass at her). On the other hand, in the same series John does bring up the possibility of Caroline not being completely homosexual, and while it's presented as him continuing to delude himself into thinking he may have a chance at reconciling with her, it's still more of an acknowledgement of the concept of bisexuality than the first two series ever had.
  • Oop North: The show is set primarily in Halifax and Harrogate in Yorkshire.
  • Ouija Board: One is used in the 2016 Christmas special, and it may have conjured up either the spirit of Gillian's dead cat, her abusive husband, or nothing at all depending on your view.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gillian is the passionate and emotional red oni to the repressed and intellectual Caroline's blue oni. They start off strongly disliking each other, with their first meeting involving a heated argument over a parking space in front of Alan and Celia, but end up much closer as their parents' wedding approaches.
  • Shout-Out: The title of the show is a pun on Last Tango in Paris. Fortunately it doesn't share any other similarities with that film.
    • When Caroline reads from John's manuscript, it describes Gillian's thinly-veiled stand-in as having the body of a 16-year-old boy, leading Caroline to joke that she's not the only gay in the village.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Gillian farms sheep for a living, but it's particularly hard-going in the winter and she works part-time at the local supermarket to make ends meet.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Caroline and Kate marry at the start of Series 3, Episode 3. Kate is hit by a car and critically injured by the end of it, and confirmed dead at the beginning of Episode 4.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Gillian and Robbie's big day becomes this. She nearly calls it off multiple times (and had already cheated on him twice), the car breaks down and the bridal party are heavily delayed, and he's so hungover from the stag do he vomits at the altar. The two are on the rocks by the time of the 2016 Christmas special and split up after Gillian comes clean about Eddie.