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Series / Waiting for God

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The two principals. Left - Graham Crowden as Tom Ballard. Right - Stephanie Cole as Diana Trent
Tom Ballard: [about Diana] Your smile is like a crack in the gates of hell. One can smell the sulphur and hear the screams of the damned through your smiles.

Broadcast between 1990 and 1994 on the BBC, Waiting for God was a British sitcom that ran on BBC1 for five series. It, like many Brit Coms of the time was set in an institution of some kind, in this case Bayview Retirement Village, near Bournemouth.

The main character is the ever cynical retired photojournalist Diana Trent, who spent her working life documenting the most momentous and dangerous events of the times. The story mostly focuses on her relationship with Tom Ballard, a retired accountant who seems to have lost most of his marbles, though to what extent he plays it up isn't quite clear. Diana has retired to Bayview because she lacks any relatives aside from her niece, and Tom because his son and daughter-in-law have finally tired of his antics and want him to move out of their house.

Diana's frustration at the prospect of years of being alternately patronised and ignored at Bayview is vented at the management of the retirement home (the sleazy Harvey Baines and the mousy Jane Edwards) and Tom's ungrateful family, seeking to score moral victories against them at every opportunity while blackmailing the managing directors of Bayview to prevent them throwing her out. Her niece has a much better relationship with her than Tom's family has with him, but the relationship is distant and rather one sided with her niece doing most of the work.

Came thirty-seventh in Britains Best Sitcom.

Tropes in Waiting For God

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: When Sarah questions why she is in love with her con man fiancee Sam, Diana admits that while she had received offers of romance from solid and conventional men, she never felt the spark with them that she did with the n'er-do-wells.
  • All Take and No Give: A good portion of the relationship between Jane and Harvey, professionally and personally, with Harvey being the Taker. Also Diana and her niece.
  • Almighty Mom: Harvey's mother Esme, who appeared out of nowhere in the dining room, told off Basil when he attempted to flirt with her, and confessed to wanting to yell out "bum" and flash her own in the middle of lunch - and who has a low opinion of her son. Unsurprisingly, she got along quite well with Diana.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents:
    • For Geoffrey, Tom.
    • For Harvey, his mother Esme, whose working-class background and coarse manners don't fit in with the "successful upper middle class" image he tries to craft for himself.
  • Ascended Extra: Basil Makepeace is a prime example of this. He originally started off as a background character with very few lines. His presence is more developed in series 2. It's not until series 3 that he turns into a major character going so far as to help Diana and Tom in their adventures plus becoming a well-established friend of the latter.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Diana's attitude towards communicating with Antonio the Portuguese broken French.
    Diana: I don't speak Portuguese.
  • Babysitter from Hell: Diana to Tom's grandchildren after they have him nearly arrested for "offering them sweeties". They spend an absolutely lovely day together...literally, since Diana starts off by handcuffing them together. Later subverted when they handcuff her to the car door handle.
    Diana: I am the Wicked Witch of Your Worst Nightmares!
  • The Bet: In Season 2's "Glamorous Grannies", Tom bets that Diana can't be nice to others for a week. Naturally, Diana being Diana, temptation abounds. She finally cracks when Betty backs out of a "glamorous grannies" competition owing to stage fright, and replaces her so that she can call the organizers out for being ageist and sexist by proposing the contest in the first place. Given that the wager was ten million pounds, Tom was never likely to collect.
  • Black Comedy: And how! Viewers find themselves laughing at the crooked manager Harvey being hit in the balls, impersonated, and tricked into appearing to a nursing home inspector naked!
  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: The management of Bayview Retirement Village, Harvey Baines, is continually attempting to find ways of cutting costs and making the place more profitable, usually at the expense of the residents. His schemes include poor food, underpaid workers, and having the heat kept off even when winter temperatures arrive early. Fortunately, the main characters are (usually) able to foil his plans and improve their conditions.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: In one episode, Tom Ballard tries to get a job at his son's food company as a quality control expert. He tells everyone he succeeded and uses that just combined with his daftness (see Cloud Cuckoo Lander below) as leverage against his son. He later reveals that he never actually got that job in the first place, and that he'd tricked his son into believing he had. Diana says, "But I believed you, too!" to which Tom replies, "Me, too! I believed me!"
  • Bringing in the Expert: Suspicious of Harvey's behaviour after being committed and allegedly sedated, Tom has Geoffrey and Marion go over to the care home so the latter can assess him.
    Tom: Harvey, you're faking.
    Harvey: What do you mean?
    Tom: You're no more gaga than I am. No, forget that. You're not gaga at all.
    Harvey: Who says?
    Tom: Well, Marion, firstly. She says you're not reacting according to any known drug combination she knew of, and she knows them all.
  • Brutal Honesty: Tom pursues a policy of brutal honesty one day. Predictably, it backfires spectacularly, prompting Marion to wish him dead and Jane to try to transform herself into a beauty queen in order to get Harvey's attention.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Perhaps Basil had more success in his younger days, but he isn't giving up now. Considering he is once threatened with a bedroom boycott, there may be something to his claims after all.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Played with. Basil was a tank driver during the war. This comes in handy when one of Tom's schemes against Harvey requires the use of a bulldozer, though Basil protests that the controls are nothing like a tank's.
  • The Chew Toy: No one likes Marion, and seeing her reaction to being outright insulted can be quite entertaining. Because of her personality and the way she treats the other characters, the audience isn't encouraged to sympathize with her. She does have a few sympathetic moments, but her character remains unchanged even after she gets into New Age-y ideas.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Tom, most certainly. He's got his head in the clouds so often that when he makes a genuinely valid point, everyone thinks that is a sign he has lost his mind. There is one time when Tom explains that he's fully aware he's living in a fantasy world. He points out that in the real world he's old, sick, and in constant pain, while in his fantasies he's a dashing, young hero having marvelous adventures.
    • Geoffrey also qualifies. Married to a woman who is constantly drunk, stoned on pills, or sleeping with his friends, and father (on paper, if not genetically for certain) to two horrid children, he loses himself in his totally mundane job, boring trivia, and the finer points of pine shelving.
    • Arguably Marion herself, a fan of New-Age practices who at one point has a one-night stand with Harvey after mistaking him for Geoffrey, who'd recently left her without her even noticing. Then again, the alcohol and pills deserve most of the blame.
    • Jane, an eccentric care home assistant clinging throughout the series to spiritualism and fantasies of romance with Harvey, who barely notices she exists and hurls abuse at her almost constantly.
    • Basil, who regards himself as Bayview's "resident stud" and flirts with every woman he sees - despite being old enough to have served in the First World War.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In "The Thief", when the prospect of the cops showing up is brought up, the denizens promptly start talking about which cop they want to show up.
  • Con Man: Sarah's boyfriend (and eventual husband) Sam, who is supposedly putting together a chain of beauty salons and asks Diana of all people to buy a franchise. Tom blackmails him into granting a franchise free to Marion to make up for an earlier insult.
  • Cool Old Lady: If you're not on Diana's bad side, then she can be a clever, fun-loving, interesting woman, having had an adventurous career as a reporter before her retirement. This proves to be the undoing of one of Harvey's schemes to have her removed for "immoral conduct", when the younger man recruited for a Honey Trap sting finds himself enjoying her company.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Harvey Baines, who would be running Bayview at a profit and milking as much dosh out of the residents as possible if not for Diana and Tom.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Diana, and she's quite good at it, as this exchange from the show's very first episode makes clear.
    Jane: Sometimes I think you enjoy sniping away at me and the residents.
    Diana: No, Jane. I don't. You lot are sitting ducks. You need a moving target to enjoy it.
    • Really, it would be quicker to list the characters who aren't.
  • December–December Romance: Tom and Diana, who meet each other in their seventies and quite love each other by the series' end.
  • Defiant Strip: Diana threatens this if Harvey doesn't act on a request for improved safety measures:
    Diana: We want panic buttons installed in every apartment. If you don't do as we ask, we will all go down to the shopping mall and take our clothes off.
    Harvey: Ohhh God, not again...
  • Dirty Old Man: Basil Makepeace, who prefers to introduce himself as "Bayview's Resident Stud" and flirts with anything remotely feminine no matter her age.
  • Dirty Old Woman: As news of their tryst spreads through the home, Tom becomes quite popular among the female residents.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: One of the contributing factors to the distance between Sarah and Diana, who doesn't want her niece feeling sorry for her thanks to her advanced age and chronic pain.
  • Endangered Species: Used by Diana to block another attempt by Harvey to expand Bayview with a building that packs seniors in like sardines. Ironically, as she points out, the species in question - the great crested newt - is only endangered on continental Europe, but she still gleefully uses the European Union-wide legislation to her advantage.
  • Every Man Has His Price: When Sarah and Sam get married, Sam has to ask Geoffrey last-minute to be his best man, having just fired the previous best man (and his own brother). Geoffrey refuses owing to Sam's attempt to squeeze money out of them for the salon franchise they had from him, until Sam offers him five hundred pounds.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Diana says this almost word for word when Harvey's latest Jerkass behaviour drives Jane to break their engagement. (Her version is "fate worse than the Black Death".)
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: Often, notably in Season 3's "Harvey's Fiancee", as Diana raises her arms and walking stick in victory shouting "What a beautiful day!" after wrecking Harvey's plans yet again.
  • Funny Background Event: In one scene Jenny mentions that Tom and Basil have arrived for lunch early, and that Kwok hasn't gotten lunch out of the kennel yet. In the next scene, he's shown walking a dog on a leash.
  • Got Me Doing It: Harvey walks in on Tom having a drink with an absent Diana, who is at the time having hip replacement surgery. When Tom starts responding to "Diana" snarking at him, Harvey starts answering back.
  • The Grinch: Diana absolutely hates Christmas. Hilarity Ensues as a result when Tom gets her put in charge of putting on a Christmas play for local seniors.
  • Hates Being Touched: Harvey dislikes Jane touching him in particular. He gets over it after they get married.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Sarah's fiancee Sam puts increasingly high demands on Geoffrey and Marion, who own a beauty shop franchise from his company, with the threat of taking it back and denying them their investment if they can't make the business profitable. Tom points out that since he "persuaded" Sam to grant them the franchise for free, they didn't actually invest anything into the business and can walk away.
    • Diana and Harvey compete to be candidate for a local council position. Diana agrees to step down and support him in exchange for re-hiring a recently dismissed Jenny. And she does - with a speech laden with fascist epithets that Harvey is too slow to pick up on, ending with "Bournmouth uber alles" and the appropriate salute.
    • Harvey recruits Geoffrey and Marion to help him with a Honey Trap scheme to have Diana seduced by a younger man, therefore triggering the "immoral conduct" clause in the home's land use agreement. The rendezvous is due to happen at a party at Geoffrey and Marion's house...but Marion hooks up with him first.
  • The Illegal: As a cost-cutting measure, Harvey contracts staffing out in one episode to an agency that almost exclusively hires illegal immigrants. It works great (in his mind) despite the language least until he gets caught up in the middle of an after-hours knife fight on the croquet lawn and dismisses them all.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: At the start of Season 2's "The Hip Operation", Diana makes fun of residents with walking frames being lifted onto the home's minibus. She then breaks her hip throwing a brick at Antonio the gardener, requiring the titular surgery and the use of a walking frame during her rehab.
  • Long List: Diana has a full driving licence. At one point Tom reads out a list of vehicles she is entitled to drive, starting with normal vehicles and ending up with heavy machinery and limousines.
  • Love at First Sight: Jane describes how she fell in love with Harvey as this - even though his first words to her were "Keep off the Grass".
  • Mammy: Invoked by Jenny, who does it to mess with Jane or (usually) Harvey.
    Jenny: (to quiet down the residents) Hush up y'all, honey chile! The boss-man done come down from the big house. Wanna lay the white man's song and dance on you-all, so listen up!
  • Marriage of Convenience: Harvey's engagement to Jane was initially this - she was besotted with him and he figured getting married would make it easier to become a member of the country club. Averted in the end: after being turned away (pursued by guard dogs, no less) owing to their accurate assessment of Harvey's personality, Harvey decides to go through with it anyway because he genuinely wants to.
  • Mood Whiplash: The later seasons have a surprising amount of drama, although they are no less hilarious. Many episodes flip multiple times between comedy and seriousness, often in the same scene.
  • Morton's Fork: The resolution of the Diana-Daisy war is this in Harvey's eyes, saying that getting rid of Lucrezia Borgia still leaves you with Ivana the Terrible.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Geoffrey's attitude to his job, which is selling yogurt. He once has to go away for a couple of days because the company is launching a new flavour.
  • Narcissist: Harvey Baines is a textbook case of this as his constant self-worship and efforts to please himself show. The constant threats Harvey's behavior poses for the residents of Bayview are often the main crux of episode plots.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: It is clear that Tom has been doing this for so long that he is Becoming the Mask.
  • Odd Couple: Diana and Tom. Indeed, Diana explicitly compares the fastidious Tom to Felix Unger when they move in together.
  • Orient Express: Tom and Diana book a holiday on the Orient Express. Afterwards, we learn that Diana nearly gets arrested for beating up a policeman in Paris and another in Vienna and gets them deported.
  • Out with a Bang: Discussed. After Tom and Diana become lovers, Tom's heart condition becomes a source of much humour.
    Tom: Tell me a better way to go and I'll call you a liar.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Most of the humour relating to Tom and Diana's affair comes from Tom's son and daughter-in-law.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Daisy is the embodiment of this: an army officer's widow, she makes dramatic changes to the home, including having everyone sit at one table as if in an officers' mess and insisting that the kitchen prepare only traditional British meals.
  • Perfect Poison: One of Tom's suggestions for dealing with Marion.
    Tom: Geoffrey, there are poisons, you know, which are almost untraceable...
  • Pet the Dog: After Tom's medical emergency from his enlarged prostate, Marion immediately goes from waving a rifle around a beer garden in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze to comforting a distraught Geoffrey.
  • Phony Psychic: The medium brought to Bayview by Jane. She claims to channel the spirit of Tom's late wife, who is not happy with his relationship with Diana. Then it's revealed that she's been fed information by Marion. After discovering this, Diana feeds her misinformation through Geoffrey, leading to her exposure as a fraud in front of a large audience. She also claims to channel the spirit of one of Diana's colleagues, who it turns out has just died.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Tom aims one at Diana, pointing out that all of their victories were largely his doing, while she only fired verbal barbs at their targets.
    • An epic one delivered by Mr. Davis at the seniors' centre, a frequent target of Diana's wrath, after their art class is cancelled due to budget cuts:
    Mr Davis: I'm retiring soon, so I can say what I like now. I've had a right noseful of you two for the last few years. Every time someone breaks wind in the wrong direction you're in here screaming about your rights and bleeding all over the carpet. Local government is to keep things running and to look after the really needy, not to be constantly wiping your ancient and pampered botties.
    Tom: Diana, don't kill him.
    Diana: No, Tom, I admire his courage. What exactly are you saying with these last words of yours?
    Mr Davis: You are in reasonable health; you are not poor; you are not incapable. So, apart from screaming the roof off every ten minutes, what are you doing for your fellow pensioners, hm?
    • Also one from Sarah to Diana's doctor, after Diana mistakenly believes she has terminal lung cancer owing to an accidentally misleading remark from the doctor.
  • Reluctant Retiree: Diana did not retire by choice, but because she was forced to by her employer.
  • Retired Badass: Diana, a retired photojournalist who documented war zones
  • Runaway Bride: Played with. Unhappy with his status of being Diana's 471st lover, Tom piles increasing amounts of pressure on her to accept his marriage proposal. He then jilts her at the altar, delighting her and achieving a unique status as the only man to do that.
  • Sexual Euphemism: The "saints' days" that Tom and Diana employ to schedule their lovemaking, such as the feast day of Saint Kermit of All Frogs.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: The Series.
  • Shout-Out: To Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and other classic films, courtesy of Tom's fantasies.
  • So Was X: When a board member, taking over in Harvey's absence, forms plans to replace the residents with "more economically viable units:
    Tom: But he's a doctor!
    Jane: So was Crippen.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Jane. She is still smitten for Harvey after being repeatedly abused by him and even told point-blank by him that he hates her.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Basil is Put on a Bus after Season 4 and replaced with Jamie, Jane's grandfather. He lack's Basil's flirtatious tendancies, but fills his role as Tom and Diana's regular companion.
  • Taking the Veil: Jane considers becoming a nun after rejecting a marriage proposal from Harvey, who only wanted to get married so he could join a country club.
  • This Means War!: Frequently on Tom and Diana's part.
    Diana: Jenny, fetch me my white horse and my shining armour!
    Jane: What was that about?
    Jenny: I don't know, but I'm glad I'm not a dragon.
  • Universal Driver's Licence: Diana's licence, which, as mentioned above, includes everything from standard cars to heavy trucks and limousines.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Harvey, though being the illegitimate son of an Italian-American gangster and an East End confidence trickster leaves the "Upper Class" part in doubt.
  • Very Special Episode: Most of the series, actually, but some episodes stand out more than others. There's one where Tom suffers from a blocked urinary tract from an enlarged prostate and is too embarrassed to tell anyone. Cue humorous scenes of Diana thinking Tom is hiding an affair ending up in a true emergency followed by the long speech from Diana scolding Tom for not letting anyone know he was ill (addressed to the audience really). Other episodes deal with Diana seriously wanting to commit suicide when she is convinced she has cancer, another where Diana does not take her diabetes seriously and ends up terribly ill, and one where a woman is nearly scammed by a one-sided lease drafted by the prospective tenant of her basement apartment.
  • The Vicar: The Reverend Dennis Sparrow, a scatterbrained vicar who once christened a baby "Ugly Little Bastard Jones" and accidentally has Harvey and Jane and Tom and Diana's double wedding double-booked with a funeral.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: If you count their veranda as "inside".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Diana's niece has her moments, when someone needs tearing into.
    Diana: Of course, I would have broken her leg too.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: Diana finally drives the odious Bayview manager Harvey Baines into an asylum - or so everyone thought; he was just faking it - and while everyone hates Harvey, they are still mad at her for doing it.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: After getting drunk at a wake for a deceased resident, Tom and Diana end up in bed together. It takes her a while to remember how the night went.
    Diana: Oh good Lord...Oh, it's coming back to me...Oh good heavens...Oh my goodness...Oh, I am sorry about your blender.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The arc in which Diana manages to finally drive Harvey Baines mad. Harvey's faking it, of course, but the backlash against Diana is considerable.
  • Where There's a Will, There's a Sticky Note: When Tom has surgery, his greedy daughter-in-law insists that everything in his and Diana's apartment be labeled so Diana can't claim anything of his.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Alluded to. The aging expert Tom consults suggests that with the right lifestyle and attitude, people could live as long as 130. Diana is not amused by the prospect of an extra sixty years at Bayview.
  • Working the Same Case: Diana and Tom help an old woman who's renting out a basement apartment in her home and unknowingly agreed to a dangerously lopsided lease. Diana assigns Tom and Geoffrey to block her taking up residence, claiming she needs to sort out Harvey - who has decided to reduce the size of units and make tenants share bathrooms. It turns out the renovation/expansion plan is the idea of his girlfriend Janet...who just happens to be moving into a new apartment. Cue a whoop of glee from Diana now that she gets to nail two birds with one stone.
  • Younger Than They Look: Stephanie Cole, who plays Diana, is well-known for playing characters who are a good deal older than she is. She's actually about 20 years younger than Diana is supposed to be.
  • Your Mom: From Jane to Harvey, in Korean: "Your mother slept with a tiger!" It's a Korean compliment.