When sitcoms are good, they are very funny. When
they're great they manage to hold a
mirror up to society while also being very funny. The
BBC show Waiting for God falls into the second
category. Filled with laugh out loud
scenes and some
very amusing plots, the show also has time to show how older people are
given the short end of the stick.
BBCAmerica has now released all five seasons in an attractive
set so that fans of biting humor can experience this wonderful program.
Tom Ballard (Graham Crowden) is a retired accountant who was
living with his not-too-bright son, Geoffrey (Andrew Tourell) and his
wife Marion (Sandra Payne). None of them
are happy with the arrangement so Tom moves into the Bayview Retirement Village. He gets an apartment next door to Diana Trent
(Stephanie Cole), a forcibly retired photojournalist who spent her life
covering various war zones around the world.
She's a curmudgeon with an acidic tongue and razor sharp wit,
opposite of the happy go lucky Tom, who is gets riled at the injustices
world (and especially in the retirement community) but generally has a
attitude. He spends a lot of his time
practicing astral projection and spinning tales of his (fictional)
with various movie stars and the help he gave presidents and prime
Harvey: [To Tom]
We've doubled the catering budget since you threatened to
yourself on the steps of the town hall.
The main irritant to Tom and Diana is the manager of the
community, Harvey Baines (Daniel Hill) an insufferable yuppie who is
concerned with increasing profits and discovering new ways of saving
usually at the expense of the "inmates... Um I mean residents" and he
says. Baines is aided by the
simple-minded Jane (Janine Duvitski), a kind soul who is quietly pining
and has no clue
that her gentle attitude towards the residents is condescending.
Diana: I think our beloved leader, Harvey Pea-brain Baines,
the athlete's foot from the black lagoon, the soot from the flue of
who should be scraped from one's shoe...
Tom: Get to the point!
Diana: Well, I think Baines is up to something.
Tom: He probably wants to curb your use of extravagant
While being outrageously funny it also is able to comment on
the role of the elderly in society.
People who have spent decades being productive and living
are suddenly expected to sit quietly in a corner until they die when
the age of 65 or 70. Why is that? The staff at Bayview, as well as the main
character's relatives, assume that just because people are old, they've
being useful. As Diana says in one
Diana: Don't call me
a 'senior citizen!'
Well, what are you then?
Diana: What do I
bloody well look like?
Jane: A senior
Diana: Oh yes, and
when did I become a senior citizen?
Jane: After you
Diana: Jane, on my 60th birthday I was a
freelance photographer hanging out of a helicopter somewhere on the
border while various warlords were trying to shoot the ass off of me.
Jane: Goodness me,
how very colorful.
Diana: And they
weren't calling me a senior citizen then!
Jane: No, they were foreign.
They probably didn't know the words.
The plots are pretty simple, usually involving Baines trying
to impose some new restriction or one of the residents getting into a
trouble. Onto this plain, rather typical
background the show manages to weave some pithy observations. In one episode Diana takes her niece's
Porsche, which she watching while her relative is on vacation, and
takes Tom on
a trip to Brighton.
discovers this he immediately alerts the police and Tom's family. It is a seemingly reasonable action to take
when two septuagenarians disappear. When
they return however, Tom points out that Diana had a valid driver's
broke no laws, so why was the alarm sounded?
In between the rapid-fire insults and put downs, there are
also some tender touching moments that really elevate the show. A memorable scene takes place in an early
episode when Tom and Diana visit the beach:
Diana: I used to come down here during the war. I used the
watch the air battles, the dogfights, out there. Our boys and their
weaving about on a lovely summer's day, putting on such a show. If one
Hun went down, the whole beach would cheer. If one of our boys was hit,
the wind would stop blowing. Time froze until the lad either parachuted
safety and your heart would leap, or he plunged into the sea and you
with him. Nineteen or twenty years of some dear mother's adoration,
care, just switched off. Doused. It's why I never had children.
losing them. It's why I never had much at all.
The writers enjoy the English language and get a lot of use
out of it. There are a lot of very
cleaver phrases that are not only funny, but put a spotlight on the
aspects of our language. As a writer, I
appreciated these quite a lot, but even my sons who look at writing as
took great enjoyment in seeing the language skewered lovingly.
Diana: I'm sorry, Tom, I don't think I heard you correctly.
I thought you asked me to shack up with you. Do correct me if I'm wrong.
Tom: No, that's it.
Diana: Well, if you would like to place your head upon the
floor, I will endeavor to kick it clean off your shoulders.
Tom: Oh, no, Diana, I don't mean the humpty-dumpty
hinky-pinky parlez-vous whoops golly who's for tennis bit.
Diana: Do you mean sex?
Tom: Oh, Diana! There's no point in having a language which
encourages the use of complex euphemisms, if you come charging along
words like, um, what you just said.
The only real complaint that I have, and this is true of a
lot of British shows, is that the seasons are so short.
A year's worth of shows ranges from seven to
ten episodes and the whole series only has 47 installments. That's way too few for such an amusing and
All 45 episodes and the two Christmas specials are included
in this nine-disc collection. Each season
arrives in its own thinpak case (the first one on a single disc, the
on two discs each) and the five cases are housed in a slipcase.
The first season has only a mono soundtrack, but the other
four years are in stereo. The sound is
fine, but not outstanding. I was
expecting a bit more dynamic range from a show that was made in the
there weren't any defects. There are
optional English subtitles on all but the first season which come in handy in the few cases when an
accent is hard to understand. This is
The 4:3 image looks pretty good overall. The
colors are fine and the skin tones look
right. The picture does get a little
soft in some scenes, but it's not a huge flaw and the level of detail
fine. There's a slight amount of
aliasing, mainly in the backgrounds, but it's never distracting and
I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more extras
included with this set, especially since both of the leads are still
us. They do include the two holiday
specials (which I don't really consider a bonus item... they should be
in a complete series set) and a nice half hour featurette, Funny Women
at actress Stephanie Cole. There are
also a series of text cast biographies and some trailers.
A riotously funny show that's a joy to watch, Waiting for
God it that rare type of
program that successfully mixes social commentary with effective humor. A brilliant comedy from the BBC that is sure
to entertain. Highly Recommended.