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 often given the short end of the stick. BBCAmerica has now released all five seasons in an attractive collected 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 harpy wife Marion (Sandra Payne). None of them are happy with the arrangement so Tom moves into the
The main irritant to Tom and Diana is the manager of the community, Harvey Baines (Daniel Hill) an insufferable yuppie who is only concerned with increasing profits and discovering new ways of saving money, usually at the expense of the "inmates... Um I mean residents" and he often says. Baines is aided by the simple-minded Jane (Janine Duvitski), a kind soul who is quietly pining for
Diana: I think our beloved leader, Harvey Pea-brain Baines, the athlete's foot from the black lagoon, the soot from the flue of life, he 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 metaphor.
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 dynamic lives are suddenly expected to sit quietly in a corner until they die when they reach 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 stopped being useful. As Diana says in one episode:
Diana: Don't call me a 'senior citizen!'
Jane: [surprised] Well, what are you then?
Diana: What do I bloody well look like?
Jane: A senior citizen.
Diana: Oh yes, and when did I become a senior citizen?
Jane: After you turned 60
Diana: Jane, on my 60th birthday I was a freelance photographer hanging out of a helicopter somewhere on the Cambodian 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 spot of 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
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 boys weaving about on a lovely summer's day, putting on such a show. If one of the Hun went down, the whole beach would cheer. If one of our boys was hit, even the wind would stop blowing. Time froze until the lad either parachuted to safety and your heart would leap, or he plunged into the sea and you all died with him. Nineteen or twenty years of some dear mother's adoration, loving care, just switched off. Doused. It's why I never had children. Couldn't face 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 strange aspects of our language. As a writer, I appreciated these quite a lot, but even my sons who look at writing as a chore 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 using 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 enjoyable show.
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 others are 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 90's, but 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 actor's accent is hard to understand. This is rare though.
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 is fine. There's a slight amount of aliasing, mainly in the backgrounds, but it's never distracting and only pops up occasionally.
I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more extras included with this set, especially since both of the leads are still with us. They do include the two holiday specials (which I don't really consider a bonus item... they should be included in a complete series set) and a nice half hour featurette, Funny Women a look 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.