Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sunday Evenings with Derek Jacobi

by Pa Rock
Television Viewer

Television fare is sadly limited where I live, especially since I refuse to pay for any of the premium channels.   Sadly, there are only a couple of nights each week when programming appears to even be worth the modest effort of finding the remote and turning on the television set.   Sunday nights, in fact, are the only times when I can sit down and enjoy an entire evening of quality television - and those programs are on PBS - the Public Broadcasting System.

Although the Sunday night line-up on PBS changes frequently, the last several weeks have been exceptionally good.  Last Tango in Halifax begins at 7:00 p.m., followed by Masterpiece Theatre at 8:00 p.m., and capped off with a new show, Vicious, at 9:30 p.m.  The centerpiece of the evening, Masterpiece Theatre, has been focused on British mysteries the past several weeks, a particular favorite genre of mine.  The other two programs differ a great deal from the classy Masterpiece as well as from each other - yet they both feature the same lead actor - Sir Derek Jacobi.

Last Tango in Halifax, which just completed its second season last Sunday evening, features Jacobi as an elderly widower with a heart condition who, with an assist from his tech-savvy grandson, locates his first girlfriend, the love of his life, over the internet.  Alan (played by Jacobi) reunites with Celia (Anne Reid) after decades of being apart, and romance quickly blossoms.   The stories flourish as the couple tries to amalgamate their rather diverse and highly interesting families.  Alan and Celia each have a grown daughter, and the two ladies, while similar in some respects, in many others are starkly different. The daughters have three high school-aged sons between them - all of whom are on the brink of setting off on differing life paths.  The show is a bit of a soap, but a very good one.

The final show of my evening is Vicious, a thirty-minute comedy about an older gay couple who have been together nearly fifty years.  Jacobi is Stuart, one of the partners, who has carefully kept his gay status hidden from his mother for nearly half a century.  He refers to his lover, Freddie (Sir Ian McKellen), as his "flatmate" when talking to his mother.  Stuart and Freddie are a pair of bitchy old queens who, despite almost constant nagging, really are very committed to their union and to each other.  Others in the cast include an old friend, Violet, who is in a constant state of horniness, and Ash, the new (straight and handsome) upstairs neighbor.  Ash is comfortable around Stuart and Freddie, but always on his guard when he is in the presence of Violet.  A lot of the dialogue is stilted and predictable, but, even so, Vicious is very funny - at times viciously so!

PBS is a nice place to spend Sunday evenings, and Derek Jacobi does a good job of keeping the viewers entertained.

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