TV preview: Last Tango in Halifax

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Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid return as love-struck septuagenarians Alan and Celia in the third series of Last Tango in Halifax.

Following her Bafta win for Best Supporting Actress, Sarah Lancashire is also back as uncompromising Caroline, while Nicola Walker reprises the role of troubled Gillian after earning rave reviews while appearing in A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic.

The series opens on Valentine’s Day, when Gillian is due to go on a date with Gary, a handsome man from Halifax. But as the evening draws on, things aren’t quite what they seem with charming, dazzling Gary.

Following on from last series’ Christmas wedding ceremony, Alan and Celia discuss going on a honeymoon adventure to New Zealand to visit Alan’s brother Ted. Their happiness is short-lived, however, when someone turns up from Alan’s past with devastating consequences.

In a happy turn of events, Caroline proposes to a heavily pregnant Kate. Although Celia seems happy for them, predictably she can’t help but comment on the fact that their baby will grow up without a father. Meanwhile a distressed John arrives at Caroline’s house after Judith has a miscarriage.

Written by Yorkshire’s own Sally Wainwright, who based Last Tango in Halifax on her own mother’s experience of finding love later in life, the second series achieved its highest rating so far, with one episode pulling in 7.6 million.

The screenwriter, who was also behind Happy Valley, says: “I’m so happy we got a third series, it’s so exciting to be able to take these characters further. What’s so great about writing for characters like Celia and Alan is that there is a wealth of back story to explore. Series three will be a whole new emotional ball game.

“The brilliant thing about Anne and Derek is they embody the spirit of the show; it’s not about being old, it’s about being in love. And they are like my mum and Alec, who she met after my sister helped her put her details on Friends Reunited. They’re both so affectionate and happy, and with a real zest for life.”

The series is filmed on location in Yorkshire and has won much praise for bucking the stereotype of older characters on the small screen.

“The show is wonderfully written and it was fantastic for me to be playing a very different type of character to those I usually play,” says Jacobi. “It’s also great to see a love story between two older characters that isn’t patronising or stereotyped in any way.”

Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, adds: “Sally Wainwright’s heartfelt scripts combined with the outstanding and stellar cast involved meant we couldn’t resist a third series of Last Tango in Halifax. I can’t wait to see where these wonderful characters and stories will take the audience to next.”

Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1, December 28, 9pm