CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: What the Dickens! The Artful Dodger’s turned up in Halifax

Last Tango In Halifax  


Rich Holiday, Poor Holiday 


Coo luvaduck, guvnor, be a toff and give us a tanner, my muvver’s got 11 kids and smallpox, and I ain’t ate nuffink since Fursday.

Urchins are making a comeback. Not long ago you never saw one outside the cast of Oliver! Now they are popping up in right-on BBC dramas, as a Grave Indictment Of Britain Today.

Take Harrison, played by precocious young Coronation Street graduate Liam McCheyne. He bolted from a supermarket with his arms full of bread and cheese as Last Tango in Halifax (BBC1) returned, and ran slap into kindly Alan (Derek Jacobi).

Alan saw at once what was happening. Why, this poor tyke was starving. His face was smeared with soot and his hair was standing on end: he had probably spent the morning cleaning chimneys, just to keep his ma out of the workhouse.

Last Tango in Halifax returned to BBC One with Celia, played by Anne Reid, and her on screen husband, Alan, played by Derek Jaobi (pictured together) 

‘He only wants a square meal,’ lamented Alan, and paid for the boy’s groceries before seeing him home safely. His reward was a conversation with Harrison, who was, naturally, wise beyond his years and blessed with a remarkable vocabulary.

‘I like words,’ this Artful Dodger explained. ‘I collect them, they don’t cost owt.’ What a heartwarming speech. 

I just hope Alan doesn’t find Harrison has made off with his silk handkerchief. Well, he’s gotta picka pocket or two, boys.

A soft touch he may be, but Alan is practically the only likeable character in this sour family drama. Anne Reid plays his wife, Celia. They married late in life and Alan is slightly regretting it: snobbish Celia is like Hyacinth Bucket without the charm.

Sarah Lancashire is her daughter Caroline, a headteacher with a history of relationships with younger women teachers. If Caroline was a bloke, she’d be a sexual predator, but she’s a lesbian, so it’s all right.

Nicola Walker, currently having torrid office sex in designer suits on Tuesday nights in The Split, is wearing wellies and dungarees as Alan’s whiny daughter Gillian. 

She needs a five-grand loan from the Bank of Dad, where she keeps a perpetual overdraft running, to repair the roof of her farm.

It has woodworm, apparently.

Perhaps you imagined woodworm was easy and cheap to treat with chemicals, but these are probably real Dickensian woodworms and the only way to deal with them is transportation to the colonies. Don’t be surprised if the sheep get rickets next. I blame the urchins.

Nicola Walker, currently having torrid office sex in designer suits on Tuesday nights in The Split, is wearing wellies and dungarees as Alan’s whiny daughter Gillian (alongside Caroline, played by Sarah Lancashire) in Last Tango in Halifax

Perhaps the Last Tango characters should sign up for Rich Holiday, Poor Holiday (C5). I’d love to see snooty Celia’s face as she found herself on a crowded caravan park in Dawlish, Devon, for a week — while her working-class hubbie was treated to an all-inclusive stay in Marrakesh, Morocco. They would both hate it.

The families on this spin-off from the popular Rich House, Poor House format had a great time, though. Businesswoman and former footballer’s wife Jude loved the simple pleasure of a seaside break with her three children.

The biggest success of the trip was a day at a petting zoo, where the kids had hamsters crawling all over them. You can’t do that with camels.

At a luxurious villa close to the Sahara desert, where the weekly bill is £11,000 and the temperatures topped 40c every day, mother-of-six Leah could not get used to having a live-in cleaner.

Hubbie Jay, a bus driver, had less trouble adjusting, and Leah knew why. ‘He’s already got a cleaner,’ she snorted.

This set-up couldn’t be simpler. We meet the families and watch their holidays: it is undemanding and entertaining.

Both families were lovely, but for me it’s the South of England, not North Africa, every time.

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