Are you familiar with Waiting for God? You are? Awesome.
What? You’re not? That’s terrible. I’m so sorry, but you do have the privilege of getting into one of the greatest shows to ever come out of Great Britain. Think I’m joking or being sarcastic? Wrong. I take my BritComs very, very seriously.
Waiting for God is the story of Tom and Diana, retirees confined, sorry, living in the same retirement community in rural England. Simply put it’s about two feisty pensioners making life a living hell for the insufferable management and tormenting their empty-headed children, all set in a facility where every resident is more eccentric than the next. That’s the simple description of it but in reality it’s far more marvelous than that.
I’ve been re-watching all of WfG, starting from the very first episode, and I’ve begun to realize how big an impact Tom and Diana have had on my life. Upon watching episodes that I haven’t seen for years I’ve been astounded to see how many of my principles and ethics can be linked to watching Tom and Diana in my formative years.
Those who know me can make the easy connection between me and the acidic Diana. Like an avenging Fury draped in shawls and leaning on a cane, Diana delivers her own form of justice with a glee that borders on the sadistic. During the five seasons that the show ran she smacked impertinent middle-aged idiots with her cane, stole cars, humiliated those who deserved it and carried out more acts of vigilante justice than I can remember. What makes Diana so fucking brilliant is that while she definitely takes pleasure in dispensing justice she is dedicated to true justice. Well, true justice according to Diana’s moral compass. There’s something of the New Woman about Diana. Fear? This is the woman who spent her sixtieth (or was it her fiftieth?) birthday hanging from a helicopter while photographing a war zone. With a stiff GnT, sarcasm to spare and an unblinking gaze, Diana tackles every injustice she sees.
Oh Tom. Dear, kind, daft, balmy, old Tom. A man who has lived a quiet and pleasant life, Tom’s entered his dotage with a cheerful resolve to have adventures. Despite an aging body Tom spends his days climbing Mt. Everest, hanging with JFK and preventing World War II by properly negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. Tom’s adventures are almost entirely the product of his active mind and I take inspiration from the way in which he creates joy around him. He’s the wonderful counterbalance to Diana’s borderline cruelty. Like his companion, Tom is single-minded and eager in his pursuit of justice. Where Diana is marked by her piss and vinegar, Tom is full of optimism, good cheer and unshakable faith in the innate goodness of humanity.
What’s lovely is the fact that Tom and Diana are both just as effective as the other, it just depends on what the situation is. Sometimes Diana’s bulldozer-esque tack is called for and sometimes its the disarmingly cheerfulness of Tom. Tom and Diana aren’t two different people who happen to get along, they are two parts of one person. Yes, they are comic exaggerations of intense personality types but they can’t exist without each other. Tom without Diana is a mild-mannered accountant with a fantasy world and Diana without Tom is a bitter woman with vindictive tendencies. Once united they are an unstoppable force bringing progress from the retirement home’s management to Whitehall.
You taught me that in order to stay alive I needed to be bloody-minded; thank you, Diana. -Tom Ballard; “The Christening”; Season 1, Episode 4