As Time Goes By

: As Time Goes By - Series 1I don’t know what made me seek out the first season of this BBC series from the library a few weeks ago, but I’m so glad I did because I think it saved my sanity. Work has been incredibly stressful this month. Some days when I get home, all I feel that I have the emotional energy for is to sit in front of the TV watching one episode after another of this warm-hearted sitcom on DVD. And I know exactly the reason why–I enjoy spending time with these people.

These people are Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, the stars of this long-running romantic comedy which debuted on British TV in 1992. The premise is simple: In 1952, a young nurse and an army officer fall in love. When Lionel is sent to the Korean War, Jean waits for a letter from him which never comes, lost in the mail. Thirty-eight years later, their paths cross again. She’s now a widowed businesswoman with a grown daughter, and he’s a retired coffee planter, just returned from Kenya to write his memoirs. The first season has these two former lovers getting reacquainted, recalling their past and tentatively forging a new relationship.

At the heart of this relationship are two characters that are so likeable and genuine that even though you know the outcome is inevitable, you’re so invested in Jean and Lionel, you practically hold your breath in anticipation along with them. And should you think this is just a sweet romance about two older people finding love when they least expected it, it’s also very much a laugh-out-loud comedy.

Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer are absolutely wonderful. If your knowledge of Judi Dench is as a respected character actress, you’re in for a treat when you see her here. Dench is a top-notch comedienne, with perfect timing and delivery. Her facial expressions alone get big laughs. Geoffrey Palmer, lesser known to American audiences, is a perfect partner in comedy for Dench. They have a rapport that is natural and utterly believable. The way these two actors play off of one another, you know these characters have a genuine affection for one another and that, ultimately, they’re well suited and still have that special spark between them.

As Time Goes By would never make it on standard American TV, which is another reason why I like it so much. The main characters are way out of the coveted demographic, they’re not conventionally attractive, and there’s no silly physical humor. It’s a completely character driven story. The plot points are small, the storylines simple. Most of the time characters just talk, about real things and real emotions. The audience is made to feel like we’re in their living room, sitting with them on the comfortable overstuffed furniture, listening to the banter between two old and very entertaining friends.

As Jean and Lionel navigate their new relationship they act just like young lovers again, with all the insecurities, silly arguments and nervous moments that come with romance, and with their dry wit, it’s so much fun to watch. Is it sentimental? Yeah, but in this cynical world, a genuine, sacharine-free relationship-based story is a much welcomed respite. [*****]

6 thoughts on “As Time Goes By

  1. I totally agree with your review – It’s one of my all time favorite shows (they still show it here on PBS… I’ve been watching it for several years now) …I never get tired of the repeats.
    My all time favorite show is the one where Jean and Lionel (& Judy & Sandy & Alistair & Madge & Rocky) put on the Senior Citizens tea party) “Wrap the fairy cakes in cling-film…” And there’s Lionel wrapping each individual one in Saran wrap. (I can’t type for laughing!)
    Yes, I love the show!! (can’t you tell?) but you are so right, the powers-that-be would never allow a show like this on one of the big three networks . And now we know why American television is such crap!!!

  2. BTW: (A little off topic) but a while ago I was thinking of starting a campaign to have Geoffrey Palmer as the new Dumbledore. I could totally see it! But that’s just me!

  3. I agree that Geoffrey Palmer would “rock on” as Dumbledore–just the right mix of gruff and warmth. And I think Dame Judi should get some brilliant cameo in one of the next Potter films down the line. Hmmmm…

  4. Enjoyed your review. Yes, this is a very enjoyable series, made moreso by the two main characters. Geoffrey was wonderful in Butterflies and The Last Waltz, two shows penned by Carla Lane, did you get those in the USA.
    A writer once described Geoffrey’s face as looking like a pair of worn out slippers !

  5. Your comments may be what push me over the edge to finally get a DVD player–I want to see this show!

  6. AS TIME GOES BY is shown here on Sunday nites–thanks to you I’m watching this delightful show now..It’s followed by BBC WAITING FOR GOD which takes place in a nursing home and is equally great. Why can’t U. S. produce anything worth watching exept the SIMPSONS????

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