The Guardian revealed some interesting news for Last Tango in Halifax fans this week. As we anxiously await the beginning of Season 2 of the acclaimed British series on November 19 (yes, we will be recapping it!), there are apparently, accordingly to the Guardian, already plans for a third season. Hurrah!
The real news, however, is that Diane Keaton has acquired the rights to the BBC1 show, to be remade in America on HBO. There aren’t many other details available yet, including whether Keaton herself will act on the show. My reaction to this? Not necessarily all thumbs down, but definitely nowhere near “hurrah” status.
On the one hand, I love the attention this show has gotten recently on both sides of the pond, and it would be great to have Caroline’s lesbian storyline—assuming they keep her lesbian storyline, which I can’t imagine they wouldn’t, as it features so prominently in the British series—shown to American audiences, especially on such a high quality, high profile network as HBO. I like and trust Diane Keaton. I have also ended up loving many American remakes of originally British shows: The Office and Queer as Folk are two of my favorites of all time.
But overall, I’d rate my inner TV compass at 97% skeptical at the moment, just because so much of the wonderfulness of this show seems so inherently British: the sweeping, moorish landscapes, the subtle British humor, the particular adorableness of British old people, and most of all, the entirely stellar British cast. I can’t see Caroline being played by anyone other than Sarah Lancashire; can’t see anyone playing Celia and Alan other than Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi; can’t see another Nicola Walker. I know I’m clearly just too attached to the show right now, but it feels like trying to remake Breaking Bad without Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. (And yes, this is probably the only time you will ever see Last Tango in Halifax and Breaking Bad mentioned in the same paragraph, but it was the first comparison that popped in my head.)
It also feels strange to imagine Last Tango in Halifax without the impeccable Sally Wainwright at the helm. While she’ll be included as a producer on the American version, she says she doesn’t expect to play a huge role.
As with most remakes that end up being truly successful, I feel the only way a Last Tango in Halifax reboot could work is if it ended up taking its own unique redirections. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, after all, was a much, much different character than Ricky Gervais’s David Brent, and in the UK version of Queer as Folk (spoiler alert), the Ted character was killed off in the first few episodes, which would have changed the American series entirely if they had followed suit.
So while Last Tango in Halifax currently takes place in idyllic little British towns, perhaps an Americanized version could take place in a big city—Chicago, or San Francisco. Maybe Caroline could work in management at some start up tech company, and Gillian could work in the shipyards, or something. But no, no, no, it doesn’t feel right to have Caroline not be a snooty headmaster and Gillian not be on a farm. You see? This is hard.
Maybe it could take place in a small hamlet in the American West, and Gillian could own a slightly-run-down ranch, and instead of spending her days building low stone walls, she could be wrangling horses, dust tangling her hair. Yeah, that sounds a bit better.
But as long as we’re talking in fantasy terms now, let’s discuss the inevitable. Who could possibly be fit to take charge of these roles in the US of A? Here are my suggestions, Diane.
Celia: Angela Lansbury
Because she is flawless, and only the voice of Mrs. Potts could make Last Tango somehow more perfect. Although I understand that she is British too, proving I am already bad at this.
Caroline: Meryl Streep
I know getting Meryl Streep is fantasy land as its most fantasy-ish, but hey, Robin Williams is on TV again! Anything could happen! As Streep is 64 and Lansbury is 88 (which she just turned this month—happy belated birthday, Angela!), this daughter-mother partnership to end all daughter-mother partnerships could totally work. Like I said, I love Diane Keaton, but only Meryl has the ability to be hilarious and vulnerable while also shooting smoldering laser beams of rage out of her eyes, as Caroline does so well.
Kate: Zoe Saldana
All right, so maybe a love affair between Meryl Streep and Zoe Saldana would be somewhat scandalous in terms of age difference. But whatever. We wouldn’t complain.
Gillian: Emily Rios
Rios might also be slightly young for the hardened role of Gillian, but the take-no-bullshit way she played Adriana in The Bridge could transfer so well to the similarly tough but smart Gillian. I love Nicola Walker so fiercely that this casting almost seems hardest of all, but it’s also a testament to how much more I’d like to see of Emily Rios.
This also brings up the biggest opportunity any remake has, the chance to include more diversity. In defense of Rios, Alan’s widow totally could’ve been Latina! In addition to Rios, other roles could be filled by people of color as well, including major characters like Celia and Caroline. I was just too proud of my Angela-Meryl idea to give it up.
And of course, as this whole idea is still in its infancy, anything could happen. I’ll be interested to see how it develops. What are your thoughts on a possible Americanized Last Tango in Halifax?