Cynicism is a virtue in Waiting for God, the BAFTA-nominated comedy that is now available in a complete series box set that includes all five seasons. That means 45 visits to Bayview Retirement Village, where the only recourse against the dreary days, terrible food, and hapless management is a strong dose of cantankerous sarcasm.
The aging Tom Ballard (Graham Crowden) finds himself unceremoniously dumped on Bayview’s doorstep by his milquetoast son Geoffrey (Andrew Tourell) and sluttish daughter-in-law Marion (Sandra Payne). Tom’s a bit of kook, but independent enough to feel the sorrow of resignation at spending his final days in a retirement home.
Fortunately for Tom, he soon finds a common soul in the blisteringly feisty Diana Trent (played marvelously by Stephanie Cole, actually almost 20 years younger than Crowden in real life), who doesn’t let being old function as an excuse for anything.
Soon, Tom is joining in with her escapades of defiance against smarmy and incompetent manager Harvey Bains (Daniel Hill), who’s always on the lookout for cost-cutting measures, no matter the harm to his residents. Dim-witted Jane (Janine Duvitski) serves as his loyal assistant and constantly pines after Harvey’s heart, no matter how loathsome his behavior becomes.
Waiting for God manages to take a sober look at the realities of the aging process — both in societal and medical ways — while maintaining a searing barrage of merciless verbal barbs, mostly courtesy of Diana. Tom and Diana are stuck in a retirement home because of a supposed uselessness to society, but all they’re surrounded by is beacons of uselessness, from the Bayview staff to Tom’s family. It’s a sharp formula that allows for some truly cutting humor, but whatever forces conspired to keep the show on the air for five seasons may have done more harm than good.
By the second season, the bits are already being recycled, and the show has begun to settle into a comfortable pace, where Harvey does something despicable and Tom and Diana do everything in their power to stop it. It also doesn’t help that the show finds a way to constantly wedge in Geoffrey and Marion, who have ostensibly left Tom at Bayview for a reason, but find an explanation for visiting the retirement home in every single episode. Tourell and Payne do good broad comedic work, but it would be much more effective on a less-frequent basis.