Waiting for God is a British sitcom that ran on BBC1 from 1990 to 1994. It starred Stephanie Cole and Graham Crowden as two spirited residents of a retirement home who spend their time running rings around the home's oppressive management and their own families. It was written by Michael Aitkens.
The show became very successful, running for five series. The programme is still repeated in the UK on various channels. Series 1 to 5 have run (and in some cases continue to run) on PBS in the United States, and in New Zealand the show has aired various times since 2002.
Diana Trent (Stephanie Cole) - A curmudgeonly old woman who constantly complains about the state of the world and the way the elderly are treated. A constant thorn in Bayview manager Harvey's side, Diana often irritates those around her with her bleak outlook; however, it is borne out a genuine sense of right and wrong, and she can be be ferocious when protecting those she cares about (particularly Tom and her niece Sarah). Diana is a retired photojournalist, having specialised in combat zones, with the things she has seen contributing to her pessimistic world view. Although Diana is a pensioner, Cole was just 48 when she took the role.
Tom Ballard (Graham Crowden) - An optimistic, jolly old man; in many ways the polar opposite of Diana. However, he shares her sense of justice (and her enjoyment of troublemaking) and the two become good friends. Tom suffers from mild dementia and frequently takes imaginary trips to other places (mentally checking out of the retirement home), telling tall tales of his exploits, often involving celebrities. His dull son Geoffrey and Geoffrey's annoying, offensive wife Marion (who have a financial stake in Bayview) often visit him, despite Marion's reluctance.
Jane Edwards (Janine Duvitski) - Harvey's prudish, homely and devout assistant who always looks on the bright side of life, despite Diana's constant attempts to bring her down to earth. She often thinks up new ideas for the home, often backed up by Tom, and whilst Diana is irritated by Jane much of the time, she recognises the good in her and more than once protects her from Harvey's attempts to get rid of her. Jane has an unrequited passion for Harvey, whom she often touches on the shoulder, to which Harvey replies disgustedly, 'Jane... you're touching me'. She is often shocked by what Diana says, with 'Oh Diana!!' becoming something of a catchphrase.
Harvey Bains (Daniel Hill) - The greedy, vain manager of Bayview who constantly tries to cut costs, with the money saved usually going into his own pocket. He complains that the "oldies" aren't "efficient units" and would happily get rid of them all - especially Diana, who constantly thwarts his budget-slashing schemes. Although constantly pursued by Jane, Harvey is largely oblivious to this (or else ignores it), preferring the idea of a more glamorous female companion. His father, whom he never knew, was an American gangster.
Geoffrey Ballard (Andrew Tourell) - Tom's good-hearted but incredibly dull son, whose chief interests in life are DIY and real ale. He is a successful businessman, but his personal life is a disaster - he feels trapped in his marriage to the often vicious Marion, and will sometimes use his father as a sounding board. Geoffrey is frequently insulted by Diana, but is usually too meek to stand up to her, and largely tolerates her behaviour because of her affection for Tom.
Marion Ballard (Sandra Payne) - Geoffrey's pill-popping, gin-swilling wife; a generally unpleasant woman who sees Tom purely as a financial burden. She is unfaithful to Geoffrey more than once, and uses alcohol and tranquilisers to escape from her financially secure but unexciting life.
Basil Makepeace (Michael Bilton) - An elderly but very randy man who spends most of his time trying to seduce the female residents.
Jenny (Dawn Hope) - A care worker at the home who, unlike Jane, sees through Harvey's dodgy ways, and often agrees with Diana's protests against the Bayview regime.
Antonio (Chico Andrade) - A useless Portuguese gardener, often berated by Diana for his lack of skill. Diana normally speaks to him in pidgin French due to her inability to speak Portuguese (despite the fact that Antonio shows no sign of understanding French).
Set at the fictional Bayview Retirement Home near Bournemouth, the show was based around Diana Trent and her relationship with Tom Ballard, a former accountant with semi-feigned dementia. He has been exiled there for the convenience of his family.
Diana is a cynical, retired photojournalist who has found herself consigned to the retirement home after a career documenting some of the 20th century's most dangerous events has left her single and with no one in her life outside of her niece, and later, her great-niece. Her frustration at the prospect of years of being alternately patronised and ignored at Bayview is soon channelled into attempts to subvert the régime of the retirement home and taunting the staff regarding their flaws and corrupt nature. Though retired, Diana remains connected with several powerful journalists, which she uses to blackmail the board of directors at Bayview (and Bayview manager Harvey Baines) to stay in Bayview despite her anti-social behaviour. Her only known living relative is her niece Sarah and later, Sarah's daughter Diana. Sarah runs a modelling agency and loves Diana, though Diana is emotionally distant from her niece, going so far as to tell people that her niece runs a prostitution ring and constantly attempts to kill her with poison. As the series progresses, the two become closer after Sarah undergoes a whirlwind courtship and marriage that results in pregnancy; the marriage fails but produces "the Diana of the Future," as the new Great-Aunt Diana blesses the newborn. Just before Baby Diana arrives, the great-aunt-to-be reveals that much of her hostility towards the world stems from the fact that she's infertile; this incapability is one of her very few regrets in life.
Ballard is a kindly but deluded old duffer who frequently lives in a fantasy world following his retirement as an accountant. A widower for at least a decade, his increasingly eccentric behaviour leads his alcoholic and adulterous daughter-in-law Marion and henpecked son Geoffrey to move him into Bayview where he finds himself living next door to Diana. The two form an unlikely partnership and discover that they are able to wreak havoc amongst the younger staff and management in the home in order to create a more tolerable living environment for themselves and their fellow residents. Tom's optimistic, cheery demeanour and unencumbered Anglican Christianity contrast Diana's dark cynicism and avowed atheism, as both attempt to influence the other's world view.
The manager of Bayview is Harvey Baines who runs the establishment with his assistant, the homely, spinsterish and pious Jane Edwards. Baines is a penny-pinching weasel whose management style involves trying to run the retirement home profitably while keeping the residents (whom he variously dubs "oldies", "inmates", or "units") passive in order to make himself look good before the eyes of the board of directors.
Both Tom and Diana refer to Baines as "the idiot Baines", a reference to Harvey's general lack of common sense regarding his various schemes to promote himself and Bayview to the outside world.
Jane, Harvey's put-upon assistant, is a naïve and religious woman who is madly in love with Harvey, in spite of Harvey's utter disdain for her. Jane serves as a foil for Diana; although Diana loathes Jane's religious piety and optimistic outlook on life, she seems to genuinely care about Jane's wellbeing, as evidenced by her and Tom's attempts to help Jane when it comes to the matter of dealing with Harvey's manipulation of Jane's love for him.
During the third season, Tom and Diana get together as a couple after a one-night stand though Diana is far more laissez-faire about the new state of their relationship, much to the chagrin of Tom's desire for a more committed relationship. This in turn led to season four, when Diana's financial situation collapses and Tom (having discovered that his room is infested with mould), forces Harvey to upgrade him to a new apartment in Bayview and to allow Diana to live with him as his lady friend. By season five, the two become engaged along with Harvey and Jane, who first get together as part of a cynical scheme to get Harvey accepted to an exclusive country club. When the plan fails and Jane responds by quitting her job to begin the process of becoming a nun, Harvey realises that he has come to enjoy Jane being in his life and the two go through with their vows. But Diana gets cold feet regarding her impending marriage to Tom (much to her niece Sarah's shock); however, Tom discovers this before the wedding and saves Diana from having either to go through with the wedding or to have her niece sever all ties with her aunt, by calling off the wedding just as the two were about to say "I Do".
Much of the humour is derived from flying in the face of conventional expectations about how the elderly ought to behave in their old age and how many of the residents don't want to settle down. One character, Basil Makepeace, is forever propositioning the female residents of the home, bragging about his innumerable conquests (on one occasion he muses about the indignities of growing old, commenting that now "three or four times...a night is all I can manage"). As an octogenarian, he does quite well. The other source of humour comes from the lengths that Harvey Baines will go to in his quest for success and how he and Marion scheme to separate Tom and Diana, the two blights on their mutual existences. The series is also unusual in that it is told largely from the vantage point of the (largely well adjusted) elderly characters, with most of the younger characters depicted as buffoons, who are either neurotic or inept.