Why is it that British television seems to serve its female characters better than its American counterpart? Is it because only the best shows get exported to America, so that filters out anything sub par? Or is there a genuine difference in attitudes on the other side of the Atlantic? Because I doubt that As Time Goes By would ever have gotten made in America.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the show, it was a British sitcom that ran from 1995-2002 starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer: the two had fallen in love back in 1953 when he was in the army and she was a nurse, he was shipped to Korea and they lost touch after he sent her a letter which she never received. 38 years later Lionel (Palmer) was writing a memoir about his life in Kenya and in search of an assistant he happened to call the secretarial firm which was owned by Jean (Dench).
Both of these characters are adults and generally behave as such. They’ve had completely separate lives for decades- both married other people, Jean has an adult daughter- they don’t actually know each other anymore. The new(ish) relationship got off to a slow start- Jean’s daughter Judith originally had a bit of a crush on Lionel and did go on a date or two with him, and Lionel’s much younger publisher Alistair dated Jean for a little while. Now the older man/younger woman relationship is practically endorsed by the media, but an older woman dating a younger man? And yet not one person looked at it as unthinkable- Jean is attractive and intelligent, and everyone thought it was obvious why Alistair would be interested in her. It was played for laughs in exactly the same way the Lionel/Judith relationship was, and no one was made to look ridiculous. Even the basic premise of an older couple is fairly unimaginable in American television- and Lionel and Jean weren’t even the oldest couple! In the third season Lionel’s father remarried, and Rocky and Madge probably had more energy and fun than the entire rest of the cast put together.
Wait, so life doesn’t come to a grinding halt at 30? What a shock.