In the first episode of "Waiting for God," a British comedy series set in a nursing home, resident Diana (Stephanie Cole) comments that no one ever sees a hearse on the driveway--they come at night, while everyone sleeps.
"The sun comes up and everyone looks at the untouched bowl of Frosties" on the breakfast table, she notes wryly.
"Waiting for God," a 27-part series that premieres tonight at 9 on KOCE Channel 50, has many of the attributes we've come to expect from the better British sitcoms: sharp comic dialogue and well-drawn characters. It also has the added kick of a real cause, as it rebels against the way society discards its elderly.
The society in question is British, not American, but the attitudes are parallel, although the country-manor elegance of the show's Bayview Retirement Homes is a far cry from the institutional sterility typical of U.S. homes.
In tonight's episode, we meet the protagonists: Diana, whose razor tongue cuts all those who dare draw near, and new resident Tom (Graham Crowden), whose loopy zest for life fuels his determination not to give in to indignity. They meet cute, British-style, as Tom asks Diana if he may sit with her at dinner.
"Sit, stand, do whatever you like," she replies. "You can burn to the ground for all I care." His offbeat charms, and impersonations of everything from emus to Tom Jones, fail to win her over at first: "Cloying old fuddies like you give the elderly a bad name."
She has a point. He is a little cloying at first, a bit too eager to express his eccentricity. But the show soon settles into a more comfortable rhythm, and it becomes clear that together this pair will be working to shake up the socially dictated torpor of most of the residents.
Crowden and Cole invest their characters with a dignity that often escapes depictions of older citizens on American television, and the series promises its share of laughs. Here's hoping that they don't soften Cole's character too much--she has the best laughs of the opening episode.
* "Waiting for God" premieres tonight at 9 and continues each Saturday in that time slot on KOCE Channel 50. Repeats Sundays at 10:30 p.m.