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As Time Goes By
A mystery in Channel Thirteen
They met when he was a young soldier, she a young girl, “the most beautiful around”, according to him. The next day after they made love for the first time, he could not stop smiling precisely because he couldn´t believe that the most beautiful girl around was his. Then he had to leave, for Korea. He promised he would write, and he did, but the letter never reached her. She waited for a long time and then, she realized that the lover, for some reason, had abandoned her.
Thirty years later Jean is a widow, has a daughter twice divorced and is the owner-director of a secretarial service. Her employees are her daughter Judy and another young girl called Sandy. All of a sudden Judy brings a client, a fellow who just spent 25 years in Kenya and wants to publish a book called “My Life in Kenya” and needs a typist, or something like that. The young soldier is now a mature man, handsome, serious, almost boring. But it´s him. It´s Lionel. They recognize each other, and little by little, attraction and mistrust battling in their hearts, they find the way back to love, to the lost love of their youth.
For me, it´s six years now that Lionel and Jean find each other again, but I don´t know exactly for how long they have been doing that. Meeting again every year and being awkward and going back to the places of their short, young love, and starting all over again. It´s six years now that every year they decide to finally live together and after a series of misunderstandings Lionel moves in with Jean ... and Judy ... and not long afterwards, Sandy comes to live with them too.
And then there is Alistair, the flamboyant wealthy and young and charming businessman that starts out courting Jean, becoming Lionel´s best friend and falling in love with Judy –actually with the whole family. After some break ups he ends up marrying Judy. This happens almost at the end of their story as we watch it every year in New York´s Channel Thirteen. All of them get married, actually. Lionel and Jean, Alistair and Judy, Sandy and a young copper called Harry that almost loses his fiancée because of an inordinate love for rugby.
Vincent has the theory that some millionaire is paying a handsome sum of money as a generous contribution to public television, with one condition: that for ever and ever our heroe and heroine keep on losing each other to the sound of “As time goes by” and then meeting again and having their funny sweet adventures with their charming British accent, with Lionel finding his own letter in the exhibition of a War Museum and proving to Jean three decades and a half later that he had, indeed, written to her.
Channel Thirteen on Saturday nights reminds me one of those American towns populated with ghosts, where people go on battling since the time of the Civil War. Except for those days, that is, when the Channel is begging for more money. Those are boring days when our favorite programs get muted. This periodical begging for money kind of destroys a little bit Vincent´s theory about the millionaire contributor. But then, someone can explain to us why, otherwise, we have the privilege of meeting with these adorable characters year after year?
Why once and again Alistair loses all of his money (almost) to a bear market, gaining back Judy´s love who finds him more real when in want than when flaunting his wealth? Why once and again they get married and during the party Harry wishes to propose to Sandy but he is so shy that he gets drunk almost to death? Why every year the timid cop practically kidnaps Sandy to Canada, where he is sent to spend a year with the Royal Mounted Police, proposing to her two hours before the departure of his plane and only a few hours before the end of the comedy´s season? They make it to the flight, by the way, thanks to Alistair who, wealthy again, calls a buddy in the airline and buys two first class tickets...
Anyway, probably we will never know why we are so lucky, but one thing is sure, if ever the mysterious cause for our charming ghosts yearly return ceases, we are going to miss them ... Jean and Lionel, Alistair and Judy, and all the others, including the hilarious secondary characters and the music and their simple lives and their loves ... as time goes by.