Brief Encounters Episode 1 – The DVDfever Review

Brief Encounters

Brief Encounters summarises the story of Jacqueline Gold, for ITV-friendly audiences, about how she started a business selling exotic lingerie and ‘marital aids’ at parties within the homes of her friends, under the Ann Summers banner, often to the embarrassment of their husbands, since the world of intimate relationships wasn’t discussed back in the buttoned-down ’80s, despite the apparent se -xual revolution of the ’60s. It is also a time when men went to work while women still stayed home to look after the house.

The series is set in 1982, yet most of the music comes from 1981 (Human League‘s Love Action, Ultravox‘s Vienna, Olivia Newton-John‘s Physical), although while we do get Toni Basil‘s Mickey from 1982, the shops are stocking a circa 1983 Culture Club were on the front of Smash Hits. However, they have got right that, back then we had butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, while now we have Tesco. There are remote controls that connect to the TV with a wire, dowdy-looking pubs, and the houses featured are perfectly spot-on with the godawful decor of the era.

Female empowerment is the name of the game as they’re taking charge of their own lives, rather than having to just be subservient to their husbands and in a typical prime-time mainstream drama, the male of the species comes off worse.

Ms Gold is also the series advisor on this drama, and she’s partly fictionalised as Steph (Sophie Rundle), struggling to put food on the table because the recession has led to many people, including husband Terry (Karl Davies), getting made redundant. The bog-standard kitchen sink drama sets most of the tone. It’s all been done before and the script spends far too much time retreading that old ground. It also doesn’t help that the first episode is halfway through before it actually gets to one of those parties, partly delayed by Steph pointlessly dithering whether or not to go ahead with it.


Sharon Rooney, Penelope Wilton, Sophie Rundle and Angela Griffin

Once we get to the main event, there, the script has a liberal sprinkling of basic innuendo as the dialogue is briefly based around willy warmers and the ‘Stallion’ dildo, to which one of the well-to-do women asks, “Is that a food blender?”. However, there’s very little that might be titilating since this is ITV.

To add to the ‘seen it all before’ category, the police turn up after receiving a complaint. I’m surprised they didn’t also write in the local vicar arriving for a cup of tea at the same time, followed by his trousers falling down at an inopportune moment.

With a cast including Angela Griffin (Coronation Street), Sharon Rooney (My Mad Fat Diary), Penelope Wilton (almost everything, including the female PM in Doctor Who), Karl Davies (Happy Valley), Peter Wight (as Wilton’s husband, almost everything as well), and Will Merrick (Steve Davis in The Rack Pack), this drama doesn’t exactly stretch their talents as much as it does the viewer’s patience, since his was a very slow-moving first episode, decidely pedestrian in its construction, and which gives you the impression they could’ve easily cut this down to three or four episodes with a much tightened-up script.

Brief Encounters starts tonight at 9pm, and airs every Monday on ITV at 9pm. The series is available pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release (date to be confirmed), but if you miss the episode, you can catch it later on the ITV Hub.

Brief Encounters – Trailer – ITV

Episode 1 Score: 4/10

Director: Jill Robertson
Producer: Jo Willett
Writers: Fay Rusling and Oriane Messina

Steph: Sophie Rundle
Nita: Angela Griffin
Dawn: Sharon Rooney
Pauline: Penelope Wilton
Terry: Karl Davies
Brian: Peter Wight
Russell: Will Merrick
Kieren: Don Gilet
Johnny Daniels: Ben Bailey Smith
Dean: Daniel Sharp
Joan: Felicity Montagu
Barry: Kent Riley
Lisa: Gina Bramhill
Bunny: Pippa Haywood
Hellie: Chloe Pirrie
Nessa: Chloe Boye
Miss James: Marie Ekins
Newsagent: Roger Bingham
Gordon: Pablo Raybould
Maurice Cole: Daniel Poyser
Mrs Wyatt: Alyson Marks
Pamela: Suzanne Procter
Jim: Phil Rowson
Richie: Theo Graham
Religious Rose: Gail Kemp
Widowed Linda: Squad Faress
Dull Karen: Tanya Vital
Estelle: Elise Kelly
Dr Henderson: Simon Lawson