It is not often in the British summertime that we get to see a great comedy-drama on our TV screens, but this is what has just happened with the conclusion of Brief Encounters this week on ITV1. I am staggered that ITV did not think to plug this series more before the first episode aired. It was only down to people raving about Brief Encounters on social media that prompted me to watch it.
Set in the 1980s about a group of women in Sheffield who both socially and financially empowered themselves by becoming Anne Summers saleswomen, this refreshing new series was funny, moving and immensely enjoyable to watch. For the film lovers out there amongst you, this show to me was like a female version of The Full Monty, but rather than stripping off these women just kept whipping out their……. vibrators(comically)!
I am sick and tired today of watching new dramas that leave too many things still unresolved by the end of the final episode. It feels like some writers are fearful of offering the satisfactory conclusion that we as the audience most desperately crave for, because they then fear that they will not get a second series commissioned. I am pleased to say the final episode of Brief Encounters did not fall into this category. I loved how most, if not all of the loose ends in the narrative were tied up by the time the closing credits rolled.
Like I say, I was pleasantly surprised at just how many things got resolved in the narrative by the end of this sixth episode. For example, nasty Dougie(Samuel Edward-Cook) FINALLY got his comeuppance as Kieran(Don Gilet) did a deal with police, which subsequently meant Nita’s(Angela Griffin) secret was finally out about knowing Kieran was the driver of the getaway car that knocked over Brian(Peter Wright) and left him for dead in the street. Barry(Kent Riley) FINALLY found out that his wife Lisa(Gina Bramhill) probably wasn’t carrying his baby after all, after he learnt that his best mate Terry(Karl Davies) had got jiggy with her on their sofa one night. I was ready to get vexed at there being no reconciliation between adopted PC Daniels(Ben Bailey-Smith) and his resistant birth mother Pauline(Penelope Wilton). They(the writers) won’t resolve this to give them room for a second series I thought as I watched, but I was pleased to see that these two characters FINALLY did come together and embrace one another at the end. FINALLY, the ongoing love story FINALLY between Steph(Sophie Rundle) and PC Daniels also ended on a positive note too, AMEN FOR A HAPPY ENDING I SAY!
The acting quality from all the leading cast members was first class throughout the series. I think the actress who deserves most praise though is Penelope Wilton who played Pauline Spake. She was equally adept at doing the serious, nastier side of her character as well as doing the more humorous stuff. The funniest bit for me in this final episode was when she got a bit lighted headed and nearly fainted as she helped to deliver Nita’s new baby. In reply to a worried looking Steph, Pauline replied, “yes I’m fine, I’ve just blown a bit too much you know……I’VE GONE A BIT LIGHT”! The scenes that most moved me most in this comedy drama were Penelope’s scenes. I think for the most part she gave a very believable performance as this character.
Another actor who deserves a special mention is Peter Wright who played butcher Brian Spake, Pauline’s husband. I just found him highly amusing whenever his character was in ‘appalled Brian’ mode. My favourite line of the entire series was when he said to Pauline(in an appalled but very funny way) about little Stanley ,
“I caught him wiping his nose on the upholstery”.
I thought this comedy-drama counter balanced the amusing scenes with the more serious ones just about right!
I also have a feeling that this could be the series that blossoms actress Sophie Rundle into being a massive star in this country. With her great look coupled with her great acting ability, she reminds me a bit of a younger Keeley Hawes. It is great credit to Sophie as an actress that this is the same performer who we also see act so well as Ada Shelby in the brutally violent but magnificent, BBC Peaky Blinders drama, i.e Brief Encounters and Peaky Blinders are poles apart from one another.
The only thing that I really feel the need to criticize in this last episode is that at times it was a bit too mushy for me. By this, I mean some of the moving scenes(accompanied with moving background music) were a bit over-the-top. On occasions there seemed to be an attempt by the writers to convey a positive social message through the dialogue. I thought these few scenes came across as a tad corny and they made me lose my suspension-of-disbelief for a brief moment. For example, in a conversation near the end Dawn(Sharon Rooney) said the following to Helena/”Hellie” ,
“Don’t waste your life on somebody that you don’t love, you’re better than that”
As I heard this I grimaced and instantly thought of that annoying American film trailer that I kept seeing on TV last year, the one where this good looking college guy said to this supposedly ugly nerdy girl(she wasn’t ugly) something like, ‘you’re beautiful on the inside and on the outside’…..what a load of cringe worthy baloney!
Another example of too much mushiness was when Pauline had a moment with Nita’s son Ritchie(Theo Graham), about him not wanting to go to Art College. Pauline said,
“To have a Mum and Dad who love you enough to let you go, well I think you’re lucky”.
Again, I winced slightly upon hearing this line from Pauline because it was overdone(with intentional emotive music). This is not a major criticism of the show but such scenes of over sentimentality did start to irk me towards the end.
No, I was not waiting in nervous anticipation to see the completion of this series like say I was when The Night Manager was on earlier this year. Nevertheless, this new comedy-drama overall must still go down as a BIG HIT for ITV1. It had an interesting original subject matter that gave the show a sort of fresh feel about it. I sincerely hope we see a second series of this because most of all, the writers Fay Rusling and Oriane Messina deserve it. ORGASMIC BINGO, WILLY WARMERS AND A HAPPY ENDING….it ticked all the boxes and so roll on series two this time next year please! 4/5.