Brief Encounters

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Brief Encounters

July 04, 2016 - 23:51
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7 reader reviews
Average: 4.2 (15 votes)
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As an eighties child I really enjoyed this first episode, especially the soundtrack. I remember being mystified as to what an Ann Summers party was after reading about giggling women clutching brown paper bags in an Adrian Mole novel.

Brief Encounters

By Bobalice

As an eighties child I really enjoyed this first episode, especially the soundtrack. I remember being mystified as to what an Ann Summers party was after reading about giggling women clutching brown paper bags in an Adrian Mole novel.

It's a little bit cliched but lots of fun with a great cast. Penelope Wilton and Angela Griffin are, as always, brilliant. There is always the undertone of depressing Thatcher's Britain and the demise of industry going on in the background but i think this series will run with the uplifting stories of the main characters.

Ladies of the 80's selling willie warmers and more besides I salute you.

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Henrietta Knight's picture

It’s been described as The Full Monty with sex aids. Over to Brief Encounters which follows the lives of four women who sell saucy lingerie in 1980s Sheffield.

The series is based on the 1995 memoirs of Ann Summers boss Jacqueline Gold who made millions from flogging bright red nylon underwear and sex toys at parties and in her shops.

Steph (Sophie Rundle) tries to make ends meet by hosting the events so that she can support herself and her young son, but the odds are stacked against her. Her mother played by Alan Partridge’s Felicity Montagu refuses to accept her new career and her disapproving boyfriend goes off to find work elsewhere after she finds him shagging someone else. Meanwhile shy Steph finds herself arranging a do for the girl’s hen night because she desperately needs the money. Her confused boy goes missing during the party and she falls for handsome PC Daniels (Ben Bailey Smith) who tracks him down.

Fellow knicker seller Nita (Angela Griffin) discovers she is pregnant for the tenth time while her dodgy husband (Don Gilet) drives the getaway car in a robbery and is involved in a hit and run.

The star of the show is Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton, who plays bored and frustrated housewife Pauline. She comes out of her shell to revive her love life with comic and tragic results. She discovers her cleaner and house guest, down market Dawn (Sharon Rooney) and her fiance (Will Merrick) road testing the baby dolls on her “£200 genuine Chinese rug”.

Fay Rushing and Oriane Messina’s script is witty if a little predictable. There’s a clunking scene when Dawn eats the pot pourri presuming it’s a snack. The sound track including Phil Collins and Teardrop Explodes is fabulously evocative of the era. All in all a welcome escape amidst the dreary summer’s television schedules of football and Big Brother.

godisacelt's picture

This is a delicate fun drama, which reminds me of the old 80's dramas like Auf Weidhersen pet maybe not as grim as boys from the blackstuff but the background is there ordinary working folk and the dramas that their life entails I hope they keep it light and not too dramatic just enough to keep us all hooked.

SCARFMAN_'s picture


After a really encouraging first episode of the new comedy drama 'Brief Encounters' last week, I was therefore intrigued to see how this was going to be followed up in part two. Set in the location of Sheffield(South Yorkshire, England) during the financially hard-up times of the 1980s in Britain, this tells the tale of the lives of four women as they embark upon being Anne Summers Party Plan saleswomen. ITV1 have a hit on their hands here because I thought episode two was pretty damn good too.

Pauline : "Brian, I have been to the pub and I liked it".

The star of episode one for me was actress Penelope Wilton who plays repressed housewife Pauline, she was the star performer yet again in episode two. To be fair though, I think the rest of the cast needs loudly applauding as well. You are half way there with a hit show if the acting is first class and it definitely is here. Sophie Rundle (who plays Stephanie) is a fantastic talent and I think ex Corrie's Angela Griffin shows just what an underrated actress she is too.

Episode two dealt with the fallout of what happened at the end of episode one, namely Stephanie walking in and finding her husband Terry bonking with another woman on the sofa. This was then made worse for her as she then had to go and do an Anne Summers party at this woman's house. Things got worse still for Steph after her childminder (Barry played by Kent Riley) lost her son at the cinema, coupled with then being later slapped across her face by her mother who deemed her to be an unfit mum for doing the Anne Summers parties. Am I the only one by the way who rather than her being nasty, expects Stephanie's mum to say something funny when she speaks? The actress that plays Stephanie's mum is the brilliant actress Felicity Montagu, who played the marvelous downtrodden Lynn character in 'Alan Partridge'.

We learned more about the home life of the character Dawn (Sharon Rooney) and her chauvinist, useless Dad and brothers (barring the very young one). The comedy highlight in this second installment for me was when an appalled Brian (Peter Wright) walked into his bathroom and found Dawn shaving her legs and 'pits' with his best razor. It's important that we saw not just a funny side to Dawn, otherwise the casting could have rightly been criticised for being too stereotypical , i.e she's the 'funny fat girl', box ticked.

The ending was dramatic as we saw Brian knocked over(dead or not we're not sure yet) by robbers fleeing the scene of their crime in a getaway car. The extra juicy bit here being that the driver of said car was Kieran (Don Gillet), namely Nita's (Angela Griffin) fella. Upon him arriving back home all flustered, she tells him that she has just decided that she wants to have their fourth child after all what with things now looking more financially secure for them....eek!

1980s nostalgia is a key reason as to why this show is a success, or at least why it appeals to me so much. It was a notable decade where new fashions and music came across to Britain from America. This was coupled with a Thatcher government in the 80s that saw mass unemployment rise within many parts of the UK(especially in the north). You had affluent yuppies and entrepreneurs juxtaposed against great civil unrest and public disorder. It is a striking period of British history that sticks in the memory banks and makes for an interesting backdrop for a comedy drama such as this.

If I am being picky then I guess you could argue that the stuck-up woman(the one whose husband is a friend of Brian's and who walked out of the Anne Summers party in episode one in disgust) is verging on a caricature, i.e bit over-the-top and too snobby to seem like a real person. Apart from this character though, I am finding it pretty hard to greatly fault 'Brief Encounters' so far. The Anne Summers subject matter is an original one and so there is a refreshing quirky feel to the narrative.

All-in all, so far this show has been a triumph for ITV1........and one that I never heard or saw coming either!


Anna May's picture

When I first saw the title of this new series and read the blurb, I immediately thought…here we go…countless episodes crammed full of sexual innuendos and relentless jokes about dildos and G-strings. Okay, I thought, let’s see how they're going to fill six hours of my precious time with gaudy nightwear, crotchless knickers and poke-thru bras.

Well, what can I say, half-way through the first episode my presumptions had been totally swept aside and here was probably one of the best dramas I’ve come across (stop it) in a long while.

The four main characters, all women, have equally colourful and challenging lives in completely different ways. We meet Steph, Nita, Dawn and Pauline very quickly in the first episode and are truly blessed with the acting abilities of Sophie Rundle, Angela Griffin, Sharon Rooney and Penelope Wilton, respectively.

Needless to say, each one has their own reasons for breaking into the business of selling naughty underwear and ‘things’ at Ann Summers parties, but their individual past and present situations are so neatly sewn into the very gusset (obviously) of this story, we are not merely subjected to needless scenes of potty-mouthed women shoving vibrators into each other’s faces in a vain attempt to keep viewers interested. We're totally spared all that.

The writing here is excellent. Oriane Messina and Fay Rusling have really put some work into this and now, after episode three, I’m really loving the way the subject of Ann Summers parties and their impact on the 80s has been used as a basis for these four women to come together very naturally as friends (yes, I know).

The 80s era is captured very well, with songs of the time being played during the credits and blaring out of radios here and there. Even as Steph’s five year old son tries to extract coins from of a charity tin on a shop counter, a woman blurts out, “The kiddy’s taking money from the spastic box!” Now that’s something you don’t hear anymore.

Also, behold the 80s perm. How I suffered as a result of the 80s perm. I had the thickest hair and all my dad ever said when he saw me was, “Cleo Laine…that’s what that is!” Thanks, dad. As if waking up each morning with a lopsided bird’s nest on my head wasn’t bad enough.

Aside from being hooked on the story, I’m also glad these parties have been depicted as the fairly simplistic events they really were and not exaggerated. Having been to a fair few Ann Summers parties in the 80s and also done similar parties myself as a rep, I can honestly say we turned up with nothing more than a clothes rail on wheels, a suitcase full of slippery fake satin nighties, and a box full of ‘marital aids’. Hilariously, even the tiny cheese-cutter G-strings and complementing posing pouches were hopelessly displayed on a handful of jangling metal hangers. It really was pure class.

The notion that all men were cleared from the area is not entirely true. If any men dared to lurk in the kitchen, hoping to catch a sneaky glimpse, we’d threaten them with having to model some of the men’s accessories. Some would scarper pretty quickly, but one or two would jump at the chance to parade in front of their wife’s or girlfriend’s mates in nothing but a leopard print willy warmer.

Did we really have to stand there with a humming dildo in our hand, whilst sensibly explaining what it was for and where it went? Yes, we did, but with a tongue-in-cheek patter to put the guests at ease before passing it round for inspection and, after every single item of naughtiness was demonstrated and given out for scrutiny, the games would begin, the Liebfraumilch would flow and the laughs would carry on until we left.

Even the extending vibrator Pauline was holding at her first party is exactly the type we would sell, so they’ve definitely done their homework. I’m wondering if I’ll see any more familiar gadgets as the series progresses. I'll be looking out for chocolate body paint, vibrating love eggs and glow in the dark anal beads...just so you know.

I remember our devices were secured in a large, locked vanity case and if the host had young children we would allow them to play with said devices to keep them quiet. This did, however, take its toll on some of our more extravagant items. Hence, the stupidly oversized ‘Finger and Thumb’ became extremely crumpled after a while. No more the exciting emulation of a giant’s loving touch, as I would tell the women, but rather as if someone had broken into the Addams family’s mansion and tried to stamp Thing to death. This contraption could actually work its way across the floor and disappear under furniture. Very disturbing.

I remember having to give everything we sold a special attribute. Not so difficult with the obvious items. Even the smallest of vibrators had a use. “You can keep it in your handbag for when you’re bored on the bus,” I would say. “It’s a lot of fun,” I’d say. This thing was about three inches long with the thickness of a forefinger and was called ‘The Deluxe’. It was probably the least deluxe thing in our kit and absolutely no fun whatsoever (so I'm told). Even a brand new Duracell didn’t help its cause (apparently). Sadly, our frighteningly thick condoms that stood up on their own were more inviting…but, then, they did have special features on the ends…like hands, lips and devils’ horns…ouch. What were we thinking!

What indeed. When you think of the risks being taken…often holding parties in unfamiliar areas and mostly late in the evening, it really brings home the commitment and determination to make it work. Most of our parties were in and around South London and we were no strangers to the many estates, some of which meant clambering up and down urine-stained staircases in the pitch black, clutching our suitcases full of naughties and trying to drag the dismantled clothes rail between us as quietly as possible to avoid unwanted attention.

That said, I remember us being stuck in the middle of an estate, trying to make out the host’s flat number by torchlight and realizing it hadn’t been written down. Surrounded by several sinisterly quiet blocks of flats, I decided it would be a good idea to shine the torch up at each block, whilst bellowing, “HAS ANYONE ORDERED A SEX PARTY? IF YOU BOOKED A SEX PARTY, WE’RE HERE!” Thankfully, our host had been looking out for us and shouted back before I had the chance to regret it. Stockwell was kind to us that night.

We didn’t have mobile phones in those days. We just got in the car and drove into the night. This was a business just for us women and a chance to prove to ourselves how confident and brave we could be out there on our own, while our men were doing manly things elsewhere, like cheering at sport on the TV, or talking bollocks about us in the pub.

Caroline Dowse's picture

I approached this series with a bit of trepidation. Ann Summers parties? Really? How can you make a drama out of that? But they have - and its really good.

This week, Steph finally got it on with sweet copper Johnny, Pauline did her first party and Dawn escaped the clutches of her horrible family. For me, Nita has the most interesting storyline. Pregnant with her fifth child and now struggling with the dilemma of whether to tell Pauline about Kieran's involvement in Brian's hit and run. Angela Griffin's performance is immense .

The cast are the stand-out in this, especially Penelope Wilton as Pauline, who gets some of the best lines: "Goodness, I've never seen one do that before!" she exclaimed, while showing a marital aid at a party. Okay, some of it is a little bit predictable - we know which man Steph will probably end up with, and the male characters themselves, with the exception of Johnny, are all useless as they tend to be in female-centric dramas, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

Brief Encounters is a great drama with lots of wit. I really recommend it.

SCARFMAN_'s picture

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 an audience most desperately crave for, because they then fear that they will not get a second series commissioned. I am pleased to say that 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 the 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 between Steph(Sophie Rundle) and PC Daniels also ended on a positive note too, AMEN FOR HAPPY ENDINGS I SAY!

The acting quality from all the leading cast members was first class throughout the series. I think the actress that deserves most praise though is Penelope Wilton who played Pauline Spake. She was equally adept at the 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 light 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 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 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 final 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 at seeing the completion of this series like say I was when 'The Night Manager' was on earlier this year. Nevertheless, this new comedy-drama 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 ticked all the boxes and so roll on series two this time next year please! 4/5.

GeordieArmani's picture

Absolutely loved this female focused drama. Are the female actors the best on the TV at the moment. I would say Happy Valley and In the Club prove just that.

Sincerely hope we have a second bite of the Brief Encounter apple, its been absolutely superb. Brought back many a memory about being a teen in the 80's. GA x