The A Word
|The A Word|
|Created by||Keren Margalit|
|Developed by||Peter Bowker|
|Written by||Peter Bowker|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||18 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Picture format||16:9 1080i|
|Original release||22 March 2016 –|
|Related shows||Yellow Peppers|
The A Word is a BBC drama television series, based on the Israeli series Yellow Peppers. The series follows a young boy and how his family cope with the revelation that he is autistic. Following filming in the Lake District from October 2015, a six-part series began airing on 22 March 2016. On 26 May 2016, the BBC announced that a second series of The A Word had been commissioned. It premiered in the UK on 7 November 2017. The third series began airing on 5 May 2020.
Five-year-old Joe Hughes displays clear signs of communication problems and consistently isolates himself by listening to pop music through large blue and black headphones. He has encyclopaedic knowledge of the songs he listens to and accurately sings along with the lyrics. His parents, Alison and Paul, seem oblivious to the disorder and wonder why Joe is ostracised by other children of the same age. However, it is later discovered by Joe's grandfather, Maurice, that Alison and Paul have been taking him to hospital for his communication problems. Other family members know there is a problem, however, their attempts to intervene are met with obstruction from Joe's parents. After originally believing Joe had hearing problems, their otolaryngologist refers Joe to a specialist who diagnoses him as autistic.
The story then follows how the dysfunctional family, including Rebecca (who feels invisible), Eddie and Nicola (who are coping with their own relationship problems) and tactless grandad Maurice cope with Joe's situation and their own apparent social disorders.
|Max Vento||Joe Hughes||autistic son||1–|
|Lee Ingleby||Paul Hughes||Joe's father||1–|
|Morven Christie||Alison Hughes||Joe's mother||1–|
|Molly Wright||Rebecca Hughes||Joe's half-sister||1–|
|Greg McHugh||Eddie Scott||Alison's brother||1–|
|Vinette Robinson||Nicola Daniels||Eddie's wife||1–12|
|Christopher Eccleston||Maurice Scott||Joe's grandfather, Alison's and Eddie's father||1–|
|Pooky Quesnel||Louise Wilson||Maurice's music teacher and lover||1–|
|Leon Harrop||Ralph Wilson||Louise's son||1–|
|Matt Greenwood||Tom Clarke||Rebecca's best friend||2–|
|Thomas Gregory||Luke Taylor||Rebecca's boyfriend||2–6|
|Daniel Cerqueira||Dr Graves||Family doctor||1–|
|George Bukhari||Terry Norris||Worker at Paul and Alison's cafe||1–|
|Adam Wittek||David Nowak||Worker at the Scott's brewery||1–|
|Tommie Grabiec||Pavel Kaminski||Worker at the Scott's brewery||1–|
|Abby Ford||Sally||Worker at the Scott's brewery||4|
|Julia Krynke||Maya Petrenko||Joe's babysitter||2–5|
|Lisa Millett||Maggie White||Joe's speech therapist||3|
|Ralf Little||Stuart||Rebecca's biological father||5–6, 11, 14|
|Jude Akuwudike||Vincent Daniels||Nicola's father||7–|
|Clare Holman||Grace Daniels||Nicola's mother||7–|
|Aaron Pierre||James Thorne||Rebecca's boyfriend||7–8|
|Julie Hesmondhalgh||Heather||Joe's teacher||13–|
|Lucy Gaskell||Sophie Berwick||Worker at Paul's Gastropub||7–11|
|Travis Smith||Mark Berwick||Sophie's autistic teenage son||7–|
|Sarah Gordy||Katie Thorne||Ralph's wife||13–|
Bowker drew on his own experiences and observations as a teacher and with his family to write The A Word.
Filming took place from October 2015 at locations in the Lake District, including Keswick, Broughton-in-Furness, Coniston, Thirlmere Reservoir, and Birkrigg Cottage in the Newlands Valley, and at The Space Project studios in Manchester.
On 24 May 2019, it was announced by the BBC, and then subsequently via press and social media publications, that a third series was in production. Returning cast members included Christopher Eccleston, Morven Christie, Lee Ingleby, Max Vento, Molly Wright, Greg McHugh, Pooky Quesnel, Matt Greenwood and Leon Harrop. Joining the cast as newcomers were Julie Hesmondhalgh, Sarah Gordy and David Gyasi.
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Average UK viewers|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||22 March 2016||26 April 2016||6.02|
|2||6||7 November 2017||12 December 2017||4.54|
|3||6||5 May 2020||9 June 2020||TBA|
Series 1 (2016)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Peter Cattaneo||Peter Bowker||22 March 2016||6.65|
|Alison and Paul continually make excuses for their five-year-old boy's uncooperative behaviour but will they listen to other family members who suspect something more serious? Meanwhile Nicola and Eddie move in next to Alison and Paul, hoping to make a new start in the Lakes, but will Eddie be able to forget Nicola's infidelity, especially as it has become public knowledge?|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Peter Cattaneo||Peter Bowker||29 March 2016||6.13|
|Alison pulls Joe out of school and emotionally blackmails the rest of the family into home schooling. She also became dismissive of alternative ideas from Paul putting a strain on their marriage. Nicola and Eddie's relationship is also put to the test when Alison asks Nicola to seek a second opinion from her former fling Michael. All the while Rebecca is left to fend for herself and the only one who seems to care is her Uncle Eddie.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Peter Cattaneo||Peter Bowker||5 April 2016||5.94|
|Speech therapist Maggie arrives and manages to make some progress with Joe whilst telling the family some home truths. She avoids speaking about her school history with Alison and abruptly halts her visits, ignoring Alison's pleas for her to stay. Does Maggie have a grudge to bear? Meanwhile Maurice reconsiders Louise's proposal, Nicola settles into her new job while Eddie struggles with his and Rebecca is feeling more and more ignored by her mother.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Dominic Leclerc||Peter Bowker||12 April 2016||5.85|
|Alison observes Joe playing with two other children and invites them for a sleepover during which Joe falls ill. While recovering Joe demonstrates empathy for his mother while they look at photos of his late grandmother, misleading Alison to believe he's cured of autism. Luke is ignoring Rebecca and she turns to Eddie and Nicola while Maurice realises he too misses his late wife more than he thought and perhaps his friends-with-benefits relationship with his music teacher wasn't such a good idea. Meanwhile, is Paul carrying a torch for an old flame?|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Dominic Leclerc||Peter Bowker||19 April 2016||5.61|
|The police investigate Maya and discover she is an illegal immigrant. Despite Alison's desperate attempts to persuade family friend and police officer Bob to turn a blind eye, Maya is deported and Alison is worried for the effect it would have on Joe. Meanwhile Rebecca's relationship with Luke turns sour and Eddie's plans to move to Manchester are not popular with Nicola or Maurice.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Susan Tully||Peter Bowker||26 April 2016||5.94|
|After their fall out over differences of wanting more children Alison and Paul reconcile in time for the opening of their new restaurant. Maurice leaves Joe with Louise's son Ralph and Joe goes missing. As a mass search ensues, some uncomfortable truths are revealed.|
Series 2 (2017)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|7||1||"Episode 1"||Susan Tully||Peter Bowker||7 November 2017||5.01|
|Alison and Paul worry over Joe when it becomes clear he is unhappy at school and he uses the word 'autistic' for the first time. Nicola and Eddie pretend to Nicola's parents that they are still together, but her parents have their own marital problems. Rebecca introduces the family to her new boyfriend James and Maurice gets the cold shoulder from Louise.|
|8||2||"Episode 2"||Susan Tully||Peter Bowker||14 November 2017||4.83|
|Joe starts his first day at the Pear Tree school, and Maurice employs Ralph at the brewery, much against the protests of Louise.|
|9||3||"Episode 3"||Susan Tully||Peter Bowker||21 November 2017||4.51|
|Paul takes Mark and Sophie to a gig. After the gig, he finds himself growing closer to Sophie. Meanwhile, Rebecca is heartbroken after James dumps her by text message. Alison meets Eddie's new girlfriend, Holly, who Alison thinks is almost exactly like Nicola. Maurice cares for Louise while she undergoes chemotherapy but she feels it is born out of his desire to "save" his late wife.|
|10||4||"Episode 4"||Luke Snellin||Peter Bowker||28 November 2017||4.30|
|In an attempt to patch up their relationship following the events of the previous episode, Rebecca arranges for Paul and Alison to spend the weekend at Eddie's flat in Manchester. Meanwhile, Maurice realises his feelings for Louise are stronger than he had previously thought.|
|11||5||"Episode 5"||Luke Snellin||Peter Bowker||5 December 2017||4.28|
|Paul is angered when Nicola uses a video of Joe in a speech about autism, and reveals to Alison he is less accepting of Joe's autism than he previously let on. Holly dumps Eddie, and Maurice proposes to Louise.|
|12||6||"Episode 6"||Luke Snellin||Peter Bowker||12 December 2017||4.30|
|Preparations begin for the end of year show at Joe's old primary school. Paul plans to leave Alison as he feels they are living "separate lives". Louise rejects Maurice's proposal and suggests they start a "clean slate". Maurice offers to step aside from the brewery and have Eddie run it without any interference. Eddie tells Nicola he is considering moving back home to run the brewery, but tells her that he only wants to be her "best friend" rather than her lover. During Joe's performance at the end of year show, he brings the family together on stage, but as he finishes, Maurice collapses.|
Series 3 (2020)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|13||1||"Episode 1"||Fergus O'Brien||Peter Bowker||5 May 2020||N/A|
|14||2||"Episode 2"||Fergus O'Brien||Peter Bowker||12 May 2020||N/A|
|15||3||"Episode 3"||Fergus O'Brien||Peter Bowker||19 May 2020||N/A|
|16||4||"Episode 4"||John Hardwick||Peter Bowker||26 May 2020||N/A|
|17||5||"Episode 5"||Sasha Ransome||Peter Bowker||2 June 2020||N/A|
|18||6||"Episode 6"||John Hardwick||Peter Bowker||9 June 2020||4.73|
Broadcast and reception
BBC One began airing the first six-part series in a Tuesday 9pm slot, replacing Happy Valley, on 22 March 2016. SundanceTV acquired rights for broadcasting the show in America, and it premiered there on 13 July 2016. A second series began in the UK on 7 November 2017 remaining in its Tuesday 9pm slot. A third series was filmed in May 2019 and the entire series was released on BBC iPlayer on 5 May 2020. On the same day it also began broadcasting in its usual weekly slot on BBC One.  BBC First airs the series in Australia.
Overnight figures revealed the first episode was watched by 4.7 million viewers and had a 23% share of the audience. BARB later reported a consolidated figure of 5.91 million. Reaction to the first episode was mostly positive among viewers. Many people have praised the show on social media, partly for the quality of the acting but also for the way it dealt with the subject of autism.
Series 1 was released on DVD, across two discs, on 19 September 2016, with a short behind-the-scenes documentary as an extra.
Series 2 was released on DVD on 18 December 2017, again featuring all episodes, uncut, across two discs with a few short clips as extras.
On August 24, 2020, it was announced that a spin-off series, following the married life of Ralph and Katie, had been commissioned. The series will be written, alongside creator Bowker, by disabled writers.
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- "The A Word". BBC Media Centre. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "The A Word filming in Keswick". Times & Star. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Clarke, Tom (26 October 2015). "'The A Word' goes into production at The Space Project". The Space Project. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "BBC - Filming commences on The A Word series three - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
- "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "The A Word". Keshnet International. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Littleton, Cynthia (8 January 2016). "SundanceTV Acquires BBC, Keshet Autism Drama 'The A-Word'". Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Filming commences on The A Word series three". 24 May 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- Kalia, Ammar (5 May 2020). "TV tonight: the third series of The A Word gets under way". Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- Johnson, Niall (23 March 2016). "BBC One's autistic family drama The A Word opens with 4.7m". Mediatel. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Weekly Top 30". BARB. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
- Debnath, Neela (23 March 2016). "The A Word: Viewers praise Christopher Eccleston drama tackling autism". Express. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "The A Word - Series 1 [DVD] [DVD]". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "The A Word: Series 2". Store.hmv.com. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- BBC One announces Ralph And Katie, a spin-off of Peter Bowker’s hit drama The A Word - Media Centre