In reviving Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads (BBC One) the BBC has found a series perfect for lockdown. No need to worry about the two-metre rule here, with a cast of one. But not all of them are perfect for the year 2020.
Her Big Chance was the first misstep of the series. Here was Jodie Comer, actress of the minute, struggling with a script preserved in aspic. It just seemed plain odd to have Comer’s character, Lesley, talking about a “fork lunch” in an episode of Crossroads.
The dated feel wasn’t just in the little details. Lesley wore a pair of acid-wash jeans, anchoring the episode firmly in 1988 (when it was first shown), yet she spoke with an accent that sounded more from the 1950s. I get that she was playing an actress putting on an ‘actressy’ voice, which was gradually stripped away, but it was still not quite right. And then there was the central storyline, in which Lesley was cast in some sort of soft porn film. Sorry to say it, but the idea of soft porn now seems weirdly quaint.
Julie Walters was a decade older than Comer when she played this role in the original broadcast. She gave it pathos and comedy, beginning as a bubbly optimist; Comer played Lesley as mournful from the start, so there was little sense of the character being brought low.