The Handbook
The Handbook

Nothing can ever quite beat the original and there are some tv shows that are best left untouched. Alan Bennett’s 80s and 90s BBC hit, Talking Heads, however is one of those rare concepts that can work in any era, retelling the same loveable character narratives and audiences will continue returning for more. 

Bennett’s loveable show is returning for a 2020 revamp, bringing with it huge British names, gritty humour and a pandemic adaptation quite like no other. If you’re intrigued to quite how a socially distanced tv set will look, or you’re itching to know how Killing Eve star, Jodie Comer will fit into her new role, here’s everything you need to know about the BBC’s revamped Talking Heads.

What’s it about?

At a moment in time where our livelihoods have been dramatically changed and now centre around lockdown and isolation, it only seems appropriate that Alan Bennett’s 80s and 90s dramatic monologues have been revived with a brand new cast of top British tv heroes. Talking Heads is a show that centres itself around isolation and loneliness, and this couldn’t have been revamped at a more poignant time. 

Bennett’s original series follows a series of dramatic monologues performed by some of the best British stars who we still hold dearly to our hearts today, including Julie Waters, Maggie Smith, Patricia Routledge and Bennett himself.

With the dramatic monologue being the backbone of this series, the original two series are staged around a rather play-like setting, mostly set in Leeds. Or, the Leeds that Bennett himself imagined. Every episode tells a story of one person’s life at that very moment, from menial kitchen sink dramas to pitiful romances, but every story is connected and arranged around themes of death, isolation, and often than not, illness too.  

Having been originally highly praised as some of Bennett’s best works, the 2020 adaptation is just as gritty, realistic and champions the best of British tv as we had hoped. Each story brings to life the characters originally played by the previous stars.

Who’s in it?

The name that’s on everybody’s lips is Jodie Comer. Now that we’ve all binged our way through Killing Eve season three this lockdown, we’ll be greeted with the star in a new light, and it’s far from the glamorous beauty we’re used to seeing Comer play. 

Comer will take on the role of Lesley, originally played by Julie Waters, in ‘Her Big Chance’, a plucky depiction of an actor who is convinced she’s about to make her big break in the industry, but it eventually turns out she’s about to star in a porno. Just as Waters brought this gutsy character to life, we’re certain Comer will bring the ballsy character to life.

Alongside Comer, we’ll see Martin Freeman play a middle-aged Graham Whittaker, originally played by Bennett. Graham is a closeted homosexual, who still lives with his ‘mam’ and who’s life gets a little too complicated for his liking when he meets an old friend, Frank, who has views Graham doesn’t live by. The Sherlock star will no doubt be able to do the role justice. 

Other stars of this monologue drama include Tasmin Grieg, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott, Imelda Staunton, Harriet Walter, Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan. 

How close to the original is it?

While we’re always a little apprehensive about new adaptations of already bloody brilliant tv shows or films, this 2020 adaptation looks as though it lives up to expectations, and might even exceed them, if that’s at all possible. 

With guidance from Bennett, paired with brilliant new talented British actors, the 12 part series is directly based on the original ten monologues and there’s been two extras added, written by Bennett himself last year. The adaptation seems to just be reworking what was already a masterpiece in the business, so we’re eager to see the monologues revived and refreshed in a fun lockdown way. 

What inspired the remake?

The one word answer? Lockdown. 

Throughout lockdown the nation has taken great comfort in losing themselves in tv series and binging on the latest Netflix release, and this new adaptation hopes to fill the void that we’ve all been feeling during this crazy lockdown time. Having only been announced in April, the retelling has all been filmed during lockdown and the BBC has confirmed that every episode was recorded in line with the government’s guidelines on social distancing. 

Bennett commented: “In such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads, and produce two entirely new ones, is a comfort and a huge compliment.

“I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago.” 

When can we watch it?

Talking Heads will premiere on BBC One on Tuesday 23rd June, from 9pm. All of the episodes will then be available to stream on BBC iPlayer, here.


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