The A Word

Last updated

The A Word
The A Word.jpg
Created byKeren Margalit
Based on Yellow Peppers
by Keren Margalit
Developed by Peter Bowker
Written byPeter Bowker
Directed by
ComposerRob Lane
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series3
No. of episodes18 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Lucy Ritcher (BBC)
  • Patrick Spence (Fifty Fathoms)
  • Peter Bowker (Fifty Fathoms)
  • Marcus Wilson (Fifty Fathoms)
  • Howard Burch (Keshnet)
  • Avi Nir (Keshnet)
  • Keren Margalit (Keshnet)
  • Sara Johnson (Keshnet)
  • Marcus Wilson (Series 1)
  • Jenny Frayn (Series 2)
  • Clare Shepherd (Series 3)
Production locations
EditorJamie Pearson
Running time60 minutes
Production companies
Distributor Keshet International
Original network BBC One
Picture format 16:9 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release22 March 2016 (2016-03-22) 
Related shows Yellow Peppers
External links
Production website

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 has autism spectrum disorder. 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. [1] It premiered in the UK on 7 November 2017. The third series began airing on 5 May 2020. [2]



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 VentoJoe Hughesautistic son1–
Lee Ingleby Paul HughesJoe's father1–
Morven Christie Alison HughesJoe's mother1–
Molly WrightRebecca HughesJoe's half-sister1–
Greg McHugh Eddie ScottAlison's brother1–
Vinette Robinson Nicola DanielsEddie's wife1–12
Christopher Eccleston Maurice ScottJoe's grandfather, Alison's and Eddie's father1–
Pooky Quesnel Louise WilsonMaurice's music teacher and lover1–
Leon HarropRalph WilsonLouise's son1–
Matt Greenwood Tom ClarkeRebecca's best friend2–
Thomas Gregory Luke TaylorRebecca's boyfriend2–6
Daniel Cerqueira Dr GravesFamily doctor1–
George Bukhari Terry NorrisWorker at Paul and Alison's cafe1–
Adam Wittek David NowakWorker at the Scott's brewery1–
Tommie GrabiecPavel KaminskiWorker at the Scott's brewery1–
Abby Ford SallyWorker at the Scott's brewery4
Julia Krynke Maya PetrenkoJoe's babysitter2–5
Lisa Millett Maggie WhiteJoe's speech therapist3
Ralf Little StuartRebecca's biological father5–6, 11, 14
Jude AkuwudikeVincent DanielsNicola's father7–
Clare Holman Grace DanielsNicola's mother7–
Aaron Pierre James ThorneRebecca's boyfriend7–8
Julie Hesmondhalgh HeatherJoe's teacher13–
Lucy Gaskell Sophie BerwickWorker at Paul's Gastropub7–11
Travis SmithMark BerwickSophie's autistic teenage son7–
Sarah Gordy Katie ThorneRalph's wife13–


Bowker drew on his own experiences and observations as a teacher and with his family to write The A Word. [3]

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. [4] [5] [6] [7]

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. [8]


Series overview

SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAverage UK viewers
First airedLast aired
1 622 March 2016 (2016-03-22)26 April 2016 (2016-04-26)6.02
2 67 November 2017 (2017-11-07)12 December 2017 (2017-12-12)4.54
3 65 May 2020 (2020-05-05)9 June 2020 (2020-06-09)TBA

Series 1 (2016)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [9]
11"Episode 1" Peter Cattaneo Peter Bowker 22 March 2016 (2016-03-22)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?
22"Episode 2"Peter CattaneoPeter Bowker29 March 2016 (2016-03-29)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.
33"Episode 3"Peter CattaneoPeter Bowker5 April 2016 (2016-04-05)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.
44"Episode 4" Dominic Leclerc [10] Peter Bowker12 April 2016 (2016-04-12)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?
55"Episode 5"Dominic LeclercPeter Bowker19 April 2016 (2016-04-19)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.
66"Episode 6" Susan Tully [10] Peter Bowker26 April 2016 (2016-04-26)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)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [9]
71"Episode 1" Susan Tully Peter Bowker 7 November 2017 (2017-11-07)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.
82"Episode 2"Susan TullyPeter Bowker14 November 2017 (2017-11-14)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.
93"Episode 3"Susan TullyPeter Bowker21 November 2017 (2017-11-21)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.
104"Episode 4" Luke Snellin Peter Bowker28 November 2017 (2017-11-28)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.
115"Episode 5"Luke SnellinPeter Bowker5 December 2017 (2017-12-05)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.
126"Episode 6"Luke SnellinPeter Bowker12 December 2017 (2017-12-12)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)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [9]
131"Episode 1"Fergus O'Brien Peter Bowker 5 May 2020 (2020-05-05)N/A
142"Episode 2"Fergus O'BrienPeter Bowker12 May 2020 (2020-05-12)N/A
153"Episode 3"Fergus O'BrienPeter Bowker19 May 2020 (2020-05-19)N/A
164"Episode 4" John Hardwick Peter Bowker26 May 2020 (2020-05-26)N/A
175"Episode 5"Sasha RansomePeter Bowker2 June 2020 (2020-06-02)N/A
186"Episode 6"John HardwickPeter Bowker9 June 2020 (2020-06-09)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. [11] 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. [12] [13] 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. [14] BARB later reported a consolidated figure of 5.91 million. [15] 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. [16]

Home media

Series 1 was released on DVD, across two discs, on 19 September 2016, with a short behind-the-scenes documentary as an extra. [17]

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. [18]

Spin-off series

On August 24, 2020, it was announced that a spin-off series, following the married life of Ralph and Katie, had been commissioned by the BBC. The half-hour series will, alongside creator Bowker, be written by disabled screenwriters. [19]

Related Research Articles

Autism Neurodevelopmental disorder involving social communication difficulties and repetitive behavior

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Parents often notice signs during the first three years of their child's life. These signs often develop gradually, though some autistic children experience regression in their communication and social skills after reaching developmental milestones at a normal pace.

Christopher Eccleston British actor

Christopher Eccleston is an English actor. A two-time BAFTA Award nominee, he is best known for his television and film work, which includes his role as the ninth incarnation of the Doctor in the BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, playing Pastor Matt Jamison in The Leftovers, and his collaborations with filmmakers Danny Boyle and Michael Winterbottom.

Neurodiversity Neologism used to refer to neurological differences in a non-pathological manner (coined 1998)

Neurodiversity refers to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense. It was coined in 1998 by sociologist Judy Singer, who helped popularize the concept along with journalist Harvey Blume. It emerged as a challenge to prevailing views that certain neurodevelopmental disorders are inherently pathological and instead, adopts the social model of disability, in which societal barriers are the main contributing factor that disables people. This view is especially popular within the autism rights movement. The subsequent neurodiversity paradigm has been controversial among disability advocates, with opponents saying that its conceptualization doesn't reflect the realities of individuals who have high support needs.

Autism rights movement

The autism rights movement, also known as the autistic culture movement or the neurodiversity movement, is a social movement within the context of disability rights that emphasizes a neurodiversity paradigm, viewing the autism spectrum as a result of natural variations in the human brain rather than a "disease" to be cured. The movement advocates for several goals, including greater acceptance of autistic behaviors; services that focus on improving quality of life rather than on imitating the behaviors of neurotypical peers; and the recognition of the autistic community as a minority group.

Charlie Brooks British actress (1981– )

Charlene Emma Brooks is a British actress, known for playing Janine Butcher in the BBC soap opera EastEnders,, Tamora in the controversial play All in a Row by Alex Oates and Anna Fallmont in Network 10 drama Lie With Me. Brooks's portrayal of Janine has received numerous awards since her first appearance on the show in 1999, with storylines involving cocaine addiction, prostitution and murder. Brooks has also appeared in British television shows The Bill, Wired and Bleak House. She released a fitness DVD, Before And After Workout, before winning the 2011 version of the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special and the twelfth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!.

Dr Jacqueline Carol 'Jacqui' Jackson consults, counsels, speaks and writes on most autism issues. Her Doctoral Thesis, entitled 'Nurturing the Engagement of Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder through Digital Polysensory Experiences', awarded from Coventry University, analysed the sensory differences of children with an ASD and the impact of the digital and built environment. Jackson is a single mother of eight children, three daughters and five sons, of whom all five sons and one daughter are on the autism spectrum. Jackson and her family appeared in a BBC documentary titled My Family and Autism in 2003. A drama film called Magnificent 7 starring Helena Bonham Carter as Maggi, a character based on Jackson, aired on BBC Two in 2005. Jackson lives in Blackpool.

<i>Autism Every Day</i> 2006 American film

Autism Every Day is a 2006 documentary film sponsored by Autism Speaks, and produced by Lauren Thierry, Jim Watkins and Eric Solomon. It follows mothers with severely autistic children and consists mainly of interviews with the mothers.

<i>Viva Laughlin</i>

Viva Laughlin is an American musical dramedy television series adapted by Bob Lowry and Peter Bowker from the popular BBC British serial, Blackpool, and taking its name from the latter program's sequel, Viva Blackpool. Lowry and Bowker also served as executive producers alongside Hugh Jackman, John Palermo, Paul Telegdy, and Gabriele Muccino. The latter also directed the pilot. It was filmed on location in part at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California for most of the inside casino shots.

Societal and cultural aspects of autism come into play with recognition of autism, approaches to its support services and therapies, and how autism affects the definition of personhood. The autistic community is divided primarily into two camps; the neurodiversity movement and the autism cure movement. The neurodiversity movement believes autism is a different way of being and advocates against a cure. On the other hand, the autism cure movement advocates for a cure. There are many autism-related events and celebrations; including World Autism Awareness Day, Autism Sunday and Autistic Pride Day. Autism is diagnosed more frequently in males than in females.

<i>Doctor Who</i> (series 1) 2005 series of Doctor Who

The first series of the 2005 revival of the British science fiction programme Doctor Who began on 26 March 2005 with the episode "Rose". This marked the end of the programme's 16-year absence from episodic television following its cancellation in 1989, and was the first new televised Doctor Who story since the broadcast of the television movie starring Paul McGann in 1996. The finale episode, "The Parting of the Ways", was broadcast on 18 June 2005. The show was revived by longtime Doctor Who fan Russell T Davies, who had been lobbying the BBC since the late 1990s to bring the show back. The first series comprised 13 episodes, eight of which Davies wrote. Davies, Julie Gardner and Mal Young served as executive producers, Phil Collinson as producer.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization run by and for individuals on the autism spectrum. ASAN advocates for the inclusion of autistic people in decisions that affect them, including: legislation, depiction in the media, and disability services. ASAN has protested Autism Speaks for promoting policies that are harmful to autistic people, for promoting stigma against autistic people, and for systematically excluding autistic people from debates about issues that affect them. ASAN has also protested the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a school for autistic and special needs students that has been condemned by the United Nations for torture. ASAN is based in Washington, D.C., where it advocates for the United States government to adopt legislation and policies that positively impact autistic people.

Autism Speaks American autism advocacy organization

Autism Speaks Inc. (AS) is a controversial autism advocacy organization and the largest autism research organization in the United States. It sponsors autism research and conducts awareness and outreach activities aimed at families, governments, and the public. It was founded in February 2005 by Bob Wright, vice chairman of General Electric, and his wife Suzanne, a year after their grandson Christian was diagnosed with autism.

<i>Land Girls</i> (TV series)

Land Girls is a British television period drama series, first broadcast on BBC One on 7 September 2009. Land Girls was created by Roland Moore and commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. The programme was BBC Daytime's first commission of a period drama. Land Girls was filmed in and around the city of Birmingham. The first series features Summer Strallen, Christine Bottomley, Jo Woodcock and Becci Gemmell as four girls doing their bit for Britain in the Women's Land Army during the war.

Yellow Peppers is an Israeli drama television program about a family that raises an autistic child in a rural village lacking any therapeutic resources. The programme was well received by critics. It was also presented as a part to the World Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations.

<i>Music</i> (2021 film) 2021 film directed by Sia

Music is a 2021 American musical drama film directed by singer-songwriter Sia. The film was co-written by Sia and Dallas Clayton, and stars Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Maddie Ziegler. It marks Sia's directorial debut. The film follows Zu, a newly sober drug dealer who becomes the sole guardian of her half-sister Music, a young autistic girl.

Derek Wax is a British television producer. His work includes Sex Traffic, Occupation, The Hour,Troy: Fall of a City,Capital and Humans. He was a producer at Granada TV from 2001-2005 and an Executive Producer at Kudos from 2005-2017.

<i>Planet Earth II</i>

Planet Earth II is a 2016 British nature documentary series produced by the BBC as a sequel to Planet Earth, which was broadcast in 2006. The series is presented and narrated by Sir David Attenborough with the main theme music composed by Hans Zimmer.

<i>The Good Doctor</i> (TV series) American medical drama television series

The Good Doctor is an American medical drama television series based on the 2013 South Korean series of the same name. Actor Daniel Dae Kim noticed the original series and bought the rights for his production company. He began adapting the series and, in 2015, eventually shopped it to CBS, his home network. CBS decided against creating a pilot. Because Kim felt so strongly about the series, he bought back the rights from CBS. Eventually, Sony Pictures Television and Kim worked out a deal and brought on David Shore, creator of the Fox medical drama House, to develop the series.

Jason Haynes Fictional character from BBC medical drama Holby City

Jason Haynes is a fictional character from the BBC medical drama Holby City, played by actor Jules Robertson. He first appeared in the series eighteen episode "A Partnership, Literally", broadcast on 9 February 2016. Jason arrives at Holby City hospital to work as a porter after being introduced as the nephew of Consultant Serena Campbell. Robertson was cast after he impressed producers after auditioning against several other actors. Jason has Asperger syndrome and Robertson is the first non-neurotypical actor to play a non-neurotypical character in an ongoing role. Robertson has stated that his own experience with autism helped him portray Jason accurately. He is characterised as a nice man, who Robertson describes as "geeky and shy" and lacking a sense of humour.


  1. "BBC Drama announces three new commissions for BBC One and BBC Two". BBC Press Office. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  2. "Filming starts on series three of BBC's The A Word in Cumbria". Times and Star. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  3. Ritman, Alex (22 March 2016). "Autism Drama Writer Talks BBC, Sundance's 'The A Word'". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  4. "Birkrigg Cottage". Sally's Lake District Cottages. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  5. "The A Word". BBC Media Centre. 26 October 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  6. "The A Word filming in Keswick". Times & Star. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  7. Clarke, Tom (26 October 2015). "'The A Word' goes into production at The Space Project". The Space Project. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  8. "BBC - Filming commences on The A Word series three - Media Centre". Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  9. 1 2 3 "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board . Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  10. 1 2 "The A Word". Keshnet International. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  11. Littleton, Cynthia (8 January 2016). "SundanceTV Acquires BBC, Keshet Autism Drama 'The A-Word'" . Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  12. "Filming commences on The A Word series three". 24 May 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  13. Kalia, Ammar (5 May 2020). "TV tonight: the third series of The A Word gets under way" . Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  14. Johnson, Niall (23 March 2016). "BBC One's autistic family drama The A Word opens with 4.7m". Mediatel. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  15. "Weekly Top 30". BARB. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  16. Debnath, Neela (23 March 2016). "The A Word: Viewers praise Christopher Eccleston drama tackling autism". Express. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  17. "The A Word - Series 1 [DVD][2016][DVD]". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  18. "The A Word: Series 2". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  19. BBC One announces Ralph And Katie, a spin-off of Peter Bowker’s hit drama The A Word - Media Centre