Brief Encounters is a new ITV drama about the early days of the Ann Summers party plan business.
Set in the early 1980s, the six-part series is created and written by Fay Rusling and Oriane Messina (Green Wing, Me & Mrs Jones) and inspired by chapters in Jacqueline Gold’s memoir, Good Vibrations.
The cast includes Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey), Peter Wight (Our Zoo), Angela Griffin (Lewis), Don Gilet (EastEnders), Sharon Rooney (My Mad Fat Diary), Will Merrick (Skins), Karl Davies (Happy Valley) and Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders).
Monday 4 July 2016, 9pm
Sheffield 1982. Married mum of one Stephanie sees an ad in the local paper ‘Ann Summers Demonstrators required to run parties selling exotic lingerie. FOR LADIES ONLY. Earn £30-£40 for an evening’s work’ – this could be what she’s looking for. Whilst taking her son, Dean to his first day at school, Steph meets Nita – a no-nonsense mother of four, who’s also struggling with her financial situation.
Lonely Pauline is considering adding a macrame owl to her craft folder whilst waiting for her cleaner, Steph to arrive. Her husband Brian is at his business, Spake’s Butchers, reprimanding his apprentice Russell and fiancée Dawn for snogging each other’s faces off when there’s the scrag end to sort. Steph waits for her husband Terry to come home so she can tell him about the Ann Summers ad, but Terry has been laid off from his factory job. He’s hostile even to the idea of her resorting to selling “sex stuff”.
Steph arrives at her local Community Centre where the advertised Ann Summers recruitment event is due to start. Just as Steph is about to bottle it, she bumps into Nita who drags her into the hall where they find out its more than just exotic lingerie that will be sold – Steph feels that she doesn’t have the confidence to run the parties – Nita says they should give it a go.
That evening at the pub, Steph and Terry are with their friends, Lisa and Barry. Steph sounds out Lisa about hosting a party, Lisa describes sales work as ‘desperate’. Terry is tempted to invest an a cab business but it’ll cost him fifty quid, money he doesn’t have. Steph finds out that Terry is finalising his cab deal and is upset – where did he get the money from. Steph asks Pauline if she’d be willing to host a party at her house. Pauline is mortified. That evening before dinner, as Pauline takes in her lonely surroundings and a social life that revolves around her husband she has a change of heart before heading to the kitchen where she’s got “A bird to baste”.
At the party, Pauline is on edge and to her shock, the councillor’s conservative wife, Bunny and her daughter, Hellie, an old school friend of Steph’s turn up. During the marital aids demonstration an appalled Bunny storms out at the sight of “The Stallion” but how does everyone else feel?
Terry’s at the pub and loses at a game of darts where he was trying to win the money to invest in the cab. His best mate Barry’s girlfriend Lisa tries to console him. Whilst at the bar, Russell lets slip to him that Dawn is at a party hosted by his boss, Brian’s wife, and that their cleaner is selling sexy underwear and marital aids. Terry is furious when he realises Steph has gone behind his back.
PC Johnny Daniels and PC Rob arrive at the Spake’s residence; they’ve had a call complaining about the activities at Pauline’s. Just as Steph and the other women are talking to the policemen, Nita collapses and is rushed to hospital, but why? Back at Pauline’s, Dawn is left in charge of the party and decides she’s going to sign up as a demonstrator as well. Hellie is also considering it. Brian arrives home and is shocked at what he has walked into.
When Steph arrives home she finds an angry Terry waiting for her. Across town, Pauline is furious at Brian’s objections to the party and Pauline explains that she feels utterly trapped in her world. He’s taken aback, he had never realised she was unhappy.
The morning after the night before: Steph lies with the bed empty next to her, meanwhile Nita is back at home contemplating her situation and Brian assumes Pauline has got all this party business out of her system.
Steph goes to Barry’s house in the hopes of finding Terry, but little does she know that her whole life is about to be turned upside down…
Monday 11 July 2016, 9pm
Two weeks later… Steph and her new found friends, Nita, Pauline, Hellie and Widowed Linda are catching up down the pub. They are joined by Dawn who is running late thanks to a technical issue with a demonstration vibrator at a party she’s just held.
Barry and Lisa enter the pub. Feeling upset at seeing Lisa, Steph makes an escape to the ladies toilets. Unseen, Lisa follows her and confronts her about Terry’s departure, wanting to know if Steph is going to tell Barry about her ‘indiscretion’. Steph tells a relieved Lisa she won’t, for his sake. Nita overhears the conversation and is upset for her friend. Likewise, Steph is concerned Nita who has another baby on the way she doesn’t want.
At the end of the evening an oblivious Barry asks Steph to hold an Ann Summers Party at Lisa’s engagement do on Friday. Shocked, Steph balks at the idea. To save her friend, Nita volunteers instead. Dawn drives a tipsy Pauline back home on her moped. Pauline tells a stunned Brian that she’s loved her first visit to a pub. Dawn returns to her family’s flat where she finds a mess and her little brother, Stanley still up doing his homework.
Dawn’s father Len, a bullish man, tells Dawn to sort the house out. Dawn’s home life is a battleground for her.
The next day Pauline and Steph are having a cup of tea as Steph tries to convince Pauline to start demonstrating. Pauline informs Steph that she has worked before doing Brian’s accounts before they were married, telling Steph her love for steady Brian came after a previous romance.
Steph is at home and her landlord turns up for the rent money – she’s no money and few options. She looks at her Ann Summers paying-in book on the counter and battles with a thought. She needs money now.
Back at Dawn’s flat, the kitchen is still a war zone as her brother Simon comes down the stairs wearing the Kiss Kiss knickers from her Ann Summers kit. An argument ensues and Dawn bursts into tears. Dawn and Russell talk about her desperate living situation and how she can’t even move in with him on account of his mum being religious. Brian and Pauline are doing the washing up, discussing the anniversary dinner he has booked for them at the Berni Inn when the doorbell goes. It’s Dawn with her suitcases and a proposal for them.
Kieren is given the opportunity to earn some quick money by old mate, Dougie. With a new baby on the way Kieren is tempted.
Worried she might lose the baby she now feels she might want, Nita can’t do Lisa’s party. Steph steps in – she needs the money. Steph turns up at Lisa’s party with Dean – she doesn’t have a babysitter. Barry offers to take Dean to the cinema with him. Steph, ever the professional, sets up Lisa’s party for her.
It’s the night of Pauline and Brian’s anniversary and Len arrives at the Spakes’ house ordering Dawn to come home and threatening to stop her seeing Stanley if she refuses. With Pauline’s help Dawn tells Len she’s not coming home.
At the cinema, Barry leaves Dean sitting waiting for the film whilst going to buy popcorn; he returns and can’t find Dean anywhere. Brian is waiting for a meat delivery at his butchers; he shows Russell the fancy engagement ring he has bought for Pauline – one he could never afford when they first got together; he’s going to give it her at the Berni Inn.
At Lisa’s house, an ashen faced Barry returns and Steph’s panic rises as she realises Dean isn’t with him. PC Johnny arrives to help find Dean. At the Spakes’ house Dawn opens the door to Russell in a sexy baby doll nightgown. He is petrified they’ll be seen and he’ll be discovered at his boss’ house.
An agitated Kieren is sitting in the car as he waits outside the bookmakers with Dougie and their friend Fat Mike.
At the Berni Inn Pauline is dressed to impress, sat at a table for two in the middle of the busy restaurant, as Councillor Donald Matlock, his wife Bunny and their daughter, Hellie walk in. Donald makes a pass at Pauline calling her a ‘dark horse’ following the party.
Kieren is on edge waiting in the car when Dougie and Fat Mike appear breathlessly and tell him to move it. Desperately searching, Steph and Johnny arrive at the factory where Terry used to work – could Dean be here? Once back at home, there’s a moment between Steph and Johnny.
Kieren is driving fast down the high street and suddenly hits something. Dougie tells a conflicted Kieren to keep on driving, leaving devastation in the road.
Monday 18 July 2016, 9pm
Steph is top of her game, sales woman of the month – winning a top of the range fridge freezer. Dawn, Pauline, Nita, Hellie and Widowed Linda are all round admiring it. The next morning, in her still empty bed, Steph contemplates life without Terry…
Guilt ridden Kieren is distant from the chaos of the kids playing up before school. Nita is concerned – she knows something’s up. It’s been 3 weeks since the robbery/hit and run, and Dawn and Pauline visit Brian who is recovering in hospital. Brian shows Pauline the ring he meant to give her before the accident.
A confident Steph walks out of the hairdressers with a new hair-do and bumps into Johnny, who invites her over to help him decorate. Back at Spake’s Butchers, Pauline arrives to find out that Brian is behind on their payments to the meat supplier and Pauline is left with a dilemma.
When Stanley asks Dawn when she’s coming home, Dawn tells Stanley she and Russell are saving for their own place where he can come and visit. But Stanley is having none of it. It’s a dismal atmosphere at the Matlock’s with Hellie’s father annoyed she has abandoned uni-versity. It becomes clear Bunny and Hellie have kept back some vital information from him about why she left.
A confused Dean overhears a conversation between Nita and Steph talking about Johnny. When Terry returns to take Dean out for the day Dean lets slip Mum has a date with a po-liceman. Later, when Steph arrives at Johnny’s ready for decorating Terry has followed her…
As they get to work painting Johnny’s flat he proves good at avoiding Steph’s questions about his past. Nita is at home when she finds the money stolen from the bookmakers un-derneath the sink – she is furious at Kieren, but he tells her it’s Dougie’s money. Nita’s had enough – either Kieren gets rid of Dougie and the money or she will. Pauline makes a deci-sion about how deal with the late payments but she’s upset about it. Finding a quiet mo-ment on their own in Spake’s van, Dawn has a lightbulb moment – she works out a way she can help.
Johnny walks Steph home where she is met by Joan, clearly annoyed at what she thinks she’s just seen. She tells Steph to stop this nonsense – marriage is about more than the odd indiscretion, after all, and Joan could have left Steph’s father on more than one occasion. Joan leaves, but her words have had an impact on Steph.
Steph is in her own world preparing for a party as Terry tentatively walks in, they reminisce about old times leading Terry to ask if there is someone else – he’s desperate to fix things, and is moving back to stay with Barry, to try to get a new job.
Kieren tells Dougie that Nita found the cash and thinks it’s his. Dawn finds out that Stanley is falling asleep in class and coming to school dirty and hungry; whilst over at Johnny’s, Steph nervously approaches the front door in the hopes of stopping their flirtation before it gets out of control.
Steph and Hellie are talking about Johnny; Hellie is visibly hurt and admits that we can’t choose who we love. Steph thinks of Dean – should her choices in life be about what she wants? Pauline is mortified when she comes into the house and sees Dawn has assembled the women to help cheer her up. Pauline breaks down as her secret emotions about her fi-nancial situation rush to the surface.
Pauline vents her frustration at Brian’s accident, sharing with the group the police belief that the hit and run was linked to the robbery at the bookies’. Nita, putting this information together, believes Dougie to be responsible for Brian’s misfortune.
Down at the pub Terry, after a few pints, stares at Johnny with contempt. He tells Barry about Johnny and Steph. He wants to confront Johnny but Barry talks him out of making a rash decision. Terry takes his advice but is nevertheless determined to win Steph back.
Nita tells Kieren that she will tell Pauline the identity of the man responsible for the hit and run. Before she can go back inside however, Kieren finally admits the truth to her that he is the one who committed the hit and run, Nita is devastated.
As a nervous Pauline prepares to host her own party she is suddenly interrupted by a dis-traught Dawn, she has to go and sort out an issue at her Dad’s. Pauline arrives at the ad-dress; is terrified but rallies when her demonstration wows the assembled ladies.
Steph makes a decision – her relationship with which man is best for her and Dean?
Monday 25 July 2016, 9pm
The group of women are excitedly unpacking the new Ann Summers range. Dawn is looking at the dream boat cup-less basque, which she wants for her wedding night – the wheels are in motion for 3 weeks’ time and she is having a “stag do” this Thursday.
The next morning, Steph is in a rush to a party demonstration. In a bid to bridge the distance between them, Terry offers to help around the house but Steph is too busy and has to go.
Across town, Pauline is looking up at Nita’s small house which is in stark contrast to hers. Richie answers the door and calls for Nita. Nita is floored with guilt when she sees Pauline who asks if Nita could cover a party for her on Saturday as she is going to a Rotary do with Brian! Nita tries to get Pauline to leave by saying she’s booked up herself, but as Kieran arrives at the door and he is stunned when he realises it’s Brian Spake’s wife.
A uniformed Johnny meets Steph – the atmosphere is tense as they make playful small talk. Johnny breaks the pretense by saying he could arrest Steph for choosing Terry over him. Johnny confides in Steph that after his Dad died, he found out he was adopted and that his birth mother lived in Sheffield. He hasn’t told his mother, but he’s sat outside her house a few times unable to go in, terrified he will remind her of a man she wants to forget. Steph says he should tell her today and give her a chance – he’s got nothing to lose…
Dawn is at the Spakes’ dreamily reciting her wedding ceremony. It all sounds so lavish. Russell takes this all in with a worried look on his face – Dawn’s earned the money, and can do what she wants for the wedding, but is it what Russell wants?
The next day at the Community Centre, Steph and Pauline are setting up for the recruitment meeting whilst the caretaker Gary is helping put out chairs. Steph is sorting out her Ann Summers items as Gary watches – he tells her he and his wife have been trying for a baby and the atmosphere between them has been sad of late. Steph suggests a party might bring the fun back but he lives way out in Berrington – an area they don’t yet cover. Despite the distance, Steph hands Gary her card – maybe she can come over and have a chat with his wife.
An uncomfortable Russell is being measured for his wedding suit. He can see himself in the mirror, whilst a proud Dawn moves next to him and links his arm. Russell is fidgety and uncomfortable whilst Dawn is busy dreaming of her wedding and talking about their future children’s names. Russell has a moment and tells Dawn that he can’t cope with all it all but can Dawn make him feel better?
Terry, Dean and Joan are happily eating tea as Steph is heading out – she can’t turn any offer of work down as Terry has be suspended from work due to fighting and lost a week’s pay. Joan tells Terry to drive her to Berrington, but Steph is insistent on getting the bus whilst Terry watches Dean.
Dawn is at the Spake’s crying when Brian asks her if it’s Russell or the idea of a big wedding she wants. Dawn realises that she’s made a right pig’s ear of this wedding lark, and wants Russell.
Meanwhile the police escort Kieran out of his house. Nita arrives asking what’s going on and Kieran tells her the police found his and Dougie’s fingerprints in the car which was involved in the hit and run. Nita, thinking on her feet, says that Kieran was with her that night – she remembers it clearly. The police take Kieran away for questioning.
Steph has arrived at Gary’s and asks if his wife will be down soon but Gary tells her that he hasn’t got a wife and that the party is for him. Gary prepares her a drink, whilst a fearful Steph tells him that there has been a mistake – these parties are for women only. Gary tells her there is no misunderstanding. He moves towards her and tells her she isn’t going anywhere. She manages to fight him off and escape from the house. Steph runs down a desolate road and hides from Gary who is searching for her in his car but he closes in on her..
Stanley and Dawn run into the Matlocks house where they are holding a party for local business owners. Dawn shouts Russell’s name as she enters the room and declares her love for him – he’s her best friend, and she doesn’t care where they get married. However Pauline isn’t listening. She makes her excuses and leaves.
At the Dempsey’s, Nita greets Kieran who has been released by the police – Dougie told them their fingerprints were there because they had serviced the car before it was used in the hit and run. The police also believed Nita’s testimony and now Nita is involved in Kieran’s subterfuge. Kieran and Nita go to take the hidden money out in case the police decide to search the place but the money is missing – replaced with a note from Richie who has taken it and run away.
Monday 1 August 2016, 9pm
Three weeks later. The women are together at Pauline’s house, Nita wants Steph to help at a party for her Aunt; Steph is still shaken up by recent party problems but she doesn’t get the chance to turn it down. Dawn walks in with an epic hair-do for her wedding day, the women are taken aback but Dawn reassures them Russell is going to go mad for it.
The next day Steph approaches Nita’s Aunt Debs‘ flat with her kitbag, wondering if she can do it, but when Nita’s uncle answers the door Steph panics and runs away.
Steph tells Nita why she’s lost her confidence. Nita feels terrible – why didn’t Steph tell her or one of the girls or go to the police? Steph explains she feels guilty and stupid for not following the rules. Nita disagrees – it doesn’t mean Steph is to blame.
Steph arrives home to Terry – buoyant after being able to demonstrate at Nita’s party. She tells him she’s going to take action to report her previous problem; but Terry says she can’t – he took care of it. Steph is furious.
Steph is with Johnny as they sit in his car overlooking Sheffield. Johnny reassures Steph that the police are doing everything they can to find Richie but he also offers to ask a few mates in the Met. Johnny then tells Steph he has spoken to Pauline and she has made her negative feelings clear. But Steph reckons she change Pauline’s mind; Johnny isn’t so sure.
After hours at the hairdressers, Dawn reveals her anxieties to Russell.
The next day Pauline is getting ready for the wedding whilst Meatloaf and Cher’s ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ blares from Dawn’s bedroom. Brian is not enjoying it at all. And where will everyone live, after the wedding?!
Steph, dressed for the wedding, arrives at Barry’s house to pick up a jacket for Terry to borrow. She tenses up when Lisa appears and Barry announces something that rocks Steph’s world. Over at Nita’s, Dougie arrives to rub salt in Kieren’s wound about his son; when Dougie twigs the details of their father/son problem he finds it hilarious, much to Nita’s distress.
At the registry office Steph tells Terry some home truths. Later at the Maythorpe Pub, Johnny is playing a pools tournament when Pauline and the rest of the wedding party walk in to the pub. He attempts to leave, but his colleagues won’t let him – he’s their secret weapon against the other team.
Brian is at the bar as Kieren and Nita approach. Brian hesitates as he tries to place Kieren. Johnny bumps into Pauline at the bar where she attempts to blank him. Brian’s ‘father of the bride’ speech brings a tear to his eye as he confesses Dawn and Stanley have become family to him. After the speech, Dawn’s real father, Len arrives at the pub – but is he here to make amends or cause trouble?
Angry, Johnny approaches Steph – he’s unhappy with her meddling. Johnny’s gaze shifts to see that Terry enter the pub – he seems to be on the warpath. Meanwhile Dawn is chuffed to bits when all the women give her a wedding gift for which they’ve all clubbed together.
At the pool table, Johnny is watching Steph as Nita approaches him; when she tells him that Steph is worth fighting for her words seeming to resonate. Terry approaches Steph and they fall into an argument, Terry is furious and storms out. Whilst a tearful Hellie has an unexpected heart to heart with Dawn in the Ladies, Steph and Johnny have a moment outside the pub. Terry spots the two of them together and reacts in a way that does not bode well for anyone involved.
Later, back inside, Pauline bumps into Johnny and tells him untruths about Steph’s feelings for him, desperate to protect herself and Brian. Johnny leaves and Pauline spins a web of deceit around Steph too.
Nita is at home when she hears the back door opening. She calls out to Kieren. Could it be Richie?
After a tumultuous evening, Steph makes her way to the police station. She needs to see Johnny.
Monday 8 August 2016, 9pm
Steph is excitingly talking through a plan to her friends for an exotic lingerie event filled with local women – the girls will recruit them and book parties. Pauline is sceptical…
Dawn, Hellie, and Steph are leafleting in the middle of town when Dawn drags Steph into the police station. At the desk, Dawn tries to convince the world-weary Sarg that his wife and her friends should come to the event as Johnny walks into the station – he and Steph haven’t seen each other since the wedding. PC Martin has some shocking news.
At Pauline’s house, Brian is in the midst of the usual morning chaos when Dawn tells him she has asked Russell to model at the big event. Brian is shocked at the thought of Russell on stage in front of all those women including Spake’s customers. This cannot happen – they’ll be a laughing stock.
The next day, Johnny goes round to see Steph and asks for a favour to do with Pauline. Steph realises Pauline has lied to Johnny and starts to explain, but Terry walks in full of misunderstanding.
At the Spakes’ Brian walks in on Russell, apparently naked and dancing. Brian is at the end of his tether and calls a house meeting – he’s got some news for Dawn and Russell.
Steph goes to Barry’s to see if Terry would like to watch Dean during the event. Terry carries on about Johnny and why she hasn’t asked her new fella. Steph reiterates saying that it stopped being his house as soon as he slept with Lisa. Unbeknownst to either of them, Barry overhears.
Pauline arrives at Steph’s to help set up for the event. Steph confronts Pauline and asks why she lied to Johnny. Pauline is left in a terrible situation; not knowing which way to turn, should she entrust Steph with her secret?
Nita rants to Kieren that she’s reached the end of her tether with Dougie – Kieren must do something to keep that man away from the family! Meanwhile Barry shows Terry he knows the truth about him and Lisa.
The day of the event. Nita is impressed when Richie comes down the stairs wearing new, expensive clothes. Richie says it’s just for a job – another house clearance with Dougie, and he has been told to make an effort. Nita tells him to be careful. Later on there’s a call from the police and Kieren frantically runs down to the station. Kieren knows what he has to do.
At their nightclub venue, Steph is standing on stage peaking through the curtains at all the games, products and women giggling. She turns around to see Nita who compliments Steph for having done all of this. The two women hug. Pauline appears and Steph is surprised to see her – they all thought she wasn’t coming. Pauline approaches Nita and deals a shocking blow; all the women are astounded.
As Steph comes off stage where she’s been helping lead the orgasmic bingo, Hellie tells her a fancy woman from Head Office has arrived. Did Steph tell them that they were doing this event? Are they in big trouble? To make matters worse Spotty Kevin does a runner, leaving with them with no male model.
Outside, Terry waits for his chance to sneak into the venue. In the back room Nita clutches her stomach, the shock from Pauline’s confrontation stabbing her with pain.
What with Nita in labour, Dawn facing a restless audience, no male model, Johnny about to leave town, the woman from Head Office stunned, Terry lurking, Pauline in a state, and Steph on a precipice, how will this all unfold?
Watch the trailer…
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