Talking Heads-The Complete Series (1987)

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Released 6-Apr-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 571:13
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alan Bennett
Stuart Burge
Giles Foster

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Alan Bennett
Steven Beard
Alan Bennett
Stephanie Cole
Thora Hird
Patricia Routledge
Maggie Smith
Julie Walters
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music George Fenton
Jake Bernard
Tony Burrough

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Talking Heads is a series of monologues written by renowned playwright Alan Bennett for the BBC. It is performed by some the UKís finest actors and actresses and was shot over two series. The first series was shot around 1987 and the second series was shot some 11 years later in 1998. While each monologue is its own unique story, many recurring themes such as loneliness, loss and personal relationships are included.

††† These monologues do not have an introduction. One gets the impression the performer is simply relaying a story to a friend. Other people are mentioned without saying who they are. It is only as we the viewers accumulate more information about the people and circumstances being discussed that we begin to get a feel for what has been happening in the life of the character. At their best the monologues are fascinating and engrossing. These are people that we feel we might or could know and itís a credit to the acting performances and the writing that these people seem so real. At their worst however the monologues can be a bit dull and even boring and, dare I say it on one occasion, sleep inducing.

††† Because almost all of the information is conveyed simply with words these performances demand the complete attention of the viewer. In order to get the most out of Talking Heads you need to be ready give your entire attention to the performances.

††† Early on while writing up these reviews I tried to include small summary reviews of each episode but I soon began to feel that often these reviews revealed too much. For many of these monologues, so little actually happens that any discussion of the plot will ultimately give away major plot elements. For the purposes of giving a bit of a feel for the various episodes I have left my first few episode reviews intact but for the rest of the series I have given only the briefest of plot synopsises for each episode.

††† For those who will enjoy these monologues, the real pleasure will be witnessing the evolution of the storylines as they occur. In the case of other monologues, not much story occurs at all and what we are given is almost a slice of life such that the viewer almost feels like a voyeur.

A Chip in the Sugar

††† Alan Bennett plays Graham who lives with his elderly mother who suffers from dementia. This monologue concerns a day outing they take together and how they meet up with an old acquaintance. While watching this episode I was reminded of the TV series Mother and Son for despite suffering from dementia, Grahamís mother still knows how to push all of his buttons.

A Lady of Letters

††† Irene Ruddock (Patricia Routledge) is a lonely pensioner living on her own who passes the time by spying on her neighbours and writing letters, mostly to complain about this or that. Soon however her obsessive letter writing is going to get her into a little bit trouble. Patricia Routledge would go on to play the character Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances and I couldnít help but feel that the character she plays here is sort of a toned down version of Hyacinth. The monologue is both humorous and poignant and I quite enjoyed it.

Bed Among the Lentils

††† Maggie Smith is Susan, the Victorís wife; shy and reserved. During the opening minutes I feared this monologue might be a bit dull and lacking in energy, much like the character being played by Maggie Smith, but soon found it to have far more depth. While discussing the monotony of her days it becomes clear that she feels overshadowed by husband role. This is a poignant and subtly humourous episode.

Soldiering On

††† Stephanie Cole is Muriel, recently widowed and facing up to the changes this has made to her life. A very fine episode.

Her Big Chance

††† Julie Waters is Lesley, an aspiring actress who thinks she might be on the verge of her first big break.

A Cream Cracker Under the Settee

††† Thora Hird is Doris, an old age pensioner who is not as independent as she would like to believe. This is one of the most heartbreaking episodes from the series.

Disc 2

Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet

††† Patricia Routledge is Miss Fozzard, an old fashioned woman who describes her experience at the podiatrist.

The Hand of God

††† Eileen Atkins is Celia, an antique store owner who befriends the elderly with the hope of getting their possessions cheap when they die.

Playing Sandwiches

††† David Haig is Wilfred, a reformed paedophile who might be going back to his old ways.

The Outside Dog

††† Julie Walters is Majory who is an obsessively clean housewife who comes to realise her husband might be a heinous criminal.

Nights in the Gardens of Spainx

††† Penelope Wilton is Rosmary who tends to her neighbours garden after that neighbour is arrested for the murder of her abusive husband.

Waiting for the Telegram

††† Thora Hird is Violet, living in a nursing home and reminiscing on her life.

Disc 3

Telling Tales

††† Series creator and writer Alan Bennet delivers a series of monologues inspired by his childhood and progresses up to his early university years. Some relate stories from his childhood and other are simply observations of the time. Each monologue lasts around 15 minutes but vary in their lengths a little bit. Each relates to a specific theme such as war, home life, his family, religion and even just discussion of the various bric-a-brac he remembers from his childhood. I found some of these instalments quite interesting but I needed to watch them in small doses as watching it in one big two and half hour block would have been way too much. I suspect that those who were raised around the same time as Alan Bennett will get the most out of these monologues but I none the less found them quite enjoyable.

††† Overall Talking Heads and Telling Tales are well written and performed monologues. I suspect those of a similar age to their creator Alan Bennett will be able to most identify with the stores but they are none the less an enjoyable series of monologues.

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Transfer Quality


††† While these transfers do show some of the limitations of the source material the actual transfers are all very good. The material covers a number of years and come from various sources. I am confident these DVDís present this series as best as can be expected.

††† Series one (Disc 1) which is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 seems to have been shot onto broadcast quality video tape (presumable BetacamSP) and while a little soft and with some inevitable low level noise present the tapes seem to have been well preserved and none of the usually aging signs (drop outs and so on) are present in these episodes.

††† Series two (Disc 2) is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and seems to have been shot on digital video. The image is reasonably sharp for a TV series. Some aliasing is present.

††† Telling Tales (Disc 3) despite being more recent than Talking Heads Series two, being made in 2000, is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I canít be sure but I suspect this has been shot on digital video. Overall the image is very good and more than adequate for this sort of material.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† The audio transfer is more than adequate for a televisions series like this.

††† The audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kb/s.

††† Dialogue was always easy to understand and I did not notice any issues with audio sync.

††† I noticed a little bit of low frequency hum during some of the music and a little bit of tape hiss on some of the earlier series but these are only minor quibbles.

††† The soundtrack is stereo only and as such there is no surround or subwoofer activity to report on.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


††† None


††† Menus are static with music from the series in the background.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† This title does not seem to have been released in Region 1. The Region 2 release appears to be identical to ours.


††† Talking Heads and Telling Tales is an interesting selection of monologues written by renowned playwright Alan Bennett. Those who are of a similar age to Alan Bennett will probably get the most out of these but they are none the less quite entertaining.

††† The video and audio transfers are both more than satisfactory for this sort of television production and no doubt the DVDs present the material at its very best.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-696AV-s, SACD & DVD-A, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

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