BBC One's The A Word got it horribly wrong and stands for Atrocious not Autism

The A Word

Vincent Ralph looks back on the recent BBC drama The A Word

Television is supposed to be enjoyed rather than endured. After all, in this age of countless channels, Sky planners and catch-up services why would anyone bother with a programme that was, well, rubbish?

I asked myself this every time I sat down to watch The A Word, the recent BBC One drama tackling – or at least claiming to tackle – autism and how it affects both a child with the condition and their family.

Instead what I saw was a faux drama with a collection of unlikeable characters led by the downright awful mother Alison Hughes (played by Morven Christie).

If we were supposed to root for Alison the show got it horribly wrong, but if we were supposed to despise her, they did a damn fine job of making her monstrous.

Alison was vile; a selfish bully who paid no attention to her daughter and had her head in the sand regarding Joe (Max Vento) – the boy with the condition they dare not speak.

Her husband Paul was played by the always reliable Lee Ingleby, but even he could not save a poorly written character whose sole purpose seemed to be to bat heads with his stubborn wife and plonk oversized headphones on his son.

Even Christopher Ecclestone could not save this mess of a show – one that had a central concept that was never fully explored and instead focused on sub-plots about as interesting as watching paint dry.

When you consider five-year-old Joe was allowed to wander miles from home on his own every day, you cannot help but question how Alison and Paul had not been flagged up for neglect.

Then there is the fact that Joe and his struggles were merely a sideshow when he should have been the main event; the writers opting not to educate but instead to titillate with sex (or implied sex) here, there and everywhere.

This show had the chance to raise awareness and get people talking for all the right reasons. Instead in this instance the 'A' word was 'Atrocious'.