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Talking to a Stranger is a British television drama, produced by the BBC and made up of four separate plays telling the story of one weekend from the viewpoints of four different members of the same family. Originally transmitted on BBC2 as part of the Theatre 625 anthology strand, the four instalments were shown weekly from 2 October to 23 October 1966.[1] The first three plays ran 96 minutes and the final play 102 minutes.[2] The Observer TV critic George Melly called it "the first authentic masterpiece written directly for television"[3] and claimed that "on the evidence of this work alone, the medium can be considered to have come of age."[1]

The four episodes were individually subtitled Anytime You're Ready I'll Sparkle, No Skill or Special Knowledge is Required, Gladly, My Cross-Eyed Bear and The Innocent Must Suffer. They were respectively the stories of the daughter, Terry; the father, Ted; the son, Alan and the mother, Sarah. The role of the daughter Terry provided a major early breakthrough for Judi Dench in one of her first starring roles on television; she won the 1967 British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for her performance. The other leads were played by Maurice Denham, Margery Mason and Michael Bryant.

Talking to a Stranger was written by John Hopkins, directed by Christopher Morahan and produced by Michael Bakewell. Frequently hailed by critics as one of the most important and affecting television dramas of the 1960s, in a 2000 poll of industry professionals conducted by the British Film Institute to determine the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century, it was placed seventy-eighth.[4] It was repeated as part of BBC2's twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations in 1989, allegedly because writer Alan Bleasdale refused to allow his 1982 drama Boys from the Blackstuff to be re-shown unless Talking to a Stranger also featured as part of the celebratory season. It was screened again by the BBC in 2003, this time on the digital channel BBC Four.[3]

According to Hopkins, he was seven months late delivering the original scripts and, when he was commissioned by the BBC, all he had in his head was the final line of the final play: "Somebody hold me."[2]

Talking to a Stranger was remade twice, for Belgian television in 1969 and for Canadian television in 1971. The Belgian version, Praten tegen een vreemde, was adapted by Pieter De Prins and directed by Lode Hendrickx. The Canadian version, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was adapted by Doris Gauntlett and starred Budd Knapp (the father), Douglas Rain (Alan), Martha Henry (Terry) and Norma Renault (the mother).[5]

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