As a one-off episode broadcast on Radio 4 on New Year’s Day, Conversations from a Long Marriage portrayed Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam as a married couple for over 40 years. Children of the Sixties, they were still free spirits, drawn together by their passion for music – and each other. The show followed their conversations that took them from the local café, to their kitchen table, taking in her resentment of new glasses – a symbol of ageing – and fury at being lectured by the dental hygienist. He had a dodgy knee and was on statins, and when they discussed the marriage break-up of their closest friends, Sally and Peter, there was jealousy and talk of affairs. She suggested there are advantages to single beds, separate holidays and wanted to go clubbing in Ibiza for her imminent ‘big’ birthday.
Soon it became clear that episode was a success and that the story resonated deeply with the audience (All-Allam.com received quite a few messages from people asking for a copy.) Now Radio 4 has recorded another episode set to be broadcast on Christmas Eve, with a four-part series to follow in 2019, and a six-part in 2021. Missed it? You can relisten to the first 6 episodes on Audible.com.
“Let’s laugh at the oldies”
Conversations from a Long Marriage is written by Jan Etherington, who has been married to Gavin Petrie for over 30 years. Second Thoughts, Faith In The Future and Next Of Kin. She says: “Conversations From A Long Marriage will resonate with couples of any age but especially those who are still dancing in the kitchen, singing in the car and trying to keep the passion alive.” Talking to British Comedy Guide about the genesis of her latest show, Etherington explained further: “I wrote it for Joanna Lumley because she epitomises that ageless style and curiosity for living in the moment. Roger Allam is absolutely wonderful, one of the gods of radio and it was just magical to see them together, they are so in tune and they genuinely like each other.”
Etherington, who also teaches sitcom writing, says she was motivated to create the comedy as she was “tired of my generation being portrayed as golfing caravanners with no reference to how they were in their youth.” In an article for The Express published earlier this year, she expanded on her reasoning: “All my comedy writing life, I’ve aimed to create characters, stories and narrative that I could identify with – but as I get older, I am appalled at how my generation are portrayed – on screen and on air. “The ‘pensioners behaving badly’ and/or stupidly; the ‘let’s laugh at the oldies’ reality shows and the unforgiveable crassness of prime time comedies, which portrays anyone over 60 as bickering, clueless – often spiteful – fools, whose only purpose seems to be to misunderstand the obvious, or snap bitchy one-liners at each other. I was tired of the stereotypical ‘babyboomer’ portrayals, of those who have ‘become old’, none of which reflected the ‘still the same inside’ attitude of me – and my friends. They are like no-one I know – or want to know.”
A TV Sitcom?
It’s not the first time that Etherington creates a radio hit, but her writing didn’t always find its way to the screen. However, as she explains, times have changed: the creation of BBC Studios means the corporation’s radio and television production teams are liaising with each other again in an attempt to develop formats.
“When Second Thoughts was a huge hit on radio, back in 1989, we obviously offered it to BBC TV, and it got turned down – along with lots of other radio comedies: After Henry, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, etc… Greg Dyke, who was then head of LWT, bumped into us at a press launch (we were both journalists) and said ‘I’ve heard Second Thoughts on Radio 4, send me the tapes.’ LWT bought it, where it ran for 5 series, 49 episodes and averaged around 10 million viewers. Now they’re liaising between radio and TV at the BBC all the time. Better late than never!”
BBC Studios has commissioned the TV pilot, for which a script has now been written. But as the leads are busy bees, we might have to wait a while until their schedules align…
32 thoughts on “Conversations from a Long Marriage”
Thanks to Jan Etherington for the delightful Christmas Eve Conversation that celebrated the talents of Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam. I look forward to the series –
Happy New Year!
Having just listened to my cassette of CFALM from Christmas 2018, wondering if we are anywhere near a new ‘episode,’ radio or televisual?
There’s a repeat on BBC Radio 4 on January 15th at 11:30 am, followed by the new series starting January 22nd.
When will the NEW series be on podcast ? Thanks Jane
Not sure they’ll ever be available as a podcast, but at the moment you can listen to all the aired episodes on iPlayer Radio and on the BBC4 website.
Hi Jane, I’ve got some good news. All episodes will be available to buy on Audible as soon as 22 October 2020. Enjoy! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RN4B9Y/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_awdb_fnfkFbW7QZGWQ
Have just listened to Conversations from a Long Marriage, BBC Radio 4 @ 11-30 15th. Jan. and am still smiling and chuckling to myself.
What a fantastic programme.
Will definitely be listening to the next series. (Sorry Classic fm, you’ll just have to wait 1/2 hr. for me to return!)
Great actors, Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam.
Thank you Jan.
Absolutely brilliant, both writer and actors
We are absolutely loving these funny, brilliantly written episodes and the actors are superb, more please!
Real wonderful comedy writing and acting. How refreshing. How does some (most) of the 6.30 p.m slot on Radio 4 be called comedy?
Absolutely adore this gem hidden away in the daily schedules wish it could be repeated Sunday evenings to start off the week on a good foot 🙂
Are all the ‘conversations’ available as a book?
It would make a terrific gift!!
All the best,
What a wonderful, wonderful series, pretty perfect in all its aspects – thank you so much to you all. I have just listened to the last episode broadcast on Radio 4. Can you please tell me how I can obtain a copy of all the episodes? I cannot see any where to download them and would be very happy to pay for a CD if that is what is required.
Hi Vanessa, I’ve finally got an answer for you. All episodes will be available on Audible as soon as 22 October 2020. Enjoy! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RN4B9Y/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_awdb_fnfkFbW7QZGWQ
My partner and I, both retired, loved this series.
I’m sure it’s a restorative mirror for many couples, and should be available for GP’s to prescribe.
Please do not transfer it to TV, the clue is in the series title.
Jan, Joanna, Roger, and Claire have produced a little gem.
A beautiful and funny series. I hope more are in the pipeline.
This is the best ever programme – please, please keep it going. The cast, all 2 of them, and the crew all deserve gongs for a superb, professional, funny, at times hilarious and unbeatably delivered unique script.
I have health problems & need to take strong medication. Joanna Lumley & Roger Allam knock any medication through the wall with their wonderful delivery and “say it as it is” attitude to their “marriage”. Congratulations.
Jan Etherington took the words right out of my mouth during the episode about the knee op! My husband and I were in hysterics as it was like replaying our conversation when he came out of hospital, and believe me, we needed some laughter! The whole series has been a gem – top class acting and besides the comedy some very touching moments. I now have most of my friends tuned in – we are so hoping there will be more but even if this is the end please express our thanks to all involved for cheering us up during the somewhat sombre times lately – absolutely fabulous!!
I have so enjoyed this wonderful gentle comedy, so true to life; the actors are brilliant. I persuaded my husband of over 43 years to listen and he was smiling too. More please.
Discovered this gentle comedy that rings so true on bbc sounds. Would love to hear the pilot episode and the Christmas one. Are they ever likely to be on bbcsounds?
Absolutely Fabulous !!….. My husband is presently re-listening to all four episodes and we both wish there were many more.
However, I’m writing to ask if the original one-off programme from Christmas Eve 2018 is still available anywhere as we missed it and would love to hear it now.
Many thanks in anticipation.
Hi Judith, all episodes will become available on Audible on 22 October 2020, including the pilot episode that you missed. Enjoy! https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RN4B9Y/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_awdb_fnfkFbW7QZGWQ
Just a note to say thank you for your work with Joanna Lumley delivering
Jan Etherington’s splendid writing in Conversations. My wife and listened in bed last night and we shook with laughter – that semi embarrassed laughter as you held a mirror up to our lives. Thank you so much and if possible please pass on thanks to Joanna and Jan.
Can you release a playlist of all the lovely music that is featured during the two series please?
Loved, loved the entire series 1 & 2. Bereft that I’ve come to the end. Wonderful combination of brilliant writing by Jan Ethrington and masterful acting delivery. Perfect cast, the magnificent Joanna Lumley and Roger Allan made the listening ‘unturnoffable’!! More please 🙏👏👏👏
These series have been amazing, didn’t want them to end. Every episode is an absolutely spot on trip through our own 45 years !
The casting was masterful, beautiful voices . Didn’t want this to end . Thanks to all for a much needed gentle comedy to get us through this awful time 👏 👏 👏
Clever dialogue , humour and pathos and excellent actor and actress – the writer is in touch with real life. Such a relief to hear conversation without bad and poor language . thx
Wonderful series, my wife and I believe it is the best ‘documentary’ of our life together. Is there going to be a series 3 at any time.
Yes! BBC Radio 4 has given the go ahead for the third series. But first a new Christmas episode will air on December 22th, 2021. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0012nt8
That’s when my Christmas will begin then!
Hello, I am an absolute fan of this radio show, would anyone know where i could get the list of the wonderful songs that have been used in the episodes?
I absolutely love this wonderful radio series. The writing is perfect and Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam are the ideal actors to be in it. Their voices just match so perfectly. I love their brilliant characters who have a past life. So many people forget even the older generation have had an “ interesting “ past and still have a lively life.
Thank you to all involved you have given me hours of pure pleasure. More please.