1 9 9 0 (UK)
3 x 60 minute episodes
This BBC miniseries was a coming-of-age story about a homosexual girl growing up in Lancashire in the 1970s. The first part of the three-part drama was first screened on 10 January 1990.
Charlotte Coleman starred as Jess, a girl growing up in a Pentecostal evangelical household (she had been adopted by a middle-aged couple with strong ties to the local church) in Accrington, Lancashire, who comes to understand that she is a lesbian.
Her early life was all about conformity, following instructions from her adopted parents – particularly her domineering mother (Geraldine McEwan) – and the pastor (Kenneth Cranham). Her spare time was spent praying for the poor in Africa and learning the Bible.
Stepping out of her community for the first time to attend school, she found herself out of sync with other children of her age.
She became friends with Melanie (Cathryn Bradshaw), a relationship that eventually became sexual. When their affair was discovered, it scandalised her community and pushed her mother to take drastic steps to rid Jess of sin and temptation.
The allegorical fairy tales that are woven into the original semi-autobiographical novel by Jeanette Winterson did not appear on the screen. Miss Jewsbury’s love-making with the underage Jess, which appears in the novel, was also excluded.
Even with these cuts, the series caused controversy when shown due to the remaining lesbian sex scenes and its portrayal of the Elim Pentecostal faith.
In 2010 it was named by The Guardian as the eighth-best television drama series of all time. Viewed today, it’s less the sexuality of the characters that surprises than the depiction of people with faith.