Play for Today (1970–1984)
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Too Late to Talk to Billy 


Paul Seed


Graham Reid (by) (as J. Graham Reid)


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Episode complete credited cast:
James Ellis James Ellis ... Norman Martin
Kenneth Branagh ... Billy Martin
Brid Brennan ... Lorna Martin (as Bríd Brennan)
Maggie Shevlin Maggie Shevlin ... Janet Martin
Tracey Lynch Tracey Lynch ... Ann Martin
Ainé Gorman Ainé Gorman ... Maureen Martin
Mary Jackson Mary Jackson ... June Boyd
Catherine Gibson Catherine Gibson ... Mrs. Boyd
Colum Convey Colum Convey ... Ian
Chrissie Cotterill Chrissie Cotterill ... Shirley
Walter McMonagle Walter McMonagle ... Stevie
John Hewitt John Hewitt ... John Fletcher


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Comedy | Drama







Release Date:

16 February 1982 (UK) See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode takes place in 1977. See more »


Followed by Play for Today: A Matter of Choice for Billy (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

Very Memorable Drama
15 January 2006 | by Theo RobertsonSee all my reviews

As has been pointed out TOO LATE TO TALK TO BILLY only uses the troubles as a backdrop to the drama so thankfully we don't get bombarded by polemical politics every ten seconds . One can't help thinking unlike theater or cinematic film any drama to do with Northern Ireland is very well suited to television and this teleplay was subject to much fevered conversations along the line of " did you see that bit " and " When he said .. " etc . In fact TOO LATE FOR BILLY also cropped up in conversation when it was repeated on BBC television in 1983 and 1984 which is testimony to how well it was written by Graham Reid

Made in 1982 but set in 1977 the story revolves around the Martin family from a Protestant stronghold in Belfast . The mother is dying from cancer and her husband Norman reacts by drowning his sorrows and taking it out on the rest of the world . It's a very memorable performance by James Ellis as a violent and bitter and ultimately pathetic soul , the sort of individual who unfortunately is all too common in every Celtic town . Possibly the most memorable scene - And certainly the most quoted - is when Norman staggers home from the pub and finds one of Billy's friends innocently having a cup of tea with his daughter Lorna and Norman feels the need to take out his problems on someone and anyone

" He's got to go home to his mother " says Lorna

No his mother - His Maw " growls the drunken Norman who then suddenly grabs Billy's friend by the throat " Listen your maw has serviced the whole Yank navy , get outta ma house and don't come back "

Actually it's not that guy's night because he runs into local UDA hard man John Fletcher who gives the lad a few digs and is saved from a serious kicking by the arrival of Billy played by Kenneth Branagh . Yes THE Kenneth Branagh who then Fletcher offers a drink to :

" It's an insult to refuse a drink " warns Fletcher passing a bottle to Billy

" Okay then " Billy accepts the bottle then smashes it over Fletcher's head knocking him unconscious

Sometimes brutal , often blackly comical TOO LATE FOR BILLY is ultimately one of the best BBC Play For Today ever broadcast . The fact that it continued into a trilogy after the Play For Today slot was scrapped must say something of its quality and look forward to seeing it again sometime

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