In the premiere episode of the new SundanceTV drama The A Word, Alison and Paul Hughes discover their five-year-old son, Joe, has autism. The news causes a seismic shift within the family, and the show explores how the couple displaces their fears and anxieties onto Joe. Alison is desperate for their small English town to perceive her family as “normal,” and while Paul is more willing to accept reality, he has a hard time disciplining his son, immediately giving in to Joe’s tantrums. Paul’s struggle to build his first restaurant — his dream — as the money dries up doesn’t help the already stress-soaked situation.
Like many children with autism, Joe uses music as a way to disengage from people. He’s rarely without his signature blue headphones, and his father prides himself on Joe’s impeccable knowledge of British indie bands of the ’70s and ’80s. This pride — he regularly calls his son a “genius” — makes it that much harder for Paul to accept that Joe’s musical obsession isn’t just the quirk of a prodigy but a symptom of Joe’s disorder.
In this exclusive clip from Wednesday’s all-new episode of The A Word, Paul tries to enforce a new rule on Joe: Ten minutes without music.