Sally Wainwright's Next BBC Series Settles on Title, 'Riot Women'

Siobhan Finneran as Clare Cartwright and Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood are upset in Happy Valley Season 3

Siobhan Finneran as Clare Cartwright and Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley Season 3

Lookout Point/AMC/Matt Squire

With the cancelation of Gentleman Jack after Season 2 in 2022 and a more family-friendly direction for Disney+'s Renegade Nell, Sally Wainwright was all too eager to get back to her more typical R-rated fare after the final season of Happy Valley aired in the early part of 2023. So when the BBC announced she was working on a new commission about an all-middle-aged women punk rock band with the working title Hot Flush in August of 2023, it was not that big of a surprise. (Though considering the subject and the title, the main surprise was that HBO was not on board, though one supposes that's David Zaslav's fault.) Nearly a year on, as Gentleman Jack's Suranne Jones is about to debut MaryLand on PBS and Sophie Rundle's After the Flood comes to BritBox, Wainwright's new series is approaching the end of pre-production, with filming slated to begin in the second half of 2024, and she has an update, including the official title.

Not that Hot Flush isn't a great title, but it's a Britishism for the menopausal experience better known in the U.S. as a "hot flash," and if the show wants to find an American distributor, it would be better to call it something else. In this case, the title has changed to Riot Women, a play on the 1990s era Riot Grrrl. However, according to Wainwright, that's the only thing that's changed. The rest of the show's premise remains intact, of five women in their late 40s who start a punk rock band to enter a talent contest only to discover a way of life they never knew they needed, remains intact.

Even better, she's getting to write the punk rock songs, she told The Yorkshire Post. "It's just me letting rip, really! We've got a song about HRT [hormone replacement therapy] called "Seeing Red." I've had a lot of fun writing it."

Here's the series synopsis:

Riot Women centers on the lives of five women of a certain age who come together to create a makeshift, butt-of-the-joke punk-rock band to enter a talent contest. When they rehearse together, they suddenly discover that they have a lot more to say than they ever imagined, and this is the way to say it. It follows the women as they deal with demanding jobs, grown-up children who still eat up their energy, dependent parents, husbands who’ve let them down and the menopause. The band becomes a catalyst for change in the women’s lives, and it’s going to make them question everything. As the story (set in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire) progresses, it’s more than music that binds them; a deeply potent, long-buried secret connects Kitty and Beth, the two unlikely creative masterminds behind the band, and it’s a secret that could tear everything apart.

There is no cast announced as yet, but you can bet I already have a fan cast list in my head, (and yes, it 100% includes Lesley Manville.)

Wainwright is slated to write all six episodes of the series. In a statement when the show was first announced, she said, "I've been wanting to write a series like this for a long time. It's a celebration of women of a certain age, and all the life stuff they suddenly find themselves negotiating/dealing with. The show is also my own personal homage to Rock Follies of '77, and the feisty Little Ladies who woke me up to what I wanted to do with my life when I was 13." She will also executive produce with Roanna Benn for Drama Republic with Clare Shepherd producing.

Riot Women is expected to start filming in the late summer or early fall of 2024 and air in 2025. It still does not have an American distributor; someone please fix that, and quickly.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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