Even in its most overwhelming, infuriating, disorientating moments, love is pretty great. There’s no denying it, my cynical friends. Deep down, we’re all suckers for the big L.O.V.E. In fact, quite often, it’s the mess surrounding our favourite romantic stories that makes the whole thing relatable enough for our reluctant hearts to revel in.
Take your new favourite romantic comedy series. At the core of Feel Good is the burgeoning relationship between two people, Mae and George. However, there are millions of pins threatening to burst their little love bubble: societal pressures around labels and sexuality, a buried history of drug addiction, underlying family tensions, overbearing expectations of friendship, and so on.
The brilliance of Feel Good lies in the series’ ability to show you how their relationship is everything and just one thing at the same time. Feel Good is heavy in some ways and super light in others. It’s tense and uplifting, plus all the other confusing oxymorons you associate with the conflict of loving someone while having to exist in the world beyond just the two of you. On top of all of that, Feel Good is hilarious, too.
Canadian stand-up comedian Mae Martin co-wrote the semi-autobiographical series (it’s not a carbon copy of her life but hits similar plot points) and stars as Mae (also Canadian, also a stand-up comedian). She has a regular gig at a bar in Manchester and eventually winds up on an impromptu date with George (Charlotte Ritchie), who has been to watch Mae’s set a couple of times now.
They get on, they hook up, it’s great. But George has only been in heterosexual relationships before and this, her first relationship with a woman, is forcing her to look at her sexuality in a way she’s not had to address. Coming to terms with her feelings for her own sense of self isn’t helped by the pressure to find some sort of societal resolve around her bolshy, judgemental friends, either.
Also beyond the Mae-George bubble is a past that Mae has been desperately trying to stifle. While Mae is on a Skype call to her parents back in Canada, George overhears Mae’s mum, Linda (played by none other than Friends alumnus Lisa Kudrow) ask whether she’s found a new Narcotics Anonymous group. George freaks out at discovering that her girlfriend didn’t tell her about being an addict, while Mae freaks out about having to readdress something that she’d convinced herself she’d been managing. It quickly becomes apparent that Mae’s compulsions have diverted towards her relationship with George and though it feels somewhat better for Mae, what develops is something far too dependent and unhealthy.
There’s humour in the difficulties that Mae and George face. Mae’s return to Narcotics Anonymous introduces us to unpredictable and huge-hearted Maggie (Sophie Thompson), who becomes a confidante and sort-of sponsor for Mae while she’s back in the programme. George’s peculiar housemate Phil (Phil Burgers) will nudge scenes to the comedic edge of discomfort. And of course, Lisa Kudrow’s Linda is everything you could hope for in an oblivious maternal figure who manages to understand so much and so little of her daughter’s life on the other side of the Atlantic.
It’s an intimate look at the cross-section between love, sexuality and identity that explores addiction – which Martin has battled in her own life, too – without bowing to the dark, back-alley clichés that we’re used to. So much of Feel Good is brilliantly awkward and its honesty is quietly moving. In it, we’re invited to laugh at the best and worst of romance, all the while feeling a little bit closer to the raw humanity at the core of this wonderfully endearing love story.
Feel Good airs on Channel 4 at 10pm on Wednesday 18th March and will be available on All4 thereafter.