Channel 4’s Feel Good, written by Mae Martin and Joe Hampson, is a captivating modern rom-com that ruminates on matters from love and addiction to sexuality and gender identity. Canadian stand-up comedian Mae Martin stars as a semi-autobiographical version of herself, and the series begins with her entering into a relationship with schoolteacher George (Charlotte Ritchie), who crucially has never dated a girl before.
After their initial meeting in a comedy club, we fast-forward three months as things are getting more serious and Mae is moving into George’s house. They’re just as in love as when they first met, but the blissful honeymoon period subsides with George discovering that her sweet, attentive girlfriend is a recovering drug addict.
Although Mae has given up drugs, Feel Good does an effective job of showing us how addictive behaviour still finds its way into her daily life, often causing her to become consumed by romantic relationships. She brings this up with her narcotics anonymous group at one point, suggesting they are all simply “swapping one addiction for another” – from eccentric Maggie (Sophie Thompson) who’s obsessed with keeping busy at all times and stalking her estranged daughter Lava (Maggie named her while she was high), to group leader David (Ramon Tikaram) who insists on preparing a plate of devilled eggs for every meeting that absolutely no-one has asked for. When Mae is left alone for one night because George has gone to a wedding, she has to lock her phone away in a suitcase, before wrapping the case in clingfilm for good measure, to prevent herself from constantly texting her other half.
Driving further drama is the fact that the challenges in the relationship are far from one-sided. Historically straight, George is reluctant to come out to her jaded mum (Pippa Haywood) and her ultra-posh friends, played by Ophelia Lovibond, Tom Durant Pritchard and Al Roberts. The latter blatantly fancies George and thinks he can win her over with stories about ham and tickets to podcast recordings. George spends time with these insufferable people more out of habit than desire, all while dismissing her bizarre but caring housemate Phil (Phil Burgers) who wants nothing more than to be her friend. As the series progresses, George is forced to confront all sorts of things about her identity, while Mae becomes increasingly insecure and worries that George will one day leave her because she just isn’t a man.
Martin and Ritchie are pitch-perfect as the central couple, managing to make us like them and root for them even when they frustrate us with self-sabotaging behaviour. The ups and downs in their relationship are entirely believable, and they keep us interested since the issues that the couple have to address aren’t typically ones that we’re used to seeing on screen. They’re backed up by an equally superb supporting cast, including Lisa Kudrow as Mae’s intimidating mother, whose attitude towards a ghost train ride provides one of the series highlights, and Adrian Lukis as her charming English father. The show, directed by Ally Pankiw, also looks stunning whether we’re in a London comedy club or on the Blackpool seafront.
Feel Good may deal with some ‘heavy’ topics, but it’s worth pointing out that it is frequently laugh-out-loud funny (some roleplay scenarios in episode 3 are particularly hilarious) and it very much fulfils the comedy requisite of a comedy-drama. The only real downside of this compelling series is that once you’ve binged all six episodes in under three hours, you’ll be desperate for more!
Contributed by Sophie Davies.
Feel Good Continues Wednesday at 10.00pm on Channel 4
It’s all available on All 4 and on Netflix WorldWide