Feel Good is an intimate comedy-drama exploring themes of addiction, love and sexuality. Brimming with raw honesty, the series navigates spaces of youth which are often neglected on screen.
Comedian Mae Martin is the co-creator of the Channel 4 and Netflix series, playing a version of herself as the lead character Mae. This authorship reminded me of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s work, both the star and writer of the critically-acclaimed show Fleabag. While not as sharply executed and innovative as Waller-Bridge’s series, Feel Good has glimpses of nuance in its depiction of thought-provoking and often challenging themes.
Mae, a comedian from Canada, meets George in London, played by Fresh Meat and Call the Midwife star Charlotte Ritchie. The two quickly commit to a relationship where both feel the increasing betrayal of the other. During a Facetime call with her parents, Mae’s mother (played brilliantly by Friends star Lisa Kudrow) reveals to George that her daughter is a recovering addict. George confronts her girlfriend about her refusal to seek help, leading to a series of Mae’s haphazard attempts to face her vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, Mae fears she is merely one of George’s ‘phases’ as she avoids telling her friends about their relationship.
The limited length of the six-part series makes it very achievable to watch in a short space of time. At times I felt that the story was too rushed, including a dramatic montage which briefly documents three months’ worth of character development in under a minute. We later learn that during this time, Mae and George have moved in with each other. Although this suits the fast pace of the episodes, running for an average of twenty-five minutes each, this is an efficient but risky strategy that can sometimes feel disorientating. Elsewhere however, this style of editing suits Mae’s erratic behaviour and its incongruence with George’s gentler nature.
The initial light-hearted tone and awkwardness of their relationship become increasingly sombre as the series takes a more emotional turn in later episodes, but the drama is consistently balanced by humour. Beautifully shot, the lighting is reminiscent of HBO’s Euphoria, and small, auditory details enrich the performances, including the swelling of a high-pitched hum as Mae struggles to suppress her addictive triggers. After joining sessions at Narcotics Anonymous, she begins to question if her dependence on George is merely a substitute for her former cocaine addiction, particularly tested when George tries to hide her girlfriend’s existence from those closest to her.
Comedian Mae Martin is a revelation – the semi-autobiographical series is a refreshing take on drama comedies that feels authentic throughout. I always find her sketches online uplifting, with Martin detailing stories of her journey to recovery from addiction and her past relationships with perfect precision of humour. It is exciting to see what work she will create in the future.
Despite its name, Feel Good is not sugar-coated. The show remains accessible while depicting challenging themes often excluded from mainstream TV, including queer representation, youth homelessness and drug abuse. While the central romance may not be the most memorable, Feel Good has a real sense of warmth and integrity – something that is urgently needed in our present uncertainty.