We all want to be loved. That’s the one thing we all have in common.
It’s also the electric current running through Feel Good, a powerful new comedy written and created Mae Martin and Joe Hampson for Channel 4 and Netflix.
Feel Good is hitting our screens at a time when we need it the most. That’s not just because we’re all massively in need of new shows to watch as we practice social distancing. It’s because this is a programme about love, and all the complicated ways we behave in our quest to find another human who wants to be with us forever.
Mae Martin plays Mae, a rising star in comedy who falls in love with George, a woman who’s previously only dated men. We later learn that this dynamic is something of a pattern for Mae, who has a history of dating women who — up ’til meeting her — identify as straight.
Things between Mae and George (Charlotte Ritchie) are going pretty swimmingly for a while — that is, until they run into hot water. George won’t come out to her friends and family, and ends up making up an imaginary boyfriend called Jonathan Crenshaw so all her friends will stop asking questions. But the fact that George won’t introduce Mae to any of her friendship group leaves Mae feeling distinctly stashed away and insecure.
While Mae’s insecurities skyrocket, George lets slip a sentence during sex that definitely doesn’t assuage Mae’s anxieties: “Come inside me.” Mae responds, “You just said ‘come inside me’ and I physically can’t.” Mae has something that I — and many others — can surely relate to. That something is a masochistic propensity to want what you cannot have. To chase after something or, crucially, someone who cannot love you. It makes for tortured, but highly resonant viewing.
In many ways, this show is about people’s personal histories meeting their present day stories. Mae struggles to shake off the guilt she feels about her behaviour when she was an addict. That past hits her present head-on, however, when she relapses. For George, the looming shadow of her dating history is ever-present. George is coming to terms with her sexuality, while Mae frets that she’ll never live up to the men George has previously dated.
When Mae’s parents fly from Canada to the UK to scatter the ashes of their beloved cat on Blackpool beach (yes, I realise that’s a lot to take in), the shit really hits the proverbial fan. Lisa Kudrow plays Linda, Mae’s truculent diva of a mother — to great comic effect. I certainly never expected to witness Kudrow chomping on a Scotch egg in Blackpool, England, but it works. Like Mae, Linda is a complicated woman. She doesn’t want to hear her daughter’s apology and adopts evasive tactics to try to steer the conversation elsewhere.
As you watch Feel Good, the emotive writing really shines through. George’s line “Mae you have so many feelings but it’s your head” couldn’t be more true. Martin and Hampson have created something that speaks to some pretty universal feelings — yearning to be loved and wanting something that is out of reach. “I’ve been with good people, really good people, people who love me, and I lie next to them and I just feel so restless,” says Mae as she lies next to George. “And then when I lie next to you, I feel still, and quiet deep inside.”
That said, it’s not all deep feelings. Along Mae’s journey, you’ll meet some truly bonkers characters. Like her NA sponsor Maggie (Sophie Thompson) who has a daughter called Lava (named after the volcanic kind). You’ll meet Phil (Phil Burgers), Mae’s strange housemate, who gifts George a bucket of worms to cheer her up. And there’s even a douchey manspreader who utters the line, “I’m actually a pretty woke guy. I loved Call Me By Your Name.“
Feel Good made me feel things. Sitting in my flat on Day 3 of Not Going Outside, I watched all six episodes and wept. I needed to feel something other than anxiety, and Feel Good helped me to do it.
Feel Good is available to watch now on Channel 4 and Netflix.