The show begins with Mae (Mae Martin), a comedian based in London but originally from Canada. Mae is doing stand-up at the bar where she usually performs when all of a sudden she notices “english rose” George (short for Georgina, played by Charlotte Ritchie) once again sitting among the crowd, laughing hysterically at each one of Mae’s jokes. After a brief but intense period of flirting, the Canadian comedian moves in with George and her Californian roommate Phil (Phil Burgers) and this is where the core of the show begins; as the couple face their first challenges together. The fast pace and brevity of this six-part series does not stop it from touching a broad number of very contemporary topics such as gender and sexuality but also others more familiar to the small screen like drug addiction and divorce.
Feel Good is not broad in a way that feels plastic, the show is actually quite specific, many of it is actually based on the lives of both of the show’s creators: the protagonist Martin and her friend and comedian Joe Hampson. The two main characters are fully realised and even George’s character – who admittedly has had it easier than Mae, being brought up in a middle class environment in Oxford and identifying as straight up until she met her girlfriend – has her own struggles, as her childhood friends are almost too straight to function. Mae, on the other hand, is a recovering addict trying to make sense of her feelings concerning her parents abandonment during her teenage years and other things she seems confident at first about, like her gender.
The show also shines for simpler reasons, such as the candid depiction of love LGBTQ+ people. Feel Good could easily follow tropes commonly associated with queer stories like yearning or limited time as a product of barriers planted by society. However, the main issues presented in the show are mostly conflicts with the self and how these can affect a relationship. Every episode is very tight in terms of writing but the fifth chapter might be the most poignant and remarquable in this regard. Despite the heartbreak that it may cause, it is this writer’s opinion that the episode in question is also a symbol of hope for the fact that such topics are being tackled in a series that is available to stream for a mass audience.
Feel Good is both accessible and strays off from nothing, fearlessly mixing comedy and drama much like a lot of popular television series like Phoebe-Waller Bridge’s Fleabag, Bill Hader’s Barry and even this year’s Best Motion Picture winner Parasite. Nonetheless, it might not be so much a result of an attempt on Martin and Hampson’s behalf to match current trends but simply time catching up with them, as Martin herself tends to introduce difficult subjects into her own stand-up.
Film critic Chris Knight pointed out in a review of Greta Gerwig’s film Lady Bird, that the more specific a coming of age film is, the more universal it becomes but this also rings true with a show like Feel Good in which reality and fiction are combined to create something authentic and ultimately accessible while remaining complex and very much specific to these very unique queer characters. Mae Martin and Charlotte Ritchie’s portrayals of the main characters and their chemistry are magnetic in a way that is reminiscent of all great love stories and yet completely fresh.
Feel Good is available to stream in the UK on All4 on Netflix US now