With the second series of My Mad Fat Diary imminently looming (it starts on Monday in the UK), I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the first series of a show which managed to completely exceed any expectations and waylay any misapprehensions I may have had.
My Mad Fat Diary: series 1 blasted onto the air last January. I admit the previews did not make the show look promising. A show about an overweight teenage girl with mental health issues, I thought the previews looked far too glib and seemed to focus way too much on the wackiness and humour. I feared that the issues this girl faced would be treated at worst with scorn or at best poking fun at those with weight and mental health issues. Television has a nasty habit of mocking fat people (a reflection of life I suppose) and I was not looking forward to seeing a young, fat teenage girl being taken this piss out of on prime-time television.
Still, something about this show drew me in and I am very happy to say that it completely addressed all my fears and turned them right on their head. Yes there was plenty of humour, but the serious issues were dealt with sensitively and realistically. You never feel as though it was taking pot-shots at heavier people or those suffering from mental health and self esteem issues.
Based on Rae Earl’s book My Mad Fat Teenage Diary (the author Rae Earl has suffered with mental illness since her youth, read an article about it HERE), the show is pure genius. Set during the mid-1990s (1996 to be exact) it is a wonderful depiction of what being a teenager was like during that tumultuous decade (I was a teen in the 1990s myself so the show really does speak to me!). It is cleverly written and wonderfully acted. Poignant and heartbreaking but laugh out loud funny at the same time. It is definitely one of my favourite new shows and it has become a bit of a tumblr sensation.
Sharon Rooney leads the cast and I cannot think of anyone more perfectly suited to a role. She approaches Rae with authenticity and pathos. She makes Rae relatable and brutally, honestly real. The rest of the cast is just as fantastic but Sharon Rooney absolutely steals the show.
“I am a body dysmorphic without the dysmorphic. I am a bulimic without the sick. I am fat.”
Comprising of only 6 episodes, the show nevertheless packs a mighty punch. The first episode begins with 16 year-old Rae being released from a psychiatric hospital after a supposed suicide attempt. It deals with Rae trying to re-integrate herself back into her old life, having to cope with her mother’s crazy new relationship and trying to reconnect with her best friend Chloe who, during the course of Rae’s tenure in hospital, has made a new group of friends. Rae is desperate to finally fit in and the episode ends with her being fully accepted into the new gang.
Rae develops a crush on Archie, a sweet and good-looking member of the gang. She is soon disappointed when she discovers that Archie’s preferences lie elsewhere but there is always the broody Finn – who reveals himself to be a potential suitor. All the while, Rae is undergoing therapy with Kester, her psychiatrist, (played brilliantly by Ian Hart).
“So, from now on people either accept you for who you are or they can fuck off. Because you’re an amazing person, Rae.”
Trying to juggle her new life with the one in the hospital, Rae’s struggles to keep her two worlds separate. The last episode deals with the fallout of everything coming crashing down on her. Yet the series ends optimistically and leaves me with great hopes for series 2.
I really love this series and have been waiting and waiting on series 2. I really need to find the time to read and review the book that it is based on (I got it for my birthday last year!).
**All photos from the show used in above article courtesy of E4**