With 2020 feeling like a decade rather than a year, when adding my picks to our staff’s list of favorite series from 2020, I realized there were many shows that I completely forgot came out this year (to me March 2020 and June 2020 are two separate years). One of these series is Mae Martin’s Feel Good, which is a semi autobiographical half hour series about Mae, a stand up comic and recovering addict, developing a romance with George (Charlotte Ritchie), a woman who has always perceived herself as straight. While the first season is only six episodes long, it manages to gracefully delve into many issues such as sexuality, gender perception, addiction and douchebag comedians who think they “tell it as it is.”
One of the strongest aspects of Feel Good is the vulnerability of both the writing and performance of Mae Martin, who opens her soul in this series highlighting both the strengths and flaws of herself in a realistic and humanistic way. The show feels almost like reading the diary of someone, no fake facade or filter. While many semi autobiographies from comedians—such as Seinfeld and Mulaney—try to show how cool and relatable the comedian is, Feel Good is a therapeutic and insightful look at what it means to be a complicated human being and in the case of this series, one who is recovering from addiction and gender perception.
While the series sprinkles around the backstory that Mae is a recovering addict who has been to prison, the series offers an insightful and real perspective of this story, showing what recovery really looks—for example reluctantly going to AA and group therapy—and how addicts tend to replace one addiction with another. A major emotional thread of the series is that Mae’s new addiction is her girlfriend, George. In one episode where George leaves for a wedding, she doesn’t want to bring Mae to since she’s still in the closet Mae realizes that she doesn’t know what to do while George is gone which leads her to a wild bender. In another episode, Mae tries to reconnect with her parents (Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis) who still see her as an addict, which leads into a visually stunning scene of Mae and her mother arguing on a tacky boardwalk haunted house ride. It is moments like this that show that the series treats the issues of addiction with accuracy and respect instead of slipping into after school special terrority.
The series also offers an interesting look at gender and sexuality first with George, who is in her first relationship with a woman and fears how her circle of friends will perceive her, and also with Mae, who feels “some type of way” that George has only ever dated men and tries to appear more masculine to please them. While the storyline of not coming out has been explored before, this series specifically deals with bisexuality since Geroge has been happy with men but is also happy and in love with Mae. It is a bisexual coming out story for George that hasn’t been explored in many series since most coming out stories revolve on homosexuality rather than bisexuality.
This storyline also leads to a hilarious moment of George on painkillers in a hospital admitting to her friends and doctor that she uses a strap on. Mae’s storyline offers a beautiful look at gender perception where she explores her own butch style and this leads to funny moments like Mae joking in one stand up act that she wants to look like a teen hearthrob from the 90s. It also leads to some heart wrenching moments like Mae admitting that she doesn’t wear her favorite red hoodie anymore out of fear that it will make her appear too feminine. Both of these storylines will read very true to many in the LGBT+ community and while there’s no real solutions to these issues brought up, they not only reveal deeper truths about the characters, but even about the audience who sees themselves in these stories.
Feel Good, which has been renewed for a second season that can be expected to premiere sometime in 2021, was truly one of my favorite watches in 2020. The realness of the characters, flaws and all, might make you as the audience feel seen and understood in your own issues. Besides, the characters and stories are engaging and emotionally compelling. It is a series that is not only funny with its witty dialogue and funny stand up acts performed by Mae Martin herself, but also offers a unique and very real perspective of modern love, sexuality, gender and addiction. While it may have been wrongfully overlooked in the crazy year that was 2020, give it a try for 2021 if you are looking for a comforting and insightful experience that makes you feel good.
‘Feel Good’ is available to stream on Netflix.