When the first series of My Mad Fat Diary began, you could be forgiven for thinking it was another E4 teen drama, that like Skins and Misfits before it, the moments where its ideas come together to form something lovely would be vastly outnumbered by the moments where it fell flat on its face. So concerned with being provocative, clever, and gimmicky are our scripted dramas for teens that things like character and plot fell by the wayside, and much of the the promotional material for MMFD pointed towards a show about a day-glo portrait of a loud, brash, sex-obsessed teen girl who was going to be spending so much time shouting about how mad and sex-obsessed she was that we’d never really get to know her.
The reality was very different. For one, it being set (and soundtracked) in the mid-90s means that it avoids any pressure to shoehorn in any on-the-pulse references and music. And sure, Rae Earl is often loud, brash, mad, sex-obsessed – but she’s also a person. Over the two series of My Mad Fat Diary we’ve learnt a lot about Rae and how she responds to those around her; her complex, detailed relationships with her mother and her best friend Chloe; her increasingly complicated relationship with her therapist Kester; and the massive insecurities she faces when amongst her peers. By the time that series two ends we have a portrait of a young woman who is trying desperately not to be defined by her illness or by other people’s perception of her but by who she has the potential to be. What’s more, the despite the show’s forced, nearly totally subjective perspective, the focus is never solely on her. The show’s writers have let the supporting characters, in particular Rae’s egotistical, emotional mother, blossom into fully-fledged people in their own right, and in the show’s best episode they even shift the perspective to Chloe’s and reveal the world that’s going on outside of Rae’s head. In short, My Mad Fat Diary is the best TV show about adolescence since Freaks and Geeks, and maybe the best British show about adolescence ever made. (more…)