I love watching the new comedy dramas that come out of channel E4, one of the multiple digital channels spawned from Channel 4. One of my favourites is My Mad Fat Diary. I loved the first series, based on Rae Earl’s semi-autobiographical book which was set during 1989. The television series had a decade change, and started from the summer 1996, telling the story of a girl aged 16 who has self harmed.
We met Rachel (Rae) at the point where she is preparing to leave hospital. A chance meeting with an old school friend reveals that it has been believed that Rae has been in France for about 3 months staying with family. Season 1 sees Rae learning to believe in friends again, at the same time keeping her breakdown and self harming a secret. The series appealed to me because I was 12 years old in 1996, just a few years younger than the lead character. The social elements of the mid 1990s will be easily recognisable to anyone who grew up then.
The end of season 1 sees Rae’s friendship group learn of the truth of her time in hospital. Rae learns that her friends aren’t going to abandon her because she has been ill. She has even developed a liking for Finn, one of the guys in her new friendship group. The end of the last episode of season 1 sees Finn showing how he also likes Rae – could her dream be coming true?
This brings us up to date, now season 2 has just started broadcasting on Monday nights from 17th February on E4 at 10pm. I was really happy to see that this series was returning. Episode 1 of season 2 continues straight on from season 1. The summer is ending. Rae and Finn, (the love interest) are in the beginning stages of getting together. Realisation hits Rae that college will be starting and she is still a virgin. Izzy, one of the other girls in the group, has got together with Chop, one of the three guys. Rae and Izzy are both virgins still, so the target is to lose their virginity before college starts.
Rae seems to be better and in control of her feelings and emotions, but in counselling sessions there seems to be an issue she is in denial about. After worrying what will happen on the first day of college, Rae also realises on a camping trip that Finn is out of her league and doesn’t lose her virginity with him, feigning a headache. They stay up and drink vodka instead. The camping trip was planned for the sole reason that Rae and Izzy would lose their virginity. Izzy reveals that the night before the trip she has already lost her virginity with Chop.
The first day of college starts and Rae feels panic as she thinks everyone is judging her being with Finn, as she considers him so much more attractive than herself. She inadvertently sets off the fire alarm. She goes to see her counsellor and they speak of the subject they have both been avoiding. Tix, Rae’s friend from her time in hospital, was suffering from anorexia had unfortunately taken a turn for the worse in her recovery. Tix had collapsed in an episode towards the end of season 1, and died over the summer. Rae didn’t want to go to the funeral. Rae visits Tix’s grave and has the courage to admit that she still needs help and is struggling with her image problems. She goes to the group therapy session that her counsellor had been trying to get her to go to. There she meets a guy she saw on her first day of college…..
I would recommend this series for the accuracy of its time setting. Those who were teenagers in the mid nineties are now hitting their early thirties. The music used is great, and reflective of that time period. The dramatic subject matter is handled sensitively, and there is a good balance with comedy. You can catch up from the beginning on 4OD. I’ll be back to review the rest of the season.
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