TV Review / A Love Letter to My Mad Fat Diary

Dear diary…

Based on the novel of the same name by the wonderful Rae Earl, My Mad Fat Diary has been on our screens for the last couple of years now. A unique blend of brilliant acting, writing and the 90s, the show quickly became a favourite of many teenagers, and the news of the third series being its last was hard for many to process. If I’m being honest, this post is most likely going to be totally biased as to why My Mad Fat Diary is so brilliant as it’s probably my favourite show in the world but even so, please stick with me if you can.

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The moment we all waited for…

The show focuses on 16-year-old Rachel Earl, a teenager with both mental health and weight issues amongst many other hang-ups deemed ‘normal’ for girls of her age to have. However, due to the problems she has already faced, we follow Rae along her way to dealing with these ‘norms’ alongside them. For me, this aspect of the show is what makes it revolutionary for so many viewers; writing a character dealing with mental health problems and being so frank and honest about them is what connects with people and gives the issue a platform to really expose and explain it. It makes people realise that everyone has these problems, some far deeper and far harder to cope with than others, while still discussing issues that most teenagers with or without these problems go through: sex, relationships, alcohol and drugs, bullying, etc. Yes, we’ve had shows like Skins and Misfits in the past but this is way more relatable in my opinion. For example, there have never really been any signs of someone getting killed via baseball bat — RIP Freddie. It portrays to the viewer that, yes, things can and will be difficult but you can cope and get through them, that it is possible, and Rae’s character is just one of many within the show to illustrate this. Everyone has something to relate to in this show, even if it is simply a crush on the (very handsome) Finn Nelson, which to be honest is hard not to develop over time.

My Mad Fat Diary is something that not only connects with viewers but also connects them together. I know first-hand the amount of support and love this show has received on social media, Twitter and Tumblr especially. Proclaiming themselves ’emus’, fans of the show are loud and proud and not ashamed in putting forth their opinion, as well as sharing their own experiences. This only makes the show more successful in my eyes as it has helped many people to gain friends and confidence in themselves, the confidence to speak up about their past and present issues, the confidence to be accepting of themselves and who they are and that is truly wonderful. It has gifted me with some amazing friends and also helped me to connect with people around the world, from as places as far as Italy and even South America, which is really something, right?

The boost of all things 90s is also key to this show – I can’t imagine it without its brilliant soundtrack of Oasis, Pulp, Blur, Eels and more, or without Rae’s band tees and flannel shirts. If you don’t know Twitter, it is awash with teenagers obsessed with the Britpop and 90s indie scene and this can only have helped matters. If you’re not in it for the love and relationships side of things, you’re more than likely in it for the world created by Rae Earl and writer Tom Bidwell. It makes me want to dig out a pair of dungarees and trainers and go to my local in a heartbeat (well… maybe not, but even so, you get my point).

If anything is more important than all of the above, it is the people that made the show exactly what it is. First of all, without the bloody wonderful Rae Earl, this show wouldn’t exist, so a huge thank you to her. Moreover, the writing of Tom Bidwell has really shaped this show. While at times we may not have agreed with his choices or his way of going about things, we’ve always enjoyed what he’s written, and damn, it’s really quotable. Quotable as hell. That man knows how to write a script.

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The amazing ‘gang’ on set (L-R: Darren Evans, Ciara Baxendale, Jordan Murphy, Dan Cohen, Nico Mirallegro, Sharon Rooney & Jodie Comer)

The cast of this show are immense, and even then that’s an understatement. Jodie Comer, Dan Cohen, Ciara Baxendale, Darren Evans, Sophie Wright; they all, collectively, make the most amazing gang and the best friends for Rae I could ever hope to write, and the show would be nowhere near as good without them (or Darren Evans’ amazing one liners as character Danny Two Hats). Nico Mirallegro… now, I could write a blog post about just how much I love this man but I’ll keep it short and sweet. His acting is nuanced and subtle but so bloody brilliant, he makes the character of Finn Nelson much more than just a love interest – he makes the character a much more well-rounded, if sadly unexplored character. If there was ever a call for a spin-off… just, think about it for a second… ah.

Claire Rushbrook, Bamshad Abedi-Amin and Keith Allen were all stellar casting decisions and if I could ask for anyone other than my own mother (also called Linda, funnily enough) to be there for me, I think I’d have to pick Claire in a heartbeat. Some of the absolute best moments of My Mad Fat Diary have included Claire in the role of Rae’s mother and have had me laughing and sobbing in equal measure. And props to Ian Hart, who despite being known to many as Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter, has produced some of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in this show. I will miss this cast just as much as I’ll miss anything else, they got it right every single time which is no mean feat.

Of course, My Mad Fat Diary would be absolutely nothing without the outstanding Sharon Rooney. Where do I start? Not only is she a brilliant, brilliant actress who pours everything she has into all she does but also, she’s such a caring, generous person. She connects with fans like no one else I’ve ever come across, and she always wants to make sure we’re enjoying the show and enjoying what her and the rest of the cast and crew have done. She’s a remarkable young woman who I know will go on to do even more wonderful things in her career. My Mad Fat Diary is just the start for her and that is pretty damn good, don’t you think? I see her as more of a friend than a celebrity and I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to lead a show like this.

As the show is now coming to an end, it’s heartbreaking really. For me and many others alike, it’s the end of an era, an institution in a way.I could harp on forever about this show; about Rae and her relationship with Kester, with her parents, with her boyfriend; the friendship between Rae and Chloe; the ‘shipping’ and endless fanfic revolving around her and Finn, etc. We’d be here all day. Although it’s ‘just a TV show’ to many who harp on about us all tweeting our reactions to those decisions, that therapy session or simply just marvelling over Nico Mirallegro’s (wonderful) bum, it has helped me and a sea of other people through a lot of things and for that I’m beyond grateful.

Don’t be a dickhead. Catch the final ever episode of My Mad Fat Diary on E4, Monday 6th July at 10pm (and make sure you have your tissues ready).

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