If there is one show I think everyone should watch (during Pride Month or just generally), it is Netflix’s Feel Good. An autographical TV series, this biopic of Mae Martin’s life is filled with drama, comedy, heartbreak, confliction, passion, family breakdown and the varying state of relationships – as well as the characters. Like all shows, it is built on the different characters and their interactions, in this case, real people exaggerated for television. So, let us break down these moving parts to see their traits, roles and importance within the show.
As always, please note this may contain spoilers.
Mae Martin (Mae Martin)
The television programme’s focus and co-writer on the show, it is needless to say that the talented Canadian comedian is the star of the show. An unbelievably, unfathomably, near unnervingly amazing actor, you would imagine the basis of her show (being about her life) is what drove her to her outstanding performance in Feel Good.
Martin is a stand-up comic with an innocent crush on a fan, pursuing the apple of her eye even though the one she is in love with is heterosexual. Despite the clashing sexualities, Martin eventually gets Georgia who she clearly thoroughly loves in the first series. Mae, in likely the role of her career, is the one who more passionately loves George but is still apprehensive about her partner’s sexuality. There are questions as to if Mae is just chasing ‘straight’ girls until the joy wears off.
Mae in her life has many issues, however. Playing upon real-life, she has a disconnect with her parents as well as past struggles with drugs. Coming down from a run on illicit substances, she is still taking pills when she attends narcotics anonymous meetings. Living a life of general misery and misfortune, she says falling in love with George is the greatest thing to ever happen to her. It seems as if beyond that, she has little – with few friends or allies in life. The most complex character in the show, she goes through a number of troubles throughout the series with her actions and events leading to trouble further on. A startling and soberingly poignant reflection on the life of many young people today (and more specifically those who have LGBTQ+ sexualities).
Georgina Lawson (Charlotte Ritchie)
A rising acting star, Charlotte Ritchie has appeared in shows from Dr Who to Death In Paradise to Fresh Meat. In Feel Good, Ritchie portrays Georgina (more commonly referred to as George). A well-off, pretty, previously-heterosexual young lady who catches the eye of Mae Martin at one of her comedy gigs.
Although she was previously into males, she finds happiness with the Canadian Martin. George is surrounded by posh, stuck-up, obnoxious friends who she does not trust to tell about her new love situation due to their constant talk of sex. Furthermore, there is a clear generation divide between George and her mother (who is recently divorced), although not as much clear resentment as that of Mae and her mother.
The ex-Taskmaster panellist’s character is a teacher in the day, tutoring at a secondary school. George does not tell anyone about her relationship. Ritchie arguably shows more concern and love towards Mae physically with her being concerned over ‘Corn’ (George’s nickname for Mae)’s drug use, inability to reach orgasm and eventual departure. A sweet yet misplaced girl, she finds it hard to adapt to her new life at times but clearly has a deep affection for Miss Martin.
Linda Martin (Lisa Kudrow)
Likely the best-known actor in the entire show, Mae herself was surprised the actor formerly known as Friends’s Phoebe accepted the role as her storyline mother.
Kudrow appears nearly entirely (except the fourth episode) by Skype as she video messages in from Canada. Kudrow is a snobbish, pretentious, rich mother who is only willing to accept her actions are right. As such a hateable, self-serving character, she often finds people who question her as “rude” and is filled with complaints about multiple things. We also find out she is writing a book.
It is found out that it was Linda who kicked Mae out of the house in her teens for her drug-related habits. The cold, callous and distant mother refuses to acknowledge these years and talk about these events. Even when physically confronted, she justifies herself – barely communicating or listening to her daughter.
Although there is no true villain in this story, Linda comes across as one of the more heinous, despicable characters in the show. Similar to An Inspector Calls’s Mrs Birling, she is a mother who is unrelenting, ruthless and downright insufferable. A very different role to being the high-octane Phoebe in Friends, Kudrow’s performance here shows her versatility at playing two roles at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Malcolm Martin (Adrian Lukis)
The husband of Linda is actually quite different in nature to his wife. More softly-spoken, wise and charming, Malcolm is a much more comforting and lovable character than his wife.
He does not like conversations to get too personal or negative, often leaving when Mae brings up her narcotic struggles or abandonment – reflecting the regret he may have for these instances. Malcolm is shown to be a truly likeable and cuddly figure through his surprisingly cute and heart-warming connection with George; the two talking about a pub in Oxford and Malcolm toasting to the joyous experience of meeting her. This is returned with George gifting him some wanted cockles to his delight. He also has an affectionate relationship with his daughter, endearingly calling her “monkey” and giving a talk to Mae on Blackpool pier before giving her a caring kiss on her head.
In this contrasting marriage, no character really overpowers the other with both vastly differing in attitude. We do not see as much of him on-screen as Linda but for his time, he is a person who we think of as a cuddly individual to that of his wife.
Phil (Phil Burgers)
Living alongside George (and later Mae) in their flat is Phil.
We learn that Phil is originally from Hollywood, being cast with a strong hippie vibe. With his east coast attitude, he is depicted as a wacky, cool dude who is off-the-wall. He speaks little but is a character who aids the story, suggesting ideas to help out the couple’s relationship and being supportive to his fellow housemates. Both his home-sharers know very little of him with them barely ever interacting prior to George getting with Mae – this includes his bizarre job.
Whilst serving little storyline purpose beyond his occasional guidance, Phil is the character who most helps contribute to the comedic aspects of the TV show. A classic ‘California hippie’ role, he is one of the more noteworthy and beloved side characters in Feel Good.
Maggie (Sophie Thompson)
Maggie is a fellow member of Mae’s Narcotics Anonymous meetings, whom she befriends early on. Maggie and Mae bond over their hate for the meetings, Maggie’s crazed nature and love for coffee. The wacky Maggie is clearly trying to live a crazy life but is actually subtly stalking her daughter who has chosen to not be associated or be in contact with her mother. Maggie had previously dodged questions about if she had children. Maggie becomes Mae’s sponsor.
Maggie works to get back her daughter, feeling admiration for Mae for managing to reunite the mother and daughter. Although aware of Mae’s partner George, she is unaware of the relationship status between Mae and her daughter, who herself has a thing for Martin.
After having become close friends over the past few weeks, Maggie terminates her friendship when Mae’s actions with her daughter lead to Maggie and her daughter once again being separated. Maggie effectively disowns Mae and drops her as someone she is sponsoring to become “a mad old woman you used to know”.
Lava (Ritu Arya)
Maggie’s daughter is Lava. Lava – or Laura as she prefers to be called – is a stone-faced, emotionless character with a crush on Mae. Lava is said to have known she was a lesbian from a young age and becomes more interested in bedding Mae Martin when she learns the Canadian comedian is having trouble reaching climax in her current relationship with George.
During a brief split between George and Mae, Martin needs to find new housing so she temporarily moves in with Maggie and Lava. Hesitant to move so fast but going along nonetheless, Martin and Lava do have sexual relations. However, Martin’s lack of commitment leads to Lava walking away from both mother and Mae to Maggie’s anger.
A super serious character, Lava is a complex cog in the broken true love story between George and Mae. A complex twist, this spanner is thrown into the works as Mae moves from George to the family duo to suddenly no one.
Karen (Sindhu Vee)
Not a main character but one who nonetheless deserves the mention, Sindhu Vee’s character Karen is a member of the NA meetings. She appears in all episodes in the first series in this role, with her stories being bombastic and majestic yet obviously false.
She talks about fake reuniting with her sister and talking with George Clooney about pranking Brad Pitt amongst other faux stories, she spews fake events – lying to the whole group. This furthers the idea of someone who has become crazed and delusional by drugs. However, it is revealed in a later episode she has never even taken drugs but is in the group due to her loneliness and wanting to be with people who perhaps may be equally as bizarre.
Overall, I believe Feel Good is one of the greatest TV shows of the 21st century. It helps the story is told by the person themselves, with what could have been a show easily dismissible as lesbian smut being something far bigger as a pure, true, beautiful love story.
An amazingly written piece of work, it is a symbol of the many winding trials and tribulations in living life as someone in the LGBTQ+ community. It is exactly how the themes should be presented – a powerful, reflective view of the many factors of life and how they impact everyone. These themes I feel we can all relate to no matter our sexuality; with the show’s first season being an unquestionable masterpiece.
Described as a British comedy-drama, and created by Mae Martin and Joe Hampson. It is a semi-autobiographical romantic comedy starring Mae Martin as herself and Charlotte Ritchie as Mae’s girlfriend, George. Feel Good is captivating and important television.
Feel Good is available to watch on Netflix.