by Kathy Fuller
I LOVE BBC television. I’m a big fan of their short seasons, clever writing, tight plotting, and real characters. But I’m also envious of BBC. The writers seem to have much more freedom to be honest, messy, and politically incorrect. They take chances. My Mad Fat Diary is one of them.
The story premise (based very loosely on the published diary of Rae Earl) is straightforward: set in 1996, an overweight teen with self-esteem issues re-enters the world after a stint in a mental hospital. Rae’s issues have issues–she’s fat, her mother is self-centered, her father is absent, her best friend is often her worst enemy…the list goes on. To deal, she overeats, cuts herself, and is suicidal. Pretty much your standard angst-ridden coming-of-age story.
Except when it’s not. There’s an excellent balance between melodrama and humor. The pacing is slightly askew and impulsive, just like teenage life. Basic writing formula is present, but it’s often turned on it’s head. So what can writers learn from this show?