In a television world full of comedy-dramas that are fun if not funny, Such Brave Girls is a refreshingly scrappy sitcom. The British import is brisk and barebones, but that only makes room for the show’s uniquely dry, dark comedic sensibilities.
Comedian Kat Sadler headlines the series, serving as its creator, writer, and star. Such Brave Girls is inspired by her own experience with mental illness and all of the complexities that come with it, distilled into the character of Josie. She’s semi-fresh off of a suicide attempt, doing her best to reacclimate to her life back at home. She lives with her somewhat similarly suffering sister Billie (Lizzie Davidson, Sadler’s own sister in real life) and her mother Deb (Louise Brealey). All three feel that they can trace most of their problems back to one event: when the girls’ dad stepped out for tea bags years ago, never to return. He left the family in debt, sure, but the real sin that leaves Josie and co. reeling? That’s robbing these young women of a stable male figure in their lives. Luckily, Deb is in the process of finally wrangling a respectable man, Dev (Paul Bazely), and once she lands him, she and the girls will be home free.
Across six short episodes, the show delivers jokes galore about trauma—the word is invoked so many times that it could inspire a fairly dangerous drinking game. Josie’s entire identity revolves around her hardships, from her deep-seated abandonment issues to her vaguely untreated depression. She can seemingly only connect by bringing up what’s wrong with her, a conversational tool that serves as her primary method of flirtation with a hot bartender named Sid (Jude Mack). In a world where we’re becoming more and more consumed with what’s wrong with us via pastel Instagram infographics and dubiously defined therapy speak, it’s an insightful and acerbic take on how we communicate.
Meanwhile, Billie is nearly every daddy-issues stereotype incarnate. She craves attention from Nicky (Sam Buchanan), her glorified situationship who will say “I love you” only when they’re role playing in bed. She chases him even after he starts going out with another girl, after he gets her kicked out of a club, after he blocks her number. She’s even convinced that her dad will come back from the shops at some point, even though it’s been years. She gets plenty of lines about how men never chase women for love like this, and she’s more right than she realizes.
Such Brave Girls works so well because it’s willing to go so low—both sisters (and their mother) have certainly been through it, but they’re also deeply horrible, shallow people. Deb dismantles Josie’s meek confidence every chance she gets, while Billie is glad to make dumb decisions and debase herself for a boy. Josie somehow loiters in her own life, so consumed by her own self pity that she can’t think of a way to describe herself outside of her trauma. Each woman is a desperate mess, and though it’s all quite dark, it’s delightful to muck around in the gutter with them.
The dark, dumb sense of humor does threaten to feel one note and tired at times, in spite of the show’s short length. For every ridiculous gag about Billie trying to remove a hickey of immoral origin with a nail file (fantastic, no notes), there’s a handful of repetitive lines about what she’s willing to compromise for her boyfriend. When Josie’s insistence that she’s artistic finally comes to hilariously middling fruition, it makes up for several on the nose conversations about art and pain and the like. There isn’t much growth or learning to be had, and though that’s hardly an issue in a short sitcom, it does lead to more than a deja vu moments that keep the show from really soaring.
There are many things that the series jokes about that seem taboo, from unwanted pregnancies to therapy to sexuality, but Such Brave Girls tackles them, well, bravely. It’s not because there’s a heartfelt message at the show’s center, or that it’s trying to make a statement on societal ills, but because the show is just so willing to go there and do it candidly. Life is ugly, and sometimes we are too—why not laugh about it?