Similar in style to her bestselling books, Sara Pascoe’s new BBC show is an unusual blend of science and comedy which tackles themes such as sexism, societal expectations and self-image. A surrealist take on a sitcom, Out Of Her Mind presents an absurdist version of Sara’s everyday life as a comedian. Using a combination of animation, narration and ensemble sequences, the six-part series follows a single woman in her 30s who’s surrounded by married, pregnant people. It may sound like an overdone trope but the sitcom’s novel mix of storytelling methods provides an interesting twist on the 'funny feminist' genre while keeping things light with a bitesize half-hour viewing time.
In the first episode we meet Sara as she's skating around a warehouse in a sparkly spandex suit. Pointing towards a projector featuring her own face, she introduces herself as the "main character" and "hero" of the series who is here to "destroy your faith in love". We soon learn that her little sister has just got engaged, which Sara receives as devastating news. Switching back to her internal monologue in the warehouse (aka her subconscious), she presents a series of animated slides about dopamine and oxytocin, explaining how love is nothing more than a set of biological triggers akin to "digestion and excretion". However, back in the real world, Sara struggles to communicate this theory to her sister, instead uttering the words "your relationship is shit" to her face.
Unsurprisingly this clumsy admission doesn’t go down well and causes a sizeable rift between the siblings. It soon becomes clear, however, that there may be more to Sara’s icky feelings about commitment than she’s allowing the audience to see. Talking to the camera, she insists on showing "no flashbacks" but before long we see shots of her alone in a wedding dress, several years prior. Fighting to cover up the footage of a man telling her "it’s over", Sara professes that her backstory of "exquisite pain and rejection" is entirely removed from her current cynicism about love and relationships. But as hard as she tries to put on a face for her sister, her negative attitude towards monogamy continues to spill over, leaving her to confront her complicated feelings about the engagement alone.
Though the series discusses fairly well-trudged topics, the way in which the story is told manages to make comic clichés feel fresh. Jumping back and forth between Sara’s internal monologue and her everyday life, the format feels somewhat like a pantomime, bringing everything to life with exaggerated theatrics and asides to the audience. While the main character is shown to be highly self-absorbed, she’s also self-aware, making her feel more realistic and relatable to the viewer. Further down the line, we begin to sympathise with the character as we learn more about her lived experiences and reasons for sometimes being a rubbish friend/sister/daughter.
Overall, the series more closely resembles a stage show than a scripted sitcom. Using screen projectors and garish costumes to illustrate plot points, at times it feels more like you're watching kids' TV than something made for adults. Yet perhaps this childlike format allows it to discuss mature subjects without getting too heavy, touching on sensitive themes like abortion and body dysmorphia throughout the six-episode run.
Out Of Her Mind may present itself as an off-the-wall, oddball comedy but it is firmly grounded in reality. Discussing the fears that come with going against societal norms as a woman in her 30s, the series might not be saying anything new but its honest approach and fantastical format make it entertaining viewing nonetheless. If you're in search of a series that doesn’t take life too seriously, Out Of Her Mind should be at the top of your autumn watch list.
Out Of Her Mind premieres at 10pm on Tuesday 20th October on BBC Two.