Out of Her Mind: Sara Pascoe’s sitcom has a cynicism that wears thin

Charlotte Cripps
·4-min read
Sara Pascoe stars in her own BBC sitcom ‘Out of Her Mind’ playing a deranged version of herself (BBC)
Sara Pascoe stars in her own BBC sitcom ‘Out of Her Mind’ playing a deranged version of herself (BBC)

Sara Pascoe announces right at the start of her new sitcom what her intentions are: “I’m going to destroy your faith in love.” The six-part comedy, which started on Tuesday on BBC Two, might be playfully light-hearted – but it’s also seething with resentment.

With a best friend who is pregnant and a sister who’s getting married, the needy, single Sara (Pascoe plays a deranged version of herself) actively tries to ruin any chance of happiness they might have. In one scene, her mum suggests she throws a baby shower for her pregnant friend (played by Cariad Lloyd, Pascoe’s real-life best friend). “The only throwing I’ll be doing is up,” says Sara, as she makes a vomiting noise. I can’t say I laughed much – and I watched all six episodes.

It’s not that I don’t understand her character’s struggles. I remember what it felt like to have friends announcing they were pregnant when I wasn’t – it was like a stab in my heart – or when they got hitched and I found myself pushed out. I also have a dysfunctional family and I’m now single – like Sara – but Pascoe’s sitcom is too over the top. Call me sentimental, but why does she feel the need to convince everybody else that love isn’t real?

When her sister Lucy shows off her engagement ring in the first episode, Sara’s speechless. “What’s the point of marriage?” she thinks. “We are all skeletons with meat on us.” It’s fine to think that, but when her sister says her fiancé makes her feel amazing, why hit her with, “So do crisps from a vending machine”? Love, she says, is “just biological triggers and responses – it’s no more romantic than digestion and excretion”.

Although her character’s cynicism – as we learn – is because she was jilted by her fitness instructor fiancé Craig 15 years ago as she was trying on her wedding dress, her words are still dishearteningly ungenerous. Her ramblings are more suited to a jealous person than a cynic. Sara is self-obsessed, childlike, and attention-seeking. It’s part of the joke, but watching her meddle in the lives of her dearest and nearest quickly wears thin.

Pascoe’s character is cynical about love after she was dumped by her fiancé while trying on her wedding dressBBC/Jack Barnes
Pascoe’s character is cynical about love after she was dumped by her fiancé while trying on her wedding dressBBC/Jack Barnes

It’s amusing in parts. Her mum Carol (Juliet Stevenson) is an exercise addict who drinks wine on the exercise bike; her sister wants a boob job so she’s not left for “Debbie big tits” like Sara was; and her pregnant best friend keeps stuffing her face. Nobody feels good enough in their own skin.

When Sara confides in the audience that she will “become part of the cult” and “keep her feelings buried”, it’s inauthentic. It’s just too hard to believe in a character who runs around the kitchen in the wedding dress she got dumped in shouting hysterically, “I really love weddings!” while pretending she’s “getting behind the terrible decision”. And even when she does organise a baby shower for her best friend, it’s only to fan her own ego. “I arranged all this!” she screams. She really thinks babies are “bad for the environment”.

Out Of Her Mind follows on from other confessionals such as I Hate Suzie or Fleabag. But while their characters are relatably flawed, Sara isn’t. These types of shows work because you identify so much that it’s more like staring in the mirror than watching TV. But Out of Her Mind is like a living nightmare. Imagine having a relative/friend on your case 24/7 about your life choices? There’s no vulnerability here – it’s just lectures. Rather than subverting the sitcom genre – as it is billed – it’s a masterclass in bitterness.

There’s a glimmer of hope at the end of the first episode when Sara sobs about being rejected by her fiancé. Perhaps her broken heart will make her realise that love is more than just a chemical reaction? But even if she stops sitting on her high horse, why would anybody want this woman in their life? Will Sara find love in the end, despite hammering us over the head with how “romantic love is the most disgusting thing of all”? Or will she learn to be comfortable alone? It’s got to the point where I just don’t care. The show seems to be producing the chemical melatonin in me – that hormone that makes you feel drowsy. Or am I just bored out of my mind?

‘Out of Her Mind’ is on BBC2 on Tuesdays

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