Penned by comedian Sophie Willan off the back of her own chaotic childhood, this thoughtful-yet-hilarious series looks at poverty, addiction, family and a woman with dreams.
Comedian Sophie Willan’s BAFTA-winning pilot Alma’s Not Normal – initially released with rave reviews in 2020 – has finally been made into a six-part series and it’s a must-watch.
Set in Bolton, the series centres around Alma, of course, who is trying to make her way in life after a nasty break-up. She’s also got other life-changing baggage just lurking beneath the surface: her mum grappled with her own mental health and addiction issues during Alma’s childhood, leading to her partially growing up in care.
When asked about her childhood and schooling in the context of a job interview, she cuttingly refers to a somewhat difficult, solitary upbringing, and herself as “Mowgli with a mullet” as she had to fend for herself a lot of the time. She also describes herself as “the baby from Trainspotting… if she’d lived”. Ouch.
These punchy descriptions do much to remind us of the shocking realities of poverty in the UK, and how it affects your entire life. The show explores this, as well as Alma’s strained relationships.
Willan’s pilot won her a BAFTA Television award for best comedy writer, and we can’t wait to see what she’s done with the rest of the series.
It may remind you of Fleabag in terms of its nuanced look at the female experience and relationships, specifically between sisters, but Alma’s Not Normal looks at a much less privileged part of the population – which is very necessary, and refreshing. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s Alma’s Not Normal about?
It tells the story of aspiring actor Alma, who has just been left by her boyfriend, Anthony, and with no way of paying the rent. “Forget men, I’m a career woman now,” she says, just before she’s told she’s only qualified to be a “sandwich artist” at a fast food chain.
As she goes about trying to get her life together, we get to know the other people near and dear to her, including her mother and her grandmother. Grandma Joan, in particular, brings us the leopard print-trousered look that we want to pull off. Goals.
On a more serious note, throughout the series Alma is forced to confront her experiences growing up in care. These threads of plot are taken from Willan’s own life, as she also spent some of her childhood in care and her mother was a heroin addict.
Willan wrote the first draft of the pilot script back in 2014, with the austerity measures of the Cameron government at the time as a template. This time, she told The Guardian, “felt really negative for welfare recipients, mental health [care] and social services recipients – people like my mother, people who’ve had difficulties.”
Who’s in it?
Willan will play Alma, alongside Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran who will bring Alma’s mum to the screen, while Grandma Joan is played by TV royalty Lorraine Ashbourne (think The Bill, Casualty and many other TV dramas).
This is the main trio, but keep your eyes peeled for God and Jesus, who are characters that have also been cast.
When does Alma’s Not Normal air?
The first episode aired this week on Monday 13 September, but all episodes are available to binge on BBC iPlayer. Or, episodes are set to be released weekly on BBC Two.
Where can I get a taster of Alma’s Not Normal?
Check out a whip smart, hilarious snapshot of Alma in this teaser video.