Everything I Know About Love review: A love letter to your messy twenties
The BBC adaptation is joyful and comfortingly nostalgic, despite (or perhaps because of) distinct similarities with other shows.
In the first episode of Everything I Know About Love, the semi-fictionalised adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s memoir, wild-child Maggie and best friend Birdy find themselves sharing a chaste cuddle in bed together after a night out - their first since moving to London, where they’re now renting a mould-ridden house in Camden with two female friends from university.
Whether or not you were in your twenties in the 2010s (when the series is set), everything in the scene feels distinct and familiar in its sheer, relatable messiness, from the socks and underwear drying on the radiator and the easy, hungover embrace the two friends share, to the instant despair of checking your online bank balance the morning after.
The friendship between Maggie and Birdy (loosely based on Alderton’s relationship with her own childhood best friend) also feels achingly real: they are opposites attract, platonic soulmates, each other’s ride-or-die, blissfully unaware that a different kind of love is right around the corner for Birdy, as her new boyfriend (the handsome, very dull Nathan) upends her priorities.
But during this early scene, with Birdy and Maggie in bed together, we learn everything we need to know about the two friends - and hints of why Birdy will need to pull away.
Birdy is not, by nature, a risk taker. She is the fresh-faced ‘sensible friend’ who wears Karen Millen, chivvies her friends at the start of a night out, and owns too many face cloths. This is a role she is content to lean into, a contrast to her cool, spontaneous best friend: “You’re someone who actually likes skinny-dipping,” she tells Maggie in bed, before they hug (“Oh I wish you’d wear pants,” she adds).
At the start of the season, Birdy has never had a boyfriend, instead living vicariously through Maggie’s wild dating anecdotes. It’s clear that Birdy needs to go out and live her own life, rather than playing the sidekick - and that opportunity comes in the form of a first date with Nathan, before which she agonises over emergency conversation topics (council tax and Russell Brand, apparently).
When Birdy is no longer available at Maggie’s beck and call, we see it’s Maggie who spirals, unable to spend even a night alone in the empty Camden house.
How much you enjoy the series might depend on whether you find its spoilt “posh” protagonist Maggie charming, or annoying. Personally, I oscillated between the two: her self-absorption can be off-putting, especially when she hurts those around her, but she is also very human, meaning she’s relatable (like while furiously totting up how much hot water Nathan uses when he stays over).
It’s also oddly frustrating when Maggie, with no experience - and with help from old-fashioned nepotism - blags her way into a story producer role on a hit TV series, only shortly after Birdy is rejected from a job she desperately wanted and over-prepared for.
Maggie, at least, is self-aware (“We are in a boom of mediocre girls making a name for themselves by being moderately funny on the internet!”). She is more sympathetic when we see her interactions with Street, an aspiring musician and poser who quotes Philip Larkin, and with whom she embarks on a doomed romance. She makes every effort, dutifully listening to his mix-tape CDs and even turning up on his doorstep with nothing on but a coat and lingerie.
Completing the quartet of housemates alongside Birdy and Maggie are Nell, a school teacher, and Amara, who works in corporate London and endures the everyday morning nuisance of changing into heels on a park bench outside her offices. In the early episodes, these two characters only function as back-up dancers to the central duo, although the series later delves into their separate storylines, and examines how race impacts Amara's work and dating life.
Everything I Know About Love may cause deja vu for some viewers. With a focus on four female friends living in the big city, the show shares similarities with the likes of Girls, The Bold Type, and of course, Sex and the City, a favourite show of creator Dolly Alderton (a host of the podcast Sentimental in the City) and which similarly focuses on straight, conventionally attractive leads. As a self-destructive, charming writer, Maggie is undoubtedly the ‘Caggie’ of her group (Birdy is the ‘Charlotte’).
But despite (or perhaps because of) its similarities to past shows, Everything I Know About Love is an easy, fun watch, and feels comfortingly nostalgic, populated by hopeful, funny young women dressed in Kate Moss for Topshop and navigating their first jobs, first loves, and above all, the ups and downs of female friendship.
You can purchase the book of Everything I Know About Love on Amazon here.
The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.