At Home with the Furys finally turns the reality TV lens to mental health in a good way
By showing that even one of the greatest boxers can be brought down by mental health, At Home with the Furys will hopefully empower more people to ask for help without fear of judgement, writes Liv Facey.
By: Liv Facey
From the minute At Home with the Furys opens, it’s obvious this show is different from other reality TV shows - and not because it focuses on the life of a heavy-weight boxing champion or because Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury feature in it, both of which are arguably the dullest things about the series. Instead, what makes this series so striking is the unfiltered light it shines on mental health.
As the series gives us an insight into what it’s like for a boxer in “retirement” (spoiler: he doesn’t stay retired for long), it explains Tyson Fury has bipolar disorder, ADHD, and struggles with depression, anxiety, alcohol addiction and drug abuse. All of these can, understandably, be hard to deal with as an individual and, on occasion, as a viewer of Fury on the show.
Viewers see Tyson struggle to grapple with what retirement means. He embodies the phrase: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Boxing is what he loves, and when he’s not doing it, not only does he struggle to find his place, but his mental health also deteriorates.
We get further clarity on this with the Fury family’s confessionals, which give us an understanding of Tyson’s way of thinking and how the family adapts to that. Despite Paris preferring Tyson not to box, if it improves his mental health she will do what’s necessary to deal with that.
In both Tyson and Paris’s confessionals, there is a seriousness amongst the humour in how they discuss Tyson’s erratic behaviour and how the family cope, which is rarely done in a series like this. It shows a different aspect to mental health and public figures that finally goes beyond discussions of trolling.
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Typically, reality TV shows and its stars don’t discuss the true reality of mental health on-screen. We often only explore it retrospectively, such as when mental health charities spoke out about Roxanne Pallett's PTSD diagnosis, or when reflecting on tragic moments, such as the deaths of UK Love Island stars Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.
It’s also common within the genre that if a star’s mental health is suffering, they remove themselves from the cameras, which is the case for Rob Kardashian, who hasn’t appeared on The Kardashian’s reality shows as a full-time cast member since season 13 of their original show Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
To finally have a reality TV show, especially one focussing on a prominent sports figure, fully embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of mental health is a welcome feature for reality TV fans like me, who love the drama as much as the serious. At Home with the Furys is able to alternate between sweet family moments, such as the christening of youngest child Athena Fury, to challenging moments, like Tyson walking out of that same event as his mental health takes a dip - thus giving an honest and frank insight into those with bipolar disorder.
It is well-known that men can find it difficult to talk openly about their feelings and their mental health, so by showing unfiltered moments on a show which has been designed to draw in male viewers, At Home with the Furys has the potential to spark meaningful conversations in male friendship groups and at home. As the show depicts, it’s ok to speak openly about your struggles and still have the support and respect of your partner and family.
While Paris Fury is the glue that holds this show and the Fury family together as she stands by Tyson, she also doesn’t shy away from the toll it takes on her. In the first episode, during a confessional, she says: “I do sometimes look and think 'you’re worse than the kids'… It does get on your nerves and it is hard to deal with, but I love him and I’m gonna help him and support him.” Likewise, discussions about mental health seem to empower other men, like Tyson’s father John, to talk humbly about their own struggles.
Paris is candid in explaining to the viewer that you can’t really talk Tyson out of the bad moods and while it is hard, you shouldn’t judge him too harshly either, because its something outside of his control. This is a message that is rightly echoed to viewers throughout.
By showing that even one of the greatest boxers can be brought down by mental health, it will hopefully empower more people to ask for help without fear of judgement. Moreover, I hope that this show sparks a change in how reality TV chooses to portray mental health.
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