For many, Dolly Alderton is the ultimate British millennial icon. She’s been a columnist for Sunday Times Style for years, has two bestselling books to her name (as well as her memoir, she published her debut novel Ghosts in 2020), was the co-host of popular podcast The High-Low for more than 150 episodes, and has a wardrobe and celebrity friendship group many would envy. But it was Everything I Know About Love that really cemented her place on the literary scene back in 2018, as she got right to the heart of the messiness of early adulthood. This new seven-part series is inspired by that book, rather than presented as a real-life drama, and is everything fans will have hoped for.
It's London in 2012, and the air is full of optimism. The London Olympics is around the corner (and features in one episode, along with the Diamond Jubilee) and up in Camden, four recent grads have moved into a flat share. While potential suitors abound, the central love story is between childhood best friends Maggie (Emma Appleton, Pistol and The Witcher) and Birdy (Bel Powley, The Morning Show and Diary of a Teenage Girl). Through various flashbacks to the early 2000s, we learn the two have been friends since the start of secondary school and see them bond over braces, glittery keyrings and Kylie Minogue dance routines. Now aged 24, they’ve been there for each other through thick and thin, but things start to change when Birdy finds a boyfriend and starts spending all her free time with him instead. To make matters worse, it was Maggie who introduced them – nice but dull Nathan is the sensible flatmate of her current fling Street, a self-obsessed, trilby-toting muso she met on a train.
But this isn’t just about whether Maggie and Birdy’s platonic love can survive the arrival of romance. Like the book, it’s also a celebration of wider groups of girlfriends. Maggie’s house share is also inhabited by two friends from university, Amara (newcomer Aliyah Odoffin) and forthright Scot Nell (Marli Siu, Alex Rider). Ricocheting between all four lives, the series is an unflinching account of disastrous dates, first jobs, torturous job interviews, heartache and humiliation – but all peppered with the inherent sense of fun and freedom you only ever experience in your 20s.
This isn’t a straight run-through of the book, although fans will spot plenty of similarities. Maggie is undeniably Dolly: she’s tall, opinionated, loves a cigarette on a night out (and in bed and while dancing round the flat naked) and is dressed in outfits that have become a trademark for Alderton – vintage fur coats, knee-high boots and short, fun dresses that emphasise her long legs. Maggie might be brunette rather than blonde, but she still has the huge eyes and chunky fringe. Best of all are the subtler changes. Alderton was a show writer for mega-popular reality show Made in Chelsea in its early days. In Everything I Know About Love, the show is amusingly retitled as Heirs & Graces and the image of the three romantically unattached friends piled onto the sofa glued to the show is one of the series’ most relatable, nostalgic moments. There’s also a painfully universal conversation when Maggie starts totting up all the water and electricity Nathan must have used, and not paid for, in the house since he arrived on the scene.
It’s not all bang on the nose. Despite having major damp issues (a moment here to appreciate Line of Duty’s Craig Parkinson as a typically crap landlord who unironically moonlights as the host of daytime TV show Dodgy Dealers), the house they live in seems much larger and certainly much nicer than most fresh-out-of-uni grads should be able to afford, even ten years ago. Then there’s the unlikelihood of Maggie and Street bumping into each other just two weeks after they deliberately didn’t swap numbers, figuring if they were meant to meet again, they would.
Alderton herself has described being in your 20s as “the decade of wilderness and learning”. And there’s plenty of that here: the crushing sense of being constantly broke; the sinking feeling when you’re stuck at home when your housemates are all out with colleagues; the pressure to take drugs so your friends don’t think you’re boring. But mostly, it drills into how fun and full of friends these years tend to be. This is a series for anyone who used to wear Karen Millen and Kate Moss for Topshop dresses, and – most of all – for anyone craving a booze-soaked night out clubbing or a night in messing around with their oldest friends.
Everything I Know About Love starts tonight at 10.40pm on BBC1 and is available to watch on iPlayer now.
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