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What Is 'This Way Up' About? Aisling Bea Explores Tough Topics With Humor

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If you ever had a fever dream after hours of marathoning Fleabag and Derry Girls that smushed together the psychologically poignant comedy of one with the accent of the other, then get ready: do I have a show for you. Starting Aug. 21 on Hulu, you can add to your coterie of female-led U.K.-based comedies with This Way Up. But what is This Way Up about?

Thank you for asking. This Way Up is the six-episode story of a woman trying to get her life together. That may sound like a simple hook, but, as always, there's a lot more to it than that. Series creator Aisling Bea stars as Aine, who has recently left a rehab facility after experiencing a vaguely-termed "nervous breakdown." Her sister Shona (Sharon Horgan) can't help but be a little overprotective, even as her boyfriend Vish (Aasif Mandvi) encourages her to let Aine handle things on her own. Aine lives in London and teaches English, which embroils her in the life of a French student named Etienne (Dorian Grover) and his father Richard (Tobias Menzies). Her ex Freddie (Chris Geere) isn't entirely out of the picture, either.

On the face of it, that doesn't exactly sound like an action-packed ride. But that's not the point. It's about one woman navigating her experiences with humor and pathos, and doing so with her own specific voice.

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The trailer combines laughter with that slightly uncomfortable-but-exciting feeling that social media usually deems "relatable." Aine makes her own fun, but her recent rehab stint isn't that far behind her. Characters ask if she's "fixed," as if that's how mental health works, and she's warned at one point that the fire inside her could burn everything (and everyone) in its path. But her sense of humor is a through-line, as is her strong bond with her sister Shona.

"I believe you can be irreverent and funny about serious things and it gives them less power in a good way," Bea said while speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. "But I also wanted to make this feel like a show of its own and grubby and rough and messy rather than too polished and shiny." She went on to discuss her inspiration for This Way Up, which stemmed from something she was reading about how loneliness is a disease. It affects people and how they relate to one another, but people are also afraid to own up to how alone they feel. So she decided to create a comedy based on loneliness, mining jokes from a topic that doesn't easily lend itself to them.

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This Way Up was also a long time in the making. In a statement shared with Deadline, Bea said that it came after "years of scripts and projects that never made it to air," so it was a dream come true for her. The show might end up feeling quite personal to its audience, even if Aine's exact issues aren't ones you've faced. This Way Up deals with things that many people have to handle on a daily basis, but with a little bit of a wink that keeps it from getting too unbearably real.

This Way Up is currently available on Hulu.