Normal People (TV series)
Title screen of the first episode
|Based on||Normal People|
by Sally Rooney
|Country of origin||Ireland|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23–34 minutes|
|Picture format||HDTV 1080i|
|First shown in||United Kingdom|
|Original release||26 April 2020|
Normal People is an Irish drama television series produced by Element Pictures for BBC Three and Hulu in association with Screen Ireland. Based on the novel of the same name by Sally Rooney, the series follows the relationship between Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal), as they navigate adulthood from their final days in secondary school to their undergraduate years in Trinity College. The series was primarily written by Rooney and Alice Birch, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald.
The series was released on BBC Three in the United Kingdom on 26 April 2020, followed by weekly airings on BBC One. It premiered on RTÉ One in Ireland on 28 April 2020. In the United States, the series was released in its entirety on Hulu on 29 April 2020. The series has received critical acclaim, with praise for the performances, writing, and its portrayal of mature content.
The series follows Marianne and Connell through their time at secondary school in County Sligo on Ireland's Atlantic coast, and later as undergraduates at Trinity College Dublin. The focus is mainly on Connell's and Marianne's weaving in and out of each other's romantic lives. Among her peers at secondary school Marianne is regarded as an oddball, though she rejects having any care for social standing. Her home life is complicated by her irritable mother Denise and resentful brother Alan in the face of her high academic standing. Her father is deceased and is revealed to have been a domestic abuser—something her family avoids in conversation. Connell is a high-achieving athletic student living with his single mother Lorraine, who is employed by Denise as a cleaner. He is popular in the school community, though he is diminished by his remaining silent during the bullying of Marianne. This creates complexity as their relationship develops.
- Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne Sheridan, a student from an affluent family who is studious, outspoken, and therefore disliked. She begins a relationship with Connell which he suggests they keep secret. She also attends Trinity College and studies history and politics.
- Paul Mescal as Connell Waldron, a well-liked, academically gifted student. His mother works as a cleaner for Marianne's family. He struggles with what he wants out of life and decides to follow Marianne's suggestion and apply to be an undergraduate at Trinity College Dublin to study English.
- Sarah Greene as Lorraine Waldron, Connell's single mother who is employed by the Sheridan family as their cleaner. She and Connell share a close relationship and she expresses disappointment when Connell chooses his public image over treating Marianne well when they are in school. Prior to Marianne and Connell's secret relationship, she is very close with Marianne.
- Aislín McGuckin as Denise Sheridan, Marianne's single wealthy mother who is a solicitor. Marianne's father is described as being abusive towards her and she doesn't have a close relationship with Marianne and often fails to control Alan's abuse towards Marianne throughout the series.
- Eanna Hardwicke as Rob Hegarty, a close friend of Connell's who also attends the same school. He later dies by suicide which devastates Connell later in the series.
- Frank Blake as Alan Sheridan, Marianne's brother with whom she's not close. He does not treat Marianne well, frequently makes derisive comments about her, and is sometimes physically aggressive.
- Eliot Salt as Joanna, a friend Marianne makes at Trinity College.
- India Mullen as Peggy, a friend Marianne makes at Trinity College who also comes from a wealthy background.
- Desmond Eastwood as Niall, Connell's flatmate during his time at Trinity College. He and Marianne become friends and he often encourages Connell and Marianne's relationship.
- Sebastian de Souza as Gareth, the classmate of Connell's at Trinity College who is an advocate of free speech and Marianne's early collegiate love interest.
- Fionn O'Shea as Jamie, part of Marianne's social circle at Trinity College who is very competitive. He has a crush on Marianne throughout their university days.
- Leah McNamara as Rachel Moran, a fellow schoolmate of Marianne and Connell's and part of Connell's social circle. She and Connell once had a casual fling, making her occasionally jealous of Marianne. Connell chooses to go to the debutants' dance with her over Marianne resulting in them becoming estranged for the first time.
- Seán Doyle as Eric, one of Connell's school friends.
- Niamh Lynch as Karen, one of the nicer girls to Marianne at school in Sligo
- Kwaku Fortune as Philip, a friend of Marianne's at Trinity College.
- Clinton Liberty as Kiernan.
- Aoife Hinds as Helen Brophy, Connell's girlfriend at Trinity College.
- Lancelot Ncube as Lukas, Marianne's boyfriend in Sweden.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||UK release date||US release date||Ireland air date|
|1||Episode 1||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||28 April 2020|
|At a secondary school in rural Ireland, County Sligo, a friendship sparks between the popular athlete Connell and outcast Marianne, which soon ignites into an intense romance. Connell lives at home with his kind mother, and Marianne lives in a mansion with her distant, busy mother and hateful brother. Connell’s mother happens to be the housekeeper at Marianne's home. Marianne confronts Connell about her feelings for him, but he's uncertain due to social pressures and keeps their acquaintance hidden.|
|2||Episode 2||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||28 April 2020|
|Connell and Marianne's romance blossoms, but he is eager to keep their relationship a secret to protect his high social standing in school. Connell takes Marianne's virginity, and they continue to grow closer. However, Connell continues to ignore her in school. Marianne acts as though it's fine, but it puts their delicate connection under strain. Connell and his mother are very close in contrast to the high tension between Marianne and her family which continues to grow.|
|3||Episode 3||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||5 May 2020|
|As their school days come to a close, Marianne cuts Connell off after a hurtful betrayal. Marianne turns up to a party rocking a new look which surprises everyone. After a hurtful encounter at the party Connell drives her home, and they make up. Connell doesn't ask Marianne to the debs, which is the final straw. His mum expresses Marianne's hurt, but Connell brushes it off. Marianne stays home on the night of the debs still feeling betrayed; meanwhile Connell dances the night away with Rachel. Later on full of beer and regret, Connell stumbles home crying contemplating his loss.|
|4||Episode 4||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||5 May 2020|
|As he struggles to fit in at Trinity College, Connell is reunited with Marianne through Gareth, a classmate whom she is seeing. The tables are turned as Marianne has become the popular one and Connell the friendless loner. After meeting at a party they decide they still want each other in their lives despite Marianne having moved on.|
|5||Episode 5||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||12 May 2020|
|Late night calls and constant close contact means Marianne's bond with Connell grows stronger. He becomes a part of Marianne's clique although doesn't really fit in. He apologises for how he treated her before leading to Marianne doubting her seemingly strong relationship with Gareth. After thinking it over she abruptly dumps him and then sleeps with Connell soon after returning from a party. However someone else also has their eye on Marianne...|
|6||Episode 6||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||12 May 2020|
|For a while, things are ideal and Connell and Marianne's renewed relationship blossoms due to lack of pressure for once. Marianne goes home for a family dinner which ends in tears due to more abuse from her brother. After he loses his job Connell can no longer pay his rent. Unable to stay and too ashamed to ask Marianne to stay at her place, he has to temporarily move back to Sligo, and their fling comes to an abrupt end but it's not clear why.|
|7||Episode 7||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||19 May 2020|
|Connell spends his days in Sligo getting drunk with old friends. Meanwhile, Jamie is finally free to make his move on Marianne and they start seeing each other. After meeting at the shop, Marianne and Connell rekindle their friendship. Connell goes back to college for his results then goes drinking after being accepted into the prestigious Schols programme along with Marianne. She is celebrating with her friends and Jamie when Connell rocks up bloody and drunk. Marianne tells Connell to leave after he tells her of his new girlfriend. Connell and Marianne discuss their breakup, and they realise it was due to a misunderstanding. Connell goes home to his girlfriend, Helen.|
|8||Episode 8||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||19 May 2020|
|Connell and Niall have spent the summer backpacking Europe. They visit Marianne's summer family home in the Italian countryside, where Jamie and Peggy have also been spending time. During their evening dinner, Jamie is overly critical of Marianne's presentation of the meal and the two reach a breaking point. Connell comforts Marianne when she elects to stay in his room where they show a moment of affection.|
|9||Episode 9||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||26 May 2020|
|Marianne is away on the Erasmus student exchange programme in Sweden where she finds herself in another unhealthy relationship with Lukas. Connell worries after Marianne's well-being in Ireland, drawing the ire of Helen. Lukas attempts to photograph Marianne in bondage photos, which upsets her and she breaks up with him.|
|10||Episode 10||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||26 May 2020|
|Connell's mental health suffers after an old school friend commits suicide and he goes home to Sligo for the funeral. He becomes more distant from Helen even as she tries to support him, and eventually she leaves him. He sees a counsellor who helps him connect to his emotions and he deepens his connection with Marianne despite the distance.|
|11||Episode 11||Hettie Macdonald||Mark O'Rowe||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||2 June 2020|
|Back in Sligo, Marianne and Connell struggle to find identity in their relationship. Things come to a head between Marianne and Alan, and he breaks her nose. Connell promises her that she will never experience such abuse again.|
|12||Episode 12||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||2 June 2020|
|With Connell and Marianne’s relationship finally on track, he invites her to spend Christmas with his family. Meanwhile Marianne’s relationship with her mother has reached a low point. Connell receives an offer to study for a MFA program in New York, prompting the pair to reflect upon their future together.|
Development and casting
In May 2019, it was announced BBC Three and Hulu ordered 12 episodes based on the novel that would premiere 2020 starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as Marianne and Connell respectively. Sarah Greene and Aislín McGuckin were also announced as part of the cast. Sally Rooney herself would help with the adaptation alongside writers Alice Birch and Mark O'Rowe. Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald would direct and Irish company Element Pictures would produce the series.
Tubbercurry primarily made up the fictional town of Carricklea, with Streedagh Point along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way used for beach scenes, Knockmore House in Enniskerry, County Wicklow for the Sheridans' residence, and a terraced home in Shankill, Dublin for the Waldrons' residence. The secondary school scenes were filmed in Hartstown Community School in Dublin with real students featuring as background characters. Students from Trinity College Dublin also featured in the series while filming at the university. Scenes at Marianne's Dublin flat were shot on Wellington Road in the affluent area of Ballsbridge.
Although set in Trieste in the novel, filming took place in Central Italy, primarily in and around Sant'Oreste, Stimigliano, and the villa Il Casale on Tenuta di Verzano, in Lazio. They waited until February 2020 to film the Sweden scenes in Luleå so snow would be on the ground and the Baltic Sea frozen over for Marianne to walk on.
The first look pictures came out on 1 November 2019. BBC Three and Hulu released their own teasers on 17 January 2020 followed by trailers on 31 March.
The 12 episodes became available as a BBC Three boxset on BBC iPlayer on 26 April, followed by a BBC One airing on 27 April. The series premiered in the US on Hulu on 29 April. The series became available on Stan in Australia on 27 April and began airing on RTÉ One in Ireland on 28 April. The series has been sold to over 20 broadcasters worldwide.
Media in Ireland noted that the series glosses over references to The Communist Manifesto document and Doris Lessing's feminist novel The Golden Notebook, which Rooney, who has described herself as a Marxist, included in the book.
Caroline Framke of Variety magazine wrote: "With its trifecta of elegant writing, directing, and acting, Hulu’s Normal People is just as bleak and uncompromising as Rooney’s novel — a feat, and one that takes several episodes to fully absorb. In fact, it took me until about halfway through to understand just how much it was affecting me. ... As Marianne and Connell’s relationship grows deeper, Normal People becomes as immersive as the book that inspired it, making you both crave and dread knowing — or perhaps more accurately, experiencing — what happens next.
The production has received particular praise for its realistic portrayal of intimate content and the work of Ita O'Brien as intimacy coordinator. However, the nudity sparked debate on Irish radio.
The series has been widely praised by major critics and publications. Linda Holmes of NPR described Normal People as "a lovely series, not just to binge, but perhaps to dole out to yourself a couple of episodes at a time" while CNN described it as "perfectly [understanding of] the desires we place on communication technologies and the ways they nearly always come up short." and "irresistible in abnormal times."
Normal People reportedly gave BBC Three its best ever in its first week on iPlayer (26 April to 3 May), receiving over 16.2 million programme requests across the 12 episodes, about 5 million of which were from 16–34 year olds, and bringing BBC Three requests up to 21.8 million, doubling the previous record of 10.8 million from the release of the first series of Killing Eve. 70% of BBC Three requests that week were for Normal People and a quarter had finished all 12 episodes.
So far, the first two episodes have been reported to be watched on RTÉ One by an average of 371,000 viewers with an additional 19,000 on RTÉ One +1 and 301,000 streams on RTÉ Player, becoming the most watched opening of a drama series on RTÉ Player. 30% of 15–34 year olds watching TV were watching Normal People.
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The author of Normal People is a self-professed Marxist... her politics seeps through her writing. It's no accident the central protagonists of the book that has captured the nation's imagination are the rich girl living in the mansion and the poor boy whose mother works as her family's cleaner. The TV version glosses over the discussions around 'The Communist Manifesto' and the feminist bible 'The Golden Notebook'.
- Framke, Caroline (22 April 2020). "'Normal People' on Hulu: TV Review". Variety. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
- ""Normal People: we need to discuss this BBC show's portrayal of sex and consent"". Stylist. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
- Kaufman, Amy (1 May 2020). "This is how 'Normal People' made some of TV's steamiest sex scenes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
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