Shut Up, Helen! at least has the humility to acknowledge that a meet cute in a therapist’s waiting room is pushing it a bit. Like a scene from the most hipster of indie flicks, two painfully socially awkward 20-somethings find love in a hopeless place, but both are plagued with vicious inner thoughts. Valerie calls hers Helen. Archie’s is Hank.
Self-awareness is a running theme – Helen and Hank break the fourth wall often, there are meta references to plot devices and a relatable groan of ‘not another song’ when yet another song starts up.
Treating your negative inner thoughts as though they are a real person is a theme worth exploring. Detaching them from being an integral part of your being seems like a smart idea – perhaps they’re easier to ignore or drown out that way. When Valerie finally has some agency over Helen, it’s a little jarring, as they decide together that she’ll leave her alone, but only for a while. Realistically, this rings true, as no matter how pally you get with your inner voice, there’s no telling when they’ll be back to mess you up again. But, this mutual agreement leaves Shut Up, Helen! on a bit of a melancholy note. After a huge tragedy in her life, we know Valerie is going to be going through it and she could really use a break.
A realistic approach to mental illness underpins Shut Up, Helen!. It’s interspersed with fun and silliness, mainly in the overly sexual relationship Helen and Hank have with each other while Valerie and Archie struggle to make basic conversation. But there are scenes in the therapist’s office that could have been lifted word-for-word from a session. The blunt therapy-speak sometimes lifts a little from the action, but – if nothing else – it’s all good advice.
Shut Up, Helen! is, overall, a sensible, sensitive show shot through with a much-needed dose of realism and humour.