Sunday, January 26, 2020
Sex Education (TV)
Created by Laurie Nunn
Starrring Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa, Connor Swindells, Alistair Petrie, Tanya Reynolds, Patricia Allison
Netflix has such a vast array of show that some excellent ones get lost in the shuffle. One that I’ve heard very little buzz about is Sex Education, even though it’s absolutely delightful.
Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) is a teenager in the UK equivalent of a high school. His mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), is a sex therapist, and Otis has overheard a lot of her sessions through an air vent by his bed. A classmate, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) sees him answering questions from other classmates and offers a business arrangement: She will book appointments and Otis will counsel the other students. It, of course, leads to complications.
The show manages to mix uproarious comedy with powerful drama. It’s extremely frank and very realistic in the way it shows teens dealing with sex and emotions.*
The strength is in the characters. Otis is well-versed in the theories of sex, but has no actual experience, complicating matters. And his mother is portrayed as very open and sex positive – but with no respect for Otis’s boundaries, bringing up subjects that no teen boy wants to talk about with his mother. Some of the funniest scenes are her trying to be so completely understanding of things that Otis does not want brought up.
Maeve is smart, but categorized as a bad girl because she doesn’t go along with the rules of the school. Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa) is gay and open about it, leading to bullying and other issues. Lily Inglehart (Tanya Reynolds) writes fan fiction porn, and is the one most willing to cut through other people’s bullshit.
You can’t really single out any one person in the cast. All are excellent, but it’s especially gratifying to see Gillian Anderson do deadpan comedy.
The second season just dropped and seems to move in a more dramatic direction,** but it’s still showing the difficulties of sexual and romantic relationships.
*The frankness may be offputting to some, but it can be extremely funny.
**Though I laughed hardest at a scene in the first episode of the second season when Jean is trying to advise Otis.