Netflix’s new show coming out this January 11, the Teen Drama/Comedy ‘Sex Education,’ is brilliantly British that it doesn’t quite go to where you would expect it if you’re more used to Hollywood shows or local ones. It’s a wonderful combination of humor and human moments with a great big serving of British wit and a whole lot of sex.
In fact, it’s really refreshing to catch a show that is so casual about its portrayal and approach to sex, which is a very European sensibility, even though the show is completely rooted in the discomfort that teens have talking about their sex lives and when things go wrong.
And that’s because ‘Sex Education’ is about an awkward teenager, Otis (Asa Butterfield), whose mom is a sex therapist (played with a whole lot of verve by an ageless Gillian Anderson), and finds himself working together with Maeve (a captivating Emma Mackey), who has a bad reputation in school. Together, they use Otis’ understanding of sex (which he got from his very liberal mother) to give sex advice to the troubled teens of their school.
I managed to catch the first five episodes of the new series through Netflix and enjoyed their rather modern and progressive take on the sort of sexual issues the British teens have nowadays, and the rather insightful (and humorous) ways with which they tackle these problems. And of course, most of these issues are more deeply rooted to one’s ability for empathy, sensitivity, and factors in issues like insecurities and self-esteem.
In the first five episodes, they tackle impotence, a lesbian couple where one of the ladies can’t orgasm, and a wonderful episode about a threat to expose someone’s nude photos. It’s so wonderfully done that I was left in tears at the end of the episode.
And the world of ‘Sex Education’ is so rich. Otis, Maeve, and Otis’ mom, Jean, are all such well-thought out characters with their own unique personalities and that it is interesting to see how they develop over just five episodes. Adding to the mix is the son of the headmaster, Adam (Connor Swindells), who is pressured at home and ends up being a bully and is being positioned as some sort of antagonist. There’s also Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), Otis’ gay best friend, who feels like he is being left behind when Otis and Maeve start to hang out. And a whole bunch of recurring characters in Otis’ school.
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As per all usual teen shows, there are tropes that remain, such as the selfish lead character (Otis’ sudden popularity makes him quite self-centered and this throws a wrench at his friendship with Eric), the girl with the bad reputation and the true story of her bad reputation, the bully, the jock, the blossoming romance, the mean girls, and all of that. It’s all there. But it offers a lot more as well.
In just five episodes, the show manages to enter into the expected formulaic beats of the genre but is quirky enough to find new ones to make it interesting and new. And then there’s the very in-your-face approach to sex and teen sex and, being a British show, there’s quite a lot of nudity going on, which is actually not surprising anymore in this day-and-age of ‘Sense8’ and ‘Game of Thrones.’
But there’s still an innocence to it, a humanity that comes with the insecurities and the awkwardness that surrounds teenagers at this time of sexual awakening.
I can’t wait to see the last three episodes when it airs on January 11. And I hope it does well that it has a second season because five episodes was enough for me to be invested in these people, most especially with Emma Mackey’s Maeve.
I think it’s a nice refreshing start of the year to get a little ‘Sex Education’ into our viewing playlists. It’s the older, tougher British-cousin of another amazing Netflix show ‘On My Block.’ And we need to keep talking about teenagers and their sexual awakening because it’s happening faster and a lot more intense than we could ever imagine. This is a nice way to start the conversation.
'Sex Education' launches globally with eight, one-hour episodes on January 11, 2019 on Netflix.