As a Uni Student with a mid to no social life, I spend most my days watching season after season of shows on Netflix. Some are good. Some are terrible and I only continue to watch it because it is so bad it's funny and somewhat entertaining. So when I say Sex Education is one of the best Netflix series, I am telling the truth. Not only is it heart-warming and hilarious and not embarrassing whatsoever. It is more educational than those awkward PSHE lessons from secondary school when a teacher teaches the bare minimum about sex and relationships to a bunch of students who either know too much due to the internet or know nothing because of religious reasons. Most importantly, it is British, with a British cast, a writer born in London and a British director, which makes it fairly different than the average teen comedy.
Do not only take my word for it. On IMDB it has a rating of 8.6/10 and is currently the most popular show on its list. It is also rated 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1/10 on Metacritic. Lucy Mangan, a Guardian Tv Critic said: “And it’s funny. Endlessly and seemingly effortlessly funny, in a naturalistic way that doesn’t have you listening for the hooves of the next gag thundering down a well-worn track but, like Catastrophe, catches you almost unawares and makes you bark with laughter.
“And then, like Catastrophe, it can pivot smoothly and suddenly into moments that give you a lump in the throat and have you staring at the ceiling trying not to let your tears fall because crying would surely be ridiculous.”
(IMDB on 23/01/19)
So what is Sex Education about? Well firstly I will warn, for the light-hearted, the show has a fair amount of sex and masturbation, as indicated by the title of the show. Although there are not too many sex scenes so if you’re looking for that, go watch Game of Thrones or something. The show follows the lives of the students at Moordale Secondary School, a school full of students that are ‘either thinking about shagging, about to shag, or actually shagging’ as Eric, one of the main characters, explains in the first episode.
However, these students are clueless about relationships, as are most teenagers would be at their age. Hence, along comes the main character, Otis Milburn (played by the amazing Asa Butterfield), an awkward teenager who decides to become a sex therapist for the students in Moordale having absorbed so much information about sex from his Mother (played by X-files star Gillian Anderson), an actual sex and relationship therapist. Anderson plays an incredibly intrusive mother and the show presents probably one of the best performances of a mother trying to hold on and look after to her son who just wants to grow up and be independent as all teenagers want to do until they become independent and miss their parents cooking and cleaning (both actors pictured on the left with Ncuti Gatwa taken from Gillian Anderson's Instagram page).
Helping him with his sex therapist clinic, and the mastermind of the whole idea is Maeve Wiley, played by Emma Mackey, not Margot Robbie. Maeve is one of those cool, closed-off characters who do their own thing no matter what other students or teachers say about her. Through the show, Maeve’s barriers gradually breakdown and we get to see the real person behind the tough girl persona. The last main character is Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), a bubbly gay African teen and Otis’ best friend who has one of the most emotional journeys through the series. Gatwa plays him excellently, from his slight African accent whenever he gets angry to the heart-breaking scenes where Eric is not accepted by his religious family. I personally love Eric outfits (picture on the right taken from Sex Education's instagram story) and the fact that he isn’t a throwaway clichéd gay character but he actually has layers besides his sexuality.
One of the best things about the show is the relatability of the characters. Whether it is because it is a British show or just the actors but almost all the characters in the show are relatable in one way or another. The awkwardness of Otis, the almost everlasting optimism of Eric who just wants to be popular or even Lily Iglehart (Tanya Reynolds) who just wants to lose her virginity to fit in with everyone else. One of my favourite episodes of the series is episode 5 where Maeve and Otis search for an unknown student who is going to share an embarrassing nude picture of one of the other students. The episode is a perfect example of what the show is about with it being both heart-warming and funny especially the end which I will let you experience yourself.
The scene is both comical and almost #MeToo-esque with the girls all rallying together to defend the owner of the nude picture and stand up against bullying and the judgement of women for everything they do. I love the scene so much, and my friend and I have now jumped on the bandwagon.
No show is perfect and even this show has its flaws. The most important took me a while to notice but as soon as I did, I kicked myself for taking so long to figure it out. The signs were all there. The lockers at the school. The cliques and societies, especially the Untouchables, the mean popular group. When Otis said ‘I’ve been here since first year’ instead of just year 7. Yet the biggest sign was staring me in the face. Their uniforms or lack thereof. Despite being a British school in a British show with a British cast, the director Ben Taylor and writer Laurie Nunn decided to add a few American influences. Laurie Nunn said, “I’ve always been really influenced by American film and TV shows; they played a really big part in my own teenage years, so that was always something I wanted to come back to”. Unfortunately, these influences were not subtle enough and almost overruled the Britishness of the show. From the letterman jackets to the announcements through the intercom, the show almost feels like an American tv show set in Britain.
It does still somewhat differ from a typical American teen show. The casualness with swearing and certain words such as ‘shag’ which you would not normally see in an American teen show. The school bully, Adam Groff (Connor Swindells), who would normally be on top of the social food chain is kind of a loser who doesn’t get everything he wants. The jock, Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Sterling) is a genuinely nice guy who is not perfect. The show rejects and undermines as much as it copies American tropes.
If you are looking for a genuinely interesting and relatable coming of age story, this is definitely a show you should not miss. It addresses a variety of topics to do with sex and relationships while still being funny and entertaining instead of being weird. I am crossing my fingers that this is not the end of the adventures of Eric, Maeve and Otis.