By Andy Chandler
I’ve often said that making trailers is a dying art, they’re either too full of spoilers or so vague that they don’t make you want to watch the film they’re supposedly promoting.
Netflix are masters of this art and their new show ‘Sex Education’ is a perfect example of this.
Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) and Asa Butterfield (TEOTFW) star as mother and son duo Jean and Otis Milburn who don’t have a typical mother and son relationship, Gillian Anderson plays Jean, a renowned Sex Therapist and mother who has a shockingly open relationship with her teenage son.
Whilst Otis is going through all the trials and tribulations of being a teenager and, going to school etc. his mum’s open attitude to all things naughty has made him a tad disconnected in all aspects of his life and a bit of an outcast at school.
At school though, Otis falls in with the bad girl Maeve Wiley (played by Emma MacKey) and the two start to offer sex therapy classes to the students of Moordale Secondary School. Cue X-rated hijinks, odd situations and a bizarre journey into teenage sexual exploits and mishaps.
The premise is intriguing, especially with Gillian Anderson who is gleefully naughty and hilarious as the promiscuous Jean, she is one of the best things about this show, a show that tries to appeal to everyone but ends up seeming very confused and, for once, it’s nothing to do with the script.
The script is witty, the dialogue does drama and comedy spot on and it’s core message about open-ness, support and friendship are subtle enough to not be in your face but enforced enough to give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
The acting is spot on, from the kids to the adult characters, every one of them feels real, fleshed out and helps lure you into the ludicrous idea of someone offering intimacy counselling to schoolkids in bathroom stalls. It gets away with it.
But what I cannot forgive is the look of the series. It was filmed right here in Wales but every single step has been taken to make it look and feel like 80’s America.
The houses are unlike any house I’ve ever seen, the cars are all aging Austin Healeys or Allegro’s, the fashion is 80’s through and through but on the other hand they’re using smartphones and texting.
And the school oh, sorry “Moordale Secondary School” is something out of a John Hughes film, it has corridors lined with lockers, banners advertising an upcoming dance or the Glee Club.
Add to that the Jocks strutting around in branded school jackets and you’ve got a real headscratcher of a show for me.
I get what Netflix are trying here, what they’re doing is making a show that can appeal to both Britain and American Netflix audiences by taking all the best bits of Americana that our Yankee cousins take for granted and giving them to us Brits who will, of course, lap it up by the bucketful because America is cool.
It’s familiar enough to America that they won’t turn off and enough of a fantasy for Britain that we won’t really mind.
But we do. Not Much. But enough.
This could have been a show that really had something to say about sexual politics and could’ve done it in a clever, funny and heartfelt way.
What you’re left with is an outstanding comic turn from Gillian Anderson, a masterstroke of teen angst from Asa Butterfield against a backdrop that makes no sense, at first you look past it but this shows inability to decide what it wants to look like stops it from being a show that you can totally embrace.
Netflix, if you want to set something in America. Just go for it. If it’s any good, us Brits will watch it, I swear. But if you want to make a show set in Britain, set it in Britain, if it’s any good, the Americans WILL watch it (i.e. Black Mirror).
In trying to pander to everyone, you’ve squandered a great script, great actors and a show that could’ve felt really relevant to what’s going on in the world right now.
But nevermind, it looks GREAT in the trailer.
I’m giving this a thumbs up, but only because someone finally got some comedy out of Scully. 4/5