Netflix's new teen comedy “Sex Education” could have easily become a raunchy, crude mess but instead it’s a smart, effortlessly funny comedy that both entertains and informs.
The premise of the show is unique. It stars Asa Butterfield as Otis, the sexually inexperienced son of sex therapist Jean (Gillian Anderson). Jean isn’t afraid to have uncomfortable conversations with her son. One of the more awkward ones is when Otis walks into the room and Jean says “Sweetheart, I’ve noticed you’re pretending to masturbate.”
Otis is taken under the wing of local bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey). Wiley realizes Otis’ talent for giving sex advice after Otis fixes school bully Adam’s (Connor Swindells) problem regarding his sexual performance. Maeve figures out a way to use Otis’ skill to their advantage and they set up a little business to give “sex therapy” to their peers at school.
The show is different from other teen shows where sex is either implied or shown very briefly. In “Sex Education” the characters bare all, literally. The opening scene in the first episode is a sex scene between two teenagers, and there is full frontal nudity. Also in the first episode, Adam flashes the entire school and the audience gets a full view of his package.
What is also unique about this show is how much depth and personality the characters are given. Every character could have been written as a cliche — the kids in the show could have written as just sex-obsessed horny teens, Otis could be just a nerd, Maeve the quirky girl with a sad backstory that is in almost every show, and Adam as just the jerk of a school bully. Instead the show gives us three-dimensional characters that the audience can relate to and root for.
The show also takes inspiration from American teen comedies of the 80’s such as "The Breakfast Club," "Heathers" and "Pretty in Pink." The popular crowd is particularly reminiscent of this due to their colored blazers. In fact, it isn’t until one the characters pulls out a smartphone or a laptop that you realize that the show isn’t even set in the 80’s.
The color scheme of the show is also visually beautiful, almost like watching a Wes Anderson movie. In almost every scene, the surroundings and the characters wardrobes match up and lead to something aesthetically pleasing.
“Sex Education” also tackles serious issues in a poignant and heartwarming way. One of the characters gets an abortion and the show handles it realistically and doesn’t stigmatize it. Overall, the difficult situations are portrayed seriously and are done well.
There is also a large amount of people of color and LGBTQ+ representation in the show. There are several gay characters, two of which are non-white. They are also not portrayed as cliches or used simply as background characters. They are fleshed out and have important character arcs.
Overall, “Sex Education” is a must-see show that can reinvent the genre of teen comedy. It is a wild ride from start to finish and isn’t afraid to take on uncomfortable topics. It is just another example of great original programming created by Netflix.