Not long ago, my husband and I were scrolling through the offerings on Netflix and stumbled upon a new series. Within minutes, we were hooked. The series? “Sex Education,” starring Gillian Anderson.
It’s about a teen named Otis Milburn. Otis is a student at an English high school, struggling with the fact his mother Jean (played by Anderson) is a well-known sex therapist and author. Despite being knowledgeable about sexuality and relationships, Jean’s own romantic life is problematic and her son is an unwilling witness to all of it.
Needless to say, life for Otis is awkward, and it’s no less awkward for his friends and acquaintances at school, all of whom are struggling with teen hormones and misconceptions about sex. It becomes apparent early on that Otis has a talent. Despite his own inexperience, he is able to give advice about sex and the teens at his school are eating it up. When Maeve, a social outcast, sees the potential in Otis, she says they should go into business. She’ll make “appointments” for their teen customers, and Otis will dispense advice, just like his mother does. The business thrives.
As one can imagine, there are a lot of laughs in this series. It’s honest and in your face, and it’s easy to giggle because these teens have no idea what they’re doing. But this isn’t just a raunchy show about teen sex (and there’s lots of it.)
At its heart, it explores the theme of isolation. The cast of characters is wonderful. We have Otis who, despite being such an “expert” on sex, is grappling with his parents’ divorce and his father’s infidelity. There’s his best friend Eric who, while being an out gay teen, is struggling to become more confident. And of course, there is Maeve, a pariah at the school, whose brashness hides a world of pain and a troubled family life. You will also find a cast of supporting characters who, while being familiar to any lover of teen comedy, are presented here in a fresh way. The school is peopled with bullies, nerds, snobby rich kids, popular jocks and a head teacher who is ashamed of his defiant son. But what makes “Sex Education” special is that the viewer gets a glimpse into each of their lives. And even when those glimpses are brief, we learn so much. We’re allowed to see the cracks in the surface, the bravado and the loneliness. And the result is absolutely heartwarming. We root for these kids, every single one of them.
“Sex Education” brought me right back to high school, the good and the bad. The series doesn’t shy away from difficult themes. There are conversations about topics like consent, religion and abortion that make it current and relevant. I love the friendship between Otis and Eric, but the series shows us how even good relationships have their ups and downs. This is a show with layers and depth…and the odd penis joke.
The first season is currently on Netflix and I’m eagerly awaiting the second season. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Otis, Eric, Maeve and all the others.