“Sex Education,” with a second season recently released on Netflix, is a hilarious, poignant and brilliantly crafted comedy from the UK that gives its American viewers a lesson in how we should talk about teenagers and sex.
While it is a taboo subject shrouded in secrecy in this country, teenagers do have sex and “Sex Education” looks at this topic with a frank and unflinching honesty while navigating its complexities, variations, awkwardness and hilarity.
The show deftly maneuvers from heart-wrenching poignancy to absurdist comedy in a matter of seconds which encapsulates being a teenager experiencing sexual relationships for the first time.
The story centers around 16-year-old high school student Otis Milburn, played by Asa Butterfield. Otis lives with his mother Dr. Jean Milburn, played by Gillian Anderson, a sex and relationship therapist in a small rural town in England.
He is decidedly uncool — cringingly, painfully uncool.
After striking up an unlikely friendship with the ultimate cool outsider Maeve Wiley, played by Emma Mackey, Otis and Maeve decide to start a sex clinic at school where Otis would dispense sex and relationship advice to help Maeve earn extra money.
So, in a nutshell, a 16-year-old virgin decides to give sex tips in order to impress a girl whose spiky exterior hides a troubled home life and desperate financial situation.
What could possibly go wrong?
Season two begins with Otis and Maeve still doing the will-they-or-won’t-they dance with a few new complications as Otis is now dating the laid-back new girl Ola, is no longer running the clinic with Maeve and his mom just showed up at school to revamp the sex education curriculum.
Over the course of eight episodes, the show deals with topics like STIs, contraception, the complexity of female friendships and sexual fluidity with a refreshing honesty that is equal parts tender and sharp. The cringe-worthy awkward moments only add to the witty comedy.
This season, secondary and even tertiary characters were fleshed out into complex vulnerable people instead of the caricatures they were in season one.
The best example of this is Maeve’s unlikely best friend, ditzy popular blonde Aimee played by an actress by the same first name, Aimee Lou Wood.
After experiencing a sexual assault on a bus, the once bubbly sexpot becomes withdrawn, timid and unable to stand being touched by her boyfriend. The show handles Aimee’s resulting post-traumatic stress disorder with a realism and sensitivity that is a credit to survivors everywhere.
“Sex Education” seems to take place in an alternate universe where everyone dresses like a character from the 1985 classic teen rom-com “The Breakfast Club,” drives old cars and live in 1970s era American-style homes yet deal with very modern problems like sexting and where to find good lesbian pornography online.
It also appears to be a school and town out of middle America in look and feel but everyone has British accents.
It’s this juxtaposition between American culture and British sensibilities that makes the show so brilliantly hilarious.
Being a teenager in love, or lust, can often feel like a clash of cultures from which anything from embarrassment or something beautiful can occur.
“Sex Education” has all of this and more.
If that wasn’t enough to sell you on this fantastic show, the school’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” on a penis-shaped stage should be.