There must be something in the water, because in the past couple of weeks British TV has gotten a whole lot sexier. First, we had the newest season of Sex Education (read our review here), and now it’s time for Sex Actually with Alice Levine. Our stiff upper lip sensibilities seem to have been replaced with, voyeuristic documentary making, which dives below the duvet to discover what sex means in the modern age.
In the new Channel 4 series, Alice Levine goes behind closed doors in sex-positive households all around the country asking the awkward questions that we all secretly want (or perhaps don’t want) to hear answers to. The result is a surprisingly sweet show which works hard to dismantle the stigma around sex. This, according to Suzi Feay in the Financial Times, is due to Levine’s “wide, disarming gaze and friendly demeanour” which permits her to “pose the most direct questions about people’s sex lives without causing offence”, backed by The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan who describes Levine as “perfect for the job: witty, non-judgemental, and refreshingly unable to keep a straight face”.
This style is borrowed from the show’s producer, Louis Theroux, and writer for The Irish Times Ed Powerthinks Levine does a good job of, like Theroux, “quietly bumbling into absurd situations and seeing what ensues”. However, critics are concerned at just how hard-hitting the show will become, considering its ability to pose important questions without directly answering them. Themes of love, technology, wealth, and income are raised and then cast aside with the same casual glibness as Levine giggling outside one of her interviewee’s bedroom doors as they bring home the bacon with a spot of self-gratification.
The Telegraph’s Benji Wilson, poses the curious question “at what point does a TV show that’s about sexually explicit material become sexually explicit material itself?”, likely referencing the precarious full-frontal scenes which are as close to revealing genitalia in action as Levine was to cracking up whilst watching them from just two metres away.
This leaves us to wonder whether its intentions are to be – and please pardon the unfortunate pun – a deep and probing documentary series, or just an opportunity to ogle at couples getting down and dirty. Either way, here at Must we think it’s worth a watch, actually.First shown September 2021.