It’s time for a riddle…what’s always on a teenager’s mind but never spoken about? You got it – it’s tidying their room. Nah, only joking, it’s actually sex. Once a taboo topic, sex is something which Laurie Nunn’s Sex Education isn’t afraid of, and it’s back for another season. Be ready to cringe and cry with laughter – you may even learn a thing or two.
Our protagonist Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) is an awkward teen, passing his days lusting over girls who are out of his league and biking around his geographically ambiguous neighbourhood, clad in temporally ambiguous clothing. Devastatingly enough for Otis, his mum (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist, and sex stares at him from every corner of his life, whether it’s the penis paraphernalia littered all over their (ridiculously beautiful) house, or the urges and temptations which throb in the corner of his vision, wherever he looks.
Despite his mother’s occupation being of huge embarrassment to him, it actually comes in handy, as he starts charging his classmates for sex and relationship advice. Throughout the series we meet an array of wonderful, hilarious and mind-bogglingly weird teens, who talk us through their varying home lives and their (mis)handling of hormones.
Thematically, it’s a bit all over the shop. The kids go to this massive private-looking school in the British countryside, where blazers and ties have been swapped out for 80s attire. It has, as writer for The Financial Times Eliza Brookes points out “a transatlantic feel, referencing John Hughes movies and incorporating elements of American high school life”, but after the first few “bloody hell”, “fanny” and “shags” you’ll be certain we’re on home turf.
However, at every opportunity that the show could be crass and crude, it manages to be celebratory; celebratory of the wonderful woe that it is to be a teenager. It has managed to maintain its success throughout its second and third season and, according to Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall, season three is extra successful in finding “a very healthy balance between the emotional and sexual components of human relationships”. The characters are growing up, and so are their perspectives, and with opinions which are as Hugo Rifkind says in The Times, “woke and positive”, the show “carries “itself as if it should be shown in schools for real”, and for our money – it should.
We only warn that, to avoid embarrassment, you don’t watch this with your family, but then again do – it’s time to break the stigma of sex education.
First shown January 2019.