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Sex Education

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What it’s about:

Capitalizing on the need for advice amongst his fellow students, socially awkward teen Owen — whose mother is a sex therapist — teams up with rebellious outcast Maeve to launch a sex clinic at their secondary school school in this BAFTA and GLAAD-nominated British dramedy.

Names you might know:

Asa Butterfield, who starred in Hugo and Ender’s Game. Gillian Anderson, best known as Scully on The X-Files.  And Alistair Petrie, who starred in The Night Manager and Rogue One. Most of the others are newcomers, but they have become quite well known thanks to Sex Education. Keep an eye out for Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham as Jackson’s controlling mum.

Why it’s worth your time:

Unlike many high school dramas, Sex Education is genuinely realistic and relatable. Although it’s cringeworthy at times (intentionally so), it’s in this cringe that this series finds its charm. Teen viewers will identify with what the characters are going through, but even adults will appreciate the more mature themes in the show (and may even learn a thing or two). The series tackles all sorts of relationships, including LGBTQIA+ romances, as well as the ups and downs of high-school friendships and social circles. But it also takes a refreshingly honest look at sex, treating it as a perfectly normal part of life. It’s easily one of the most progressive shows on TV.

The first season of Sex Education primarily focuses on Otis (Asa Butterfield) who, due to his mother Jean’s (Gillian Anderson) profession as a sex therapist, has learned more about sex and relationships than he would have cared to. When he realizes that his fellow students need a bit of help in that particular department, he decides to set up a sex advice clinic with Maeve (Emma Mackey), a no-nonsense girl who is incredibly bright but has a rough reputation due to her family’s seedy past and unfounded rumors. Rounding out the perspectives is Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa), the gay son of Ghanian-Nigerian immigrants; Adam (Connor Swindells), the troubled son of the school’s headmaster; and Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood), Maeve’s unlikely best friend, a wealthy and popular girl who starts out as part of the school’s “untouchables” clique but longs for less shallow companionship.

The ensemble’s chemistry is strong, with Gatwa as a particular standout in the role of Eric. He has some hilarious moments, from dancing around in his bedroom to Todrick Hall to serving some lewks, to more emotional ones as he struggles at school and at home. Anderson is a delight as Otis’s mother, spewing out sex advice that he does not want to hear and even attempting to diagnose his friends. Even the side characters are strong, especially when Aimee is given a more substantial plotline in season two. Her chemistry with BFF Maeve is often stronger than some of the romantic relationships on the show.

Much of the series’ success lies in its ability to subvert its viewers expectations. No one is as they seem on the surface. None of the characters are black and white, so it’s hard to predict what will happen next.

The takeaway:

This hilarious and endearing teen dramedy will pull at your heartstrings and also make you burst out laughing. You may even learn a bit about sex and relationships.

Watch it with:

Sex Education should be watched chronologically, as each episode builds upon the last. Previous plot lines do move the story forward, so this is not a series where you can start with the second or third season. It almost goes without saying that the delicate subject matter make this show unsuitable for a younger audience.  But—as Jean Milburn would surely advise—you might want to watch with your older kids and talk about the issues and questions it brings up.

Worth noting:

Sex Education has been nominated for awards from a variety of organizations, including GLAAD, BAFTA, and even MTV.

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