Review: ‘Sex Education’ Brings an Excellent Live-Action High School Comedy to Netflix

Two years ago, Big Mouth helped young kids throughout America go through puberty. The animated sex comedy from Nick Kroll brought an interesting new bend to animated television. Taking a no-shame approach to the show actually allows the series to confront real sex issues that face kids across America. Sure, the Ghost of Duke Ellington, voiced by Jordan Peele, may not seem like the person to teach kids about having relations. Yet the show has an undeniable charm and took its place as one of the very best animated shows on television when season 2 released. Those who love Big Mouth often wish for more, and they’ll get their wish soon when Big Mouth releases its Valentine’s Special soon. Yet the British show Sex Education will fill that void, and then some, quickly becoming one of the most exciting shows on the streaming platform.

Sex Education follows a young high schooler Otis (Asa Butterfield), whose mother (Gillian Anderson) is a sex therapist. He struggles to fit in, and his best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) is his only friend. However, when the principle’s son Adam (Connor Swindells) discovers Otis’ secret, word gets out. This inspires Maeve (Emma Mackey) to start up a special kind of business with Otis. Together they can become sex therapists for the school.

The show has an extremely deep group of excellent actors that sell the emotions of the characters. Butterfield’s development of Otis really works in this show. You watch all the insecurities of Otis’ life in each frame he’s on the screen, but you also understand how he begins to build the respect of others. He’s smart and intriguing, yet disastrously incapable of solving his own sexual issues. Butterfield brings each of these ticks to life, and the show likely wouldn’t work without his stellar performance. It seems Butterfield has finally found his vehicle to stardom.

Meanwhile, Mackey really does an excellent job at showing a high school girl struggling with everything that entails. She has to deal with the mean girls, fight off attempts by the principle (Alistair Petrie) to expel her, and find a way to keep her relationship with the student body president (Kedar Williams-Stirling). It’s a difficult balance, and she sells most of the emotion of the show. She makes an excellent complement to Butterfield, and the two have great chemistry.

Meanwhile, Gatwa might be the biggest breakout star. He takes on the most difficult character by far, yet he handles the most emotional and comedic pieces of the season with grace. Eric hides his homosexuality from his mother. He must handle the immigrant experience with his father as well. Gatwa can play big and humorous when the show asks him to, but he also knows how to sell the dramatic moments extremely well. Finally, Gillian Anderson stands out as an incredibly funny mother of Otis. Dr. Milburn has her own issues she must work through, and her relationships add some nice texture to the show. Anderson continues to show why she’s one of the most sought after actresses working today.

The real triumph of Sex Education is the way it handles the relatable issues the characters go through. The show focuses on a case of the week structure for every episode, yet ties a much larger through plot into the series. Characters experience real problems and development in every episode, and no one is left untouched. The writing is tight, and there are no wasted episodes. It’s an exciting show, and to juggle more than a half dozen real stories gives the show a complicated, but ultimately exciting foundation to build from.

Overall, Sex Education might be one of Netflix’s best new shows. The sex-comedy should hit home with most viewers and has real comedy to enjoy in each episode. Yet it is the seat of your pants exhilaration of watching this group of kids handle high school that really elevates the show. The show has an extremely deep bench, and the actors really shine through.

GRADE: ()

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