A teenage boy with a sex therapist mother teams up with a high school classmate to set up an underground sex therapy clinic at school.
Is there anything more embarrassing than having a sex therapist for a mother? Maybe having sexual dysfunction while having a sex therapist for a mother. Either way, Otis is a living cringe emoji, whether it’s listening in on sessions in his mother’s home office, or gently setting out pornographic paraphernalia in his room to disguise the fact that he has some issues of his own.
But it turns out that humiliation isn’t all for naught when he finds himself counseling a classmate through her sexual issues. Otis has a gift for pinpointing both where things are going wrong physically, and where someone’s personal baggage needs to be addressed. Teaming up with brainy rebel Maeve, who finds the “clients,” and his best friend Eric, who’s along for the ride, Otis becomes the underground (virginal) sex therapist of his graduating class.
Asa Butterfield as Otis
His deadpan portrayal of sweet, sincere Otis is an utter delight.
Gillian Anderson as Jean
Otis’ loving but boundaryless mom will make you glad YOUR parents don’t practice sex therapy out of your childhood home.
Ncuti Gatwa as Eric
I challenge you not to fall in love with the irrepressible, cheerful Eric, who steals every scene he’s in. (Anytime something less-than-ideal happens to Eric, I want to punch through the TV and save him from the world.)
Emma Mackey as Maeve
Every school needs a “bad” girl, but in this case it turns out that the rebel is also the smartest person around.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Medium
You might not want to watch this with your parents or your kids (I still want to melt into the ground during cinematic sex scenes)—it’s not exactly Cruel Intentions, but there’s a lot of frank discussions about sex, and a fair amount of naked bits. I ended up being sorry that I watched it alone, since every episode made me want to shake someone and yell “THAT WAS SO GOOD.”
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low
If the teenagers can throw ragers and get smashed, you can at least salute them with some beer from the couch. For we are older and wiser now, but we could, like, totally party if we wanted to.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Mandatory
Sex Education is, hands down, the best show I’ve watched all year. This had the potential to be one Very Special Episode after another, given that it deals with serious topics like revenge porn, homophobia, STIs, rape, virginity, familial abandonment, and more, but it’s factual and sensitive. Sex is treated as just another part of life: it’s nothing to be ashamed of, there are things that can go wrong, but information and kindness is the key to handling it well. Really, it’s those pesky feelings that are the problem.
If you like watching shows that prioritize character development, don’t sleep on this one. Characters who appear to be certain teen stereotypes (the jock, the bimbo, the rebel, the virgin, the fabulously-dressed gay guy) are slowly fleshed out before your eyes. You get to know them one layer at a time, uncovering hidden depths, watching them come into their own. The writing is nonjudgmental while still finding the humor in every situation; sweet without being cloying. Self-esteem is a theme that comes up repeatedly, as well as the importance of a partner who respects your boundaries.
But there also boobs and butts and banana blowjobs, because what fun is growing up without a little naughtiness along the way?