In Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman introduces us to the 23 questions he asks people in order to decide whether he could truly love them. Some are pretty far out: If you could stop some sadistic being from crushing your soul-mate’s collarbones with a crescent wrench every three years, would you swallow a pill that would make every song you hear sound like it’s being performed by Alice in Chains for the rest of your life? Tricky one, eh? (Don’t worry, we won’t go there.)
Consider this one, though: “Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?” Are you sweating yet? Good. And now, let’s assume that, prior to this ex-lovers banquet, you find out you have contracted chlamydia. Now what are you going to say during your fifteen-minute speech? Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be in that position either. But it works for a quirky sitcom premise—as in Netflix’s Lovesick.
Lovesick doesn’t ring any bells? Fortunately for this Britcom, it underwent a name change after the first season was saddled with the title Scrotal Recall: One that produced a particular mental image and garnered several chuckles but was ultimately way too harsh for this rather innocent, millennial-style romantic comedy. This isn’t to say the show’s all about nostalgic butterflies and sincere sentiments—how could it be? We’re still talking about a sitcom revolving around its main character, Dylan (Brotherhood’s Johnny Flynn), coming to terms with the fact that he—and possibly many of his past lovers—has chlamydia. This isn’t the real story, so much as a pretext for the real story: The one about two people who are perfectly right for each other, but can never seem to make it work.
Each episode is named after one of Dylan’s former lovers, and the series works through them in alphabetical order. His daunting task is to contact each and every one of them and tell them the good news: They may have been given a gift of the contagious variety. There’s Abigail (Hannah Britland), the easy-going, witty receptionist who becomes his rebound when he’s dumped at his friend’s wedding; she’s closely followed by Anna (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Inside No. 9), an ambitious career woman whose loudly ticking biological clock gets in the way of their one-night stand turning into anything real.
There are a few in-betweeners, and then, of course, there’s Evie (Antonia Thomas, Misfits), who is neither Dylan’s lover nor his girlfriend, but his best friend. Evie wants nothing more than to be with Dylan, but he’s too wrapped up in his disastrous luck with women to realize he could have it all with her. All the signs are there, he’s just oblivious to them— unlike their friend and roommate, Luke (Daniel Ings, Psychoville), who clocked the situation a long time ago, but has been too busy chasing skirts.
Throughout the first season, we get to know Dylan, Luke and Evie’s respective stories by way of flashbacks to Dylan’s former relationships and hook-ups, giving us a better understanding of their situations in the present. The three of them share a house as well as a solid friendship, with no judgment of one another’s flaws. With Evie being the only female in the house, you’d imagine Luke’s serial womanizing ways and Dylan’s tendency to cling on to his women would be addressed during a heated discussion or two, but instead she acts as a loyal wingman to both. And while we can see the hurt in her eyes and the frustration in her body language, she always stands by Dylan, even if it means having to accompany him to the hospital for arse play-related finger injuries. With another woman.
Lovesick thrives on gawkily funny and often sexually charged situations, handled in such a down-to-earth manner it doesn’t feel like your typical, canned-laughter comedy. Instead of being overly in-your-face with punchlines, the series relies on its well-defined protagonists for humor, and by introducing new characters and environments in every episode, Lovesick feels more elaborate than your average sitcom, allowing for the occasional surprise (see the episodes “Abigail” and “Phoebe”). By spanning the protagonists’ storylines over a period of seven years, we get to know the people and circumstances that shaped them into who they are at present. We witness various fashion trends and phases in their lives, personal issues and career triumphs, forging a bond with the characters that carries into their current situations.
Antonia Thomas nailed it when she recently told Paste that Lovesick “taps into a specific moment for a generation of people.” The series follows its protagonists through a time of uncertainty. Their chosen path in life and their careers aren’t yet defined, and they make no secret of it: They’re not out to pretend they have it all together when, clearly, they don’t. Their living situation and household, their romantic endeavors and personal insecurities, are not far removed from our own twenty-something experiences. This honest approach is refreshing in a world of sitcoms focusing on wealthy lads and ladies moving from their college dorms straight into Manhattan lofts and prosperous careers. Lovesick is all about keeping it real.
Season Two of Lovesick is now streaming on Netflix.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.