Sex Education (TV series)
Sex Education is a British comedy-drama web television series created by Laurie Nunn. Starring Asa Butterfield as an insecure teenager and Gillian Anderson as his mother, a sex therapist, the series premiered on 11 January 2019 on Netflix. Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey, Connor Swindells, Aimee Lou Wood and Kedar Williams-Stirling co-star. It became a critical and commercial success for Netflix, with over 40 million viewers streaming the first series after its debut. The second series was released on 17 January 2020, and the show has been renewed for a third series.
PremiseThe first series follows the story of Otis Milburn, an insecure teenager who is ambivalent about sex even though, or perhaps because, his mother is a sex therapist who is frank about all aspects of sexuality. After inadvertently assisting the school bully with his sexual performance anxiety, Otis sets up a sex advice business with Maeve—a confident but troubled classmate—to help their fellow students with their sexual problems.
The second series follows Otis who, after finally securing a relationship with Ola, is hit with the reality and pressures of a high school romance. That romance is further tested by the introduction of new students who challenge the status quo at Moordale High and a chlamydia outbreak that causes students to question and struggle with topical issues.
Cast and characters
- Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, a teenager who struggles with his mother's occupation and her interference in his personal and sexual life.
- Gillian Anderson as Dr Jean F. Milburn, a well-known sex therapist and Otis's mother. She is divorced and regularly has one-night stands but states that she is not seeking a romantic relationship.
- Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong, Otis's openly gay best friend, who comes from a religious Ghanaian-Nigerian family.
- Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley, a social outcast and bad-girl who befriends Otis and runs the therapy clinic with him.
- Connor Swindells as Adam Groff, the headmaster's son who bullies Eric. He has a tense relationship with his father.
- Kedar Williams-Stirling as Jackson Marchetti, the Afro-British head boy at Moordale Secondary School and a swimming champion.
- Aimee Lou Wood as Aimee Gibbs, another of the school's popular girls who has an unlikely friendship with Maeve. She is always in a relationship and is nicer compared to other members of the school's "The Untouchables" clique. She is from a wealthy family and her home is often used for hang-outs and parties.
- Patricia Allison as Ola Nyman, Jakob's daughter and Otis's love interest.
- Alistair Petrie as Michael Groff, the headmaster at Moordale Secondary School and Adam's strict father.
- Mimi Keene as Ruby Matthews, one of the school's popular but mean girls. She is the cruelest of the school's "The Untouchables" clique.
- Chaneil Kular as Anwar, the leader of "The Untouchables" and another openly gay student at the school.
- Simone Ashley as Olivia Hanan, another member of "The Untouchables".
- Tanya Reynolds as Lily Iglehart, a girl who writes alien erotica, and is determined to lose her virginity as soon as possible.
- Mikael Persbrandt as Jakob Nyman, a widowed Swedish handyman who develops a relationship with Jean after working for her.
- Anne-Marie Duff as Erin, Maeve and Sean's absent mother who reappears and attempts to make amends.
- Sami Outalbali as Rahim, a French transfer student who shows an interest in Eric.
- Chinenye Ezeudu as Vivienne "Viv" Odusanya, a girl who tutors Jackson and a member of the quiz team.
- Jim Howick as Colin Hendricks, a science teacher at Moordale Secondary School who also conducts the Swing Band.
- Rakhee Thakrar as Emily Sands, an English teacher at Moordale Secondary School. She is supportive of Maeve and recognises her talent and intelligence.
- James Purefoy as Remi Milburn, Otis's father and Jean's ex-husband, a sex addict who lives in America.
- Samantha Spiro as Maureen Groff, the headmaster's wife and Adam's mother. She is a caring wife and mother and loves her dog, Madam.
- Hannah Waddingham as Sofia Marchetti, one of Jackson's mothers. She pushes Jackson to maintain a strict training regime.
- Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Roz Marchetti, Jackson's biological mother. She is more laid-back than her partner.
- DeObia Oparei as Mr Effiong, Eric's father who expresses concern over his son's flamboyance and clothing choices and fears they will end up getting him hurt.
- Doreene Blackstock as Mrs Effiong, Eric's mother who encourages him to attend church like the rest of the family.
- Lisa Palfrey as Cynthia, the owner of the caravan park where Maeve lives. She is having marital problems with her husband, Jeffrey.
- Joe Wilkinson as Jeffrey, Cynthia's husband.
- Jojo Macari as Kyle, one of Aimee's boyfriends.
- Chris Jenks as Steve Morley, a new student at Moordale Secondary School, who becomes Aimee's boyfriend and a member of the quiz team.
- Dan Skinner as Moordale Secondary School's swimming instructor.
- Edward Bluemel as Sean Wiley, Maeve's absent and problematic older brother who raised her instead of their parents.
- Dan Mersh as Harry, one of Jean's one-night stands.
- Lily Newmark as Ruthie, a lesbian who is having relationship problems.
- Alice Hewkin as Tanya, Ruthie's overbearing girlfriend.
- Max Boast as Tom Baker, a geeky student at the school who has recently become sexually active.
- Dave Jarrett as Roger Baker, Tom's perpetually disappointed father.
- Daniel Ings as Dan, one of Jean's one-night stands.
- Kadeem Ramsay as OctoBoy, a student who hooks up with Lily after the school dance.
- T'Nia Miller as Maxine, the chair of the school board.
- George Robinson as Isaac, a disabled boy who lives on the same campsite as Maeve.
- George Somner as Joe, Isaac's brother and carer who lives on Maeve's campsite.
- George Georgiou as Yousef, the owner of the local shop.
- Lino Facioli as Dex, a member of the quiz team.
- Conor Donovan as Quentin, an over-dramatic member of the Drama Club.
- Toby Williams as Tim, one of Jean's patients.
- Lu Corfield as Sarah, a mother of three who befriends Maeve at a clinic.
- Ezra Furman as Band Singer, a musician who performs at the school dance.
- Thomas Atkinson as Nick, Anwar's boyfriend.
- Stephen Fry as Himself, a quiz host.
- Sindhu Vee as Olivia's mother.
Series 1 (2019)
Series 2 (2020)
DevelopmentOn 28 November 2017, it was announced that Netflix had given the production a series order. The series was created by Laurie Nunn with Ben Taylor expected to direct. Executive producers were set to include Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson via their production company Eleven Film. On 4 December 2018, it was announced that the series would premiere on 11 January 2019. On 1 February 2019, Netflix renewed the show for a second series which premiered on 17 January 2020. On 10 February 2020, Netflix renewed the show for a third series.
CastingOn 17 May 2018, it was announced that Gillian Anderson, Emma Mackey, Asa Butterfield, Ncuti Gatwa, Connor Swindells, and Kedar Williams-Stirling had joined the show's main cast. On 16 July 2018, it was reported that James Purefoy had been cast in a recurring role.
FilmingFilming for the first series took place in the Wye Valley in England and Wales, including locations in Llandogo, Tintern, and also in Penarth in 2018. The scenes set at Moordale Secondary School were filmed at the former campus of the University of South Wales in Caerleon, Newport. Scenes set in the swimming pool were filmed at the Newport International Sports Village complex. Filming for the second series took place from May to September 2019.
Setting and aestheticThe setting of Sex Education appears to be modern day United Kingdom, in the fictional village of Moordale. Modern technology, such as smartphones, exists, but the show features very few cars from after the 1990s, with a majority of cars featured ranging from the 1970s to 1990s. Police cars seen during the finale of series two appear to follow 1990s aesthetic rather than modern day police cars. As well as older cars the show heavily features older technologies such as CRT televisions, and dated household appliances. The décor of the Groffs' house is reminiscent of popular 1970s décor; Maeve's caravan is typical of the 1990s–2000s; and the Milburns' house is a more modern décor with a modern, "American-style" fridge. Moordale High School also shows some elements of British secondary schools as well as having a more American high school image. These elements serve to place Sex Education in an uncertain time period and location. According to showrunner Laurie Nunn, the show's aesthetic is deliberate and an homage to 1980s John Hughes films.
Release and receptionOn 2 January 2019, the official trailer for the series was released.
Audience viewershipOn 17 January 2019, Netflix announced that the series was on pace to have been streamed by over 40 million viewers within its first month of release.
Series 1Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 91% of 77 critic ratings were positive for the first series, with an average rating of 8.13/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bawdy, heartfelt, and surprisingly wise, Sex Education is a raucous romp through a group of teenagers whose sexual misadventures are so thoughtfully rendered, adults could learn a thing or two from them." Metacritic calculated a weighted average score of 79 out of 100 from 19 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In a positive review, IndieWires Liz Shannon Miller gave the series a grade of "A-" saying, "Again, though, it's the kids' story, with the fluctuations in both friendships and relationships pinging back and forth with youthful verve. Sex Education does a lot of things really well, chief amongst them being the creation of a high school world which feels fully developed — realistic to a degree, but.. a sense of escapism." The Daily Mirrors Lewis Knight awarded it a rating of five out of five, noting that with "a talented ensemble and explicit tackling of sexuality in young people ", it "is an hilariously honest and refreshingly diverse comedy". The New York Timess James Poniewozik described the series as "timely but not hamfistedly topical, feminist, with a refreshing lack of angst about its subject. Sex, in this show, isn't an 'issue' or a problem or a titillating lure: It's an aspect of health".
In a mixed assessment, The Washington Posts Hank Stuever wrote, "there's the usual problem of Netflix drift for an episode or two midway through, where the plot dawdles while the writers and producers figure out an ending. Yet there's an artfulness to the material and a genuine care on display here, too — a message that we are not just about the size and shape and inventive uses of our private parts". In a negative review, The Independents Ed Power gave the series a rating of two out of five and criticised it saying, "Sex Education suffers further for not being grounded in a distinctive time and place...Eager to please but confused, Sex Education could do with a stint on the therapist's couch itself".
Ncuti Gatwa, who plays gay black teen Eric Effiong, has received praise from critics and cultural commentators, who noted his role was not relegated to the cliché of a gay or black "best friend" stock character.
The series gained acclaim for its treatment of intimate content and use of an Intimacy coordinator, Ita O'Brien.