Sex/Life is a sex drama in which Billie Connelly – sadly not the Glaswegian funny man but a fictional character of that name – goes on an erotic journey (picture the Luas) and must choose between several kinds of rich American hunk. Sure you know yourself. The show has just returned to Netflix with its second series, after a two-year gap. Presumably everyone involved needed time to rehydrate.
Sadly, the show’s most compelling character, Brad’s Penis, doesn’t make an appearance until the second episode. I can take or leave Brad himself, the subject of Billie Connelly’s outrageous lusts. He looks like a moody bad boy with a secret sorrow in a 1990s teen drama. He has floppy curtain hair, a leather jacket and designer stubble, and he lives in a loft, much like a pigeon. Is being a pigeon his secret sorrow? It is not. Living in a loft is apparently a cool thing New York rich people do.
‘Brad’s Penis!’ I cry. ‘Hallo!’ says Brad’s Penis in a Dutch accent. ‘I am Brad’s Penis. I live here in my house in Brad’s Trousers, and I am back for another exciting adventure’
The twist in the first series of Sex/Life was that Brad’s Penis was oversized enough to have a PPS number or to be called for jury duty or to fight for freedom overseas (possible future plot points). When Brad’s Penis, quite literally, pops up in the second episode of series two I welcome him like he’s Norm from Cheers.
“Brad’s Penis!” I cry.
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“Hallo!” says Brad’s Penis in a Dutch accent. “I am Brad’s Penis. I live here in my house in Brad’s Trousers, and I am back for another exciting adventure.”
Look, it’s possible that it’s me doing the voice.
By series two Billie Connelly* (Sarah Shahi) is in the midst of a divorce from her hunk husband, Cooper, with whom she was sexually dissatisfied in series one. Cooper is the type of hunk who is clean shaven and wears a crisp suit, by which I mean a suit that is clean and well maintained, not one that is emblazoned with the Tayto logo, like the one you wore at your wedding.
Billie and Cooper share custody of their two beautiful children, the Baby (can’t remember her real name) and Damien from the Omen (can’t remember his real name), who guilts and shames his parents with doe-eyed passive aggression at every opportunity. “I want Mommy to come home. I want us to be together like a family!” he says to Cooper in his customary whine. I wouldn’t normally put this on a child, but the divorce is definitely his fault.
Every day Cooper goes into the barrel factory where he works (I think it’s actually some sort of high-finance operation, but I’m a nominative determinist) and has rigorous sex with his boss in the lift and also on her desk, which feels very unhygienic. If I worked in that office I would wear full PPE.
Meanwhile Billie Connelly* and Brad are also estranged, and Brad is now embroiled with a pregnant model named Gigi, who calls him by his full name, like she’s a government agency (“I love you, Brad Simon”), and is intent on remodelling the loft in which he lives like a pigeon. (Pigeons love black-leather couches and distressed industrial walls.) Billie, meanwhile, cheerleads her alliterative friend Sasha Snow’s boardroom-feminist memoir about being an independent woman, when she’s not eating the face off a new hunk in the middle of his busy restaurant. If I was eating in that restaurant I would also wear full PPE.
[ ‘Finally,’ I thought, ‘an erotic drama that makes sense to me.’ It so doesn’t ]
She endears herself to this hunk by being a self-obsessed, oversharing sex astronaut (“Maybe I’m too broken,” she says, alluringly), and eventually they go to his loft for tastefully lit lovemaking. Everything is going to work out for Billie Connelly*! Oh no, the new hunk’s restaurant investor walks in on them while they’re in a mid-restaurant clinch, and it’s Brad! Also, Cooper’s boss gets fired for having sex on the desk, so there are, thankfully, actual laws in this fictional universe. The HR department all wear full PPE.
All the 1980s stuff is in big quotation marks, as is being a ‘cockney’, which by the end of the first episode I think of as a totally made-up thing, like being an ‘Ewok’ or a ‘puffin’
In each episode Billie Connelly* also pontificates about sex and love to a room filled with students. It’s a little like the Carrie Bradshaw shtick in Sex and the City, except Carrie was a sex columnist and I can’t remember from series one if Billie is a sex lecturer or if there’ll be an eventual scene where she’s escorted off the campus. Episode two (which is as far as I’ve got) ends with all of the various characters having steamy sex in beds and grimy toilets and in the middle of lofts but all separately and not in one big sex pile in a car park, which is where the show should be headed if the programme makers aren’t cowards.
Over on Sky Max and Now, A Town Called Malice gives unlikely people a shot at pretending to be tough-talking 1980s cockneys. There’s the American actor Martha Plimpton as a cockney matriarch and there’s the Scotsman Dougray Scott as a cockney gangster/lounge singer washed up on the Costa del Sol. (He sets upon the scenery like a beaver infestation.) Jason Flemyng is also there, but he always plays a cockney gangster, so he thinks this is a documentary.
All the 1980s stuff is in big quotation marks, as is being a “cockney”, which by the end of the first episode I think of as a totally made-up thing, like being an “ewok” or a “puffin”. British period drama is increasingly infected by the American belief that the past isn’t real and that all uses of it in TV and film need to be a postmodern nightmare of caricature and winks at the audience and heavy-handed needle drops.
By contrast, the 1980s of the German-made Faking Hitler (RTÉ Player and All4), a drama about the fraudulent Hitler diaries, the fraudster who created them and the journalists who wanted to believe they were real, feels lived-in and consequential, while also being really inventive and incredibly watchable.
And, if you’re looking for a real cockney, check out Cheat, on Netflix, a gameshow in which the host, the defrocked pearly king Danny Dyer, says things like “You absolute wrong-uns” and “Lying little weasels, the lot of ya!” Now that’s how you chew scenery, Dougray Scott: lovingly, gummily drooling humour and melancholy gravitas as you go. If somebody doesn’t write Danny Dyer a weighty prestige drama to star in by the end of the month, I’m writing it myself.
* Not the Glaswegian funny man Billy Connolly