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Sex Education

Netflix gets bawdily heartfelt in its latest British import.

Sex Education Jon Hall/Netflix
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

There was a time when teens having sex on television could touch off minor scandals, because the very notion of teenagers having sexual impulses was considered inappropriate for TV to address. Sex Education, Netflix’s latest British import, is, if nothing else, very much proof those days are over.

Centered on a young man who discovers that his mother is a sex therapist and, subsequently, joins up with a female friend to offer his own sex therapy to his fellow students, Sex Education starts a little slow and takes its sweet time moving all the pieces of its premise into place. It also stumbles a bit along the way, in trying to give every episode a sort of “sex problem of the week” structure. But the longer the eight-episode first season runs, the more the show becomes a kind of British Big Mouth, aiming to make sexual pleasure something that’s not tittered about behind closed doors. Plus, the series boasts fun performances from Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, and especially newcomer Emma Mackey.

“The series strains at first to establish the procedural format: a little bit Masters of Sex, a little bit Doogie Howser, XXX. But it blooms, over eight episodes, into a smart, sensitive look at teens finding their place and figuring out the owner’s manuals for their bodies.” James Poniewozik, New York Times

Metacritic score: 81 out of 100

Where to watch: Sex Education is streaming on Netflix.

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