Overrated/Underrated: U.K.'s fine ‘Sex Education,’ plus shaving and the culture wars
“Sex Education” on Netflix: America may dominate popular culture with the power of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but Europe often still leads in terms of subject matter. Consider this U.K. import, which imagines an awkward high school kid who with a little help follows in the footsteps of his sex therapist mother (an excellent Gillian Anderson) by counseling his classmates through their intimate issues. While it’s entertaining enough to imagine how far such a TV series might progress through an American network, “Sex Education” manages to be even more rewarding with a mix of outrageous comedy and gentle empathy.
“Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend”: The title of this podcast carries a slightly glum air, especially when taken with word that the longtime late-night host’s self-titled TBS show is being trimmed to half an hour. But O’Brien has proved to be a natural in the audio-only format. Opening with a run of guests that include Pete Holmes, Wanda Sykes and podcast standard-bearer Marc Maron, the show has a comedy-nerd tilt in its guest list, which frees its host to be his goofy self without adhering to typical network structure. It’s a welcome addition for those needing a laugh on their commute, and with O’Brien at the helm odds are it will only get weirder from here.
Razor outrage: A shaving company found itself the victim — and beneficiary — of the online outrage complex for an advertisement that dared suggest that men maybe shouldn’t sexually harass or bully anybody. This, it seems, is a controversial stance on the internet, which has long been a haven for both bullying and sexual harassment thanks to the slow-moving policies of social media platforms. The Gillette ad is pretty sharp as far as timely attempts to sell toiletries go, and the brand earned more mentions than a season’s worth of New England Patriots home games, but let’s be honest: Razors are not the real problem here.
The Fyre Festival: Imagined as an influencer-courting gathering that could rival Coachella in terms of decadence, this sham festival was such a disaster that for a few days in 2017 much of the internet seemed powered by schadenfreude alone. Seizing upon those emotions and the resulting legal action, both Netflix and Hulu released competing documentaries this week. Each offered its own examinations of what went wrong and while young festival-goers being cheated is a worthy investigation, it seems like there should be at least twice as many new documentaries this week about, say, Flint’s water crisis.
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