If you ever need proof that the first draft isn’t always the best one, know that one of the most romantic TV shows of recent years was originally called Scrotal Recall.
Thankfully, that decision was re-considered. Lovesick is a British sitcom on Netflix that stars Johnny Flynn (who you may have since seen being floppy in the recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma) as Dylan, a 20-something who discovers he has chlamydia and must track down all of his past sexual partners to advise them.
It’s sort of like High Fidelity, except with STIs instead of feelings. It sounds more gross than it is.
In various timelines (we’ll get to that) Dylan lives in a sharehouse in Glasgow with Luke (Daniel Ings from The Crown and Sex Education) and Evie (Antonia Thomas from Misfits and The Good Doctor). Dylan is a hapless romantic and generally unreliable, Luke is a womaniser who’s obsessed with his image and Evie is a cynic who spends most of her time rolling her eyes at them both. Dylan and Evie are obviously in love, but never at the same time. Each episode is about Dylan contacting a different ex-partner and us being transported back to their sexual encounter, meaning that the show often jumps between the present and flashbacks to different times in the trio’s past.
Still with me? Great! The premise may sound a bit played out, but this show is mega addictive. Apart from being one of the funniest sitcoms I’ve seen in years – if someone walks past while you’re watching it, they’ll end up watching the whole episode for this reason – Lovesick is romantic. Like, really romantic.
It’s full of genuine “will they or won’t they” energy – and not in a frustrating Ross and Rachel way, in which two people are continually flung together for no other reason than they can’t be bothered meeting anyone new. The story is about the thrill of the chase, the despair of never quite matching timelines with someone and the discomfort of realising the person you’re supposed to want isn’t the one you find yourself gravitating towards.
TV shows about young people in crappy apartments falling in and out of each other’s beds aren’t new, and I’m admittedly a sucker for stories about friends who suddenly realise they’re in love (I think in psychology they call it “the Pacey Witter Syndrome”). Before watching Lovesick last year, I don’t think I realised how much I liked seeing romantic comedies on TV.
I’m making Lovesick sound wussy, but it’s not. Creator Tom Edge infuses the show with enough humour and acute social observation that it cuts through the sweetness. All the love triangles and charming banter are often played out against personal tragedy: marriages fail, people die, grief affects the characters for the arc of a season.
A lot of Lovesick is about the realisation that you might not be at the “correct” life stage – especially when that girl you used to hook up with at house parties is now married and has a baby. Most of Dylan, Evie and Luke’s struggles stem from a classic young adult dilemma: wondering if you’ve spent too much time acting like the version of yourself people expect, rather than the version you actually want to be.
The jump in timing is occasionally confusing (you can usually tell the era by Evie’s hairstyle, but not always) but I can’t recommend a better just-before-bed watch. Most of the show is just friends sitting around in a pub and saying, “Remember that person you dated five years ago?” What’s more comforting than that?
• Lovesick is available to stream on Netflix