I have been remiss. I realise now, as its second series begins, that I have neglected to proclaim to you at every possible opportunity over these last few vexing years that help was at hand to smooth your passage through the dark days. I apologise unreservedly and say now: let The Sex Lives of College Girls (ITVX) comfort you and, also, I must state that it is not porn because I know that’s what you’re thinking. It is the creation of writer, actor, director and production powerhouse Mindy Kaling (The Office, Never Have I Ever, The Mindy Project) and Justin Noble (a writer on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Never Have I Ever) and is the perfect, elusive blend of truthful, joyful and funny.
It focuses on the adventures and misadventures (often genital based) of a quartet of roommate freshers at the fancy fictional Essex College in Vermont. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is a star soccer player whose mother is a US senator, which in the first series made it all the more important that she didn’t find out Whitney was having an affair with her assistant soccer coach. The parents of Indian-American Bela (Amrit Kaur) were equally shielded from the knowledge that their daughter was less interested in her neuroscience studies than she was in becoming a comedy writer and topographer of shredded frat boys. Leighton (Reneé Rapp) is the rich legacy student from the Upper East Side – an all-American blonde from a picture-perfect family that will shatter if they discover she is gay. And sweet Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet – yes, sister of Timothée), as naive and enthusiastic as a labrador puppy, is a small-town scholarship girl who has to navigate all the barriers life among the moneyed elite brings. Individually, the actors are pitch-perfect. Together, they are something special. At their best they remind you of the Friends’ chemistry which – whatever you thought of the show then or think of it now – was spectacular.
The second series picks up more or less where we left off. The girls are back after Thanksgiving break. Whitney – and her mother – have weathered the breaking of the coach storm and Whitney is with lovely Canaan (Christopher Meyer), who is almost worthy of her. But it is the soccer off-season and unlike her teammates, all busy with activities to pad out their graduate CVs, Whitney struggles to find a second string to her bow. Leighton hasn’t come out to her family but by the end of the first episode is out to all her roommates and over the next few episodes embarks on the odyssey of exploration, with all its delights and mistakes, that we watched her straight peers navigate last season. Bela – who spent her first term learning that the majority of comedy writers are a) pricks and b) start young – is now set on forming an all-female enclave, hampered only by the fact that all the volunteers for it are “unfunny turds”. And Kimberly, stripped of her scholarship by her midterm exam scandal (which has also seen off several Thetas) has to find a way of coming up with $23,000 tuition a term without her parents finding out.
There is a new guy down the hall, Jackson (of great topographical interest to them all). He (played by Mitchell Slaggert) is a climate refugee from Kansas – his school blew away in a tornado – who has distractingly loud sex with many different girls but by the end of the third episode is beginning to form a bond with Kimberly.
All is, in short, as it was. The girls throw themselves headlong into life, the jokes come thick and fast, the main players strike sparks off each other and the supporting cast are just as good. There is less Willow (Renika Williams), so far, than last time, which is a great sadness. But the rest are all present, correct and adding to the general sense of a show bursting with good things: talent, energy and wit to burn. It takes on the big and small stuff that makes up college life, allows some hugging and some learning without becoming smothered by schmaltz and lets us relive, for 20-odd minutes at least, those halcyon days when the world was tiny and we were the biggest things in it. Sometimes, I wish the programme could slow down a little and let some of its moments breathe, but that’s probably just because I am older – possibly older than Essex itself – and need my tablets. Still, it will leave you better than it found you, and who can really ask for more than that?
The Sex Lives of College Girls is streaming on ITVX in the UK, and in Australia on Binge and Foxtel Now