Friday, 3 October 2014

Review: Channel 4's SCROTAL RECALL • an infectiously sweet sex comedy

Friday, 3 October 2014


I don't begrudge creator Tom Edge (The Midnight Beast) failing to avoid naming his sitcom SCROTAL RECALL, because sometimes a good pun's irresistible. However, it does create assumptions about the tone which are misleading, as this wasn't as vulgar as I was expecting a single-camera comedy about Chlamydia to be.

The concept is simple and strong, with solid execution of a potentially long-running formula. It's a sex-comedy twist on My Name is Earl, kind of, as we're introduced to unlucky-in-love Dylan Witter (Johnny Flynn); a quixotic twentysomething with a STI, who must now inform all of his past sexual partners. Dylan uses the opportunity to write an alphabetical list of his bedpost notches over the past eleven years, and get in touch with his exes.

Each episode revolves around a different girl on Dylan's handwritten list (beginning with 'Abigail'), and will presumably follow the format of this premiere—focusing on a flashback to Dylan's past to a defining moment of a sexual relationship. In the case of "Abigail", it was set during the wedding of a mutual friend, when beautiful girlfriend Abigail (Jessica Elerby) broke up with Dylan during the church ceremony. Also involved in the past and present storylines are Dylan's best mates: extroverted ladies man Luke (Daniel Ings), and lovely Evie (Misfits' Antonia Thomas).

As I said, to its credit and against expectations, Scrotal Recall was more sensitive and interesting than it might have been in different hands. Dylan's actually a very nice young man, whose only major character fault is a tendency to be too romantic with girlfriends (if that's possible). This felt very refreshing, because it would have been so much easier to write Dylan as a sex-obsessed cretin his exes don't want to ever meet again, who's careened around various bedrooms.

Luke's the only character who felt larger-than-life and thus the focus of the premiere's broader comedy moments, while Dylan and Evie were both very restrained and instantly likeable.

The only issue I have is that Scrotal Recall lacked laughs. It was amusing without making me grin or giggle too often. I responded more to the clever idea and how it's perfect for the demands of weekly TV, rather than the actual material in terms of jokes and set-pieces. I wanted to laugh a lot more than I did, basically, but I did find myself moved by the denouement, which suggests this show has the power to be bittersweet and heartfelt.

The actors sell that side of the show brilliantly, and I already like the three main characters… but, well, it would be nice to be laughing more. This is a comedy, after all; albeit one where the ridiculous title could have some people upset it's not a venereal American Pie, but actually something sweeter.

written by Tom Edge • directed by Elliott Hegarty • 2 October 2014 • Channel 4