‘You tested positive for chlamydia’. This is how Episode 1 of Lovesick starts, but where the show ends up going may surprise you. I’ll admit that when my mum walked into the living-room and asked I was slightly embarrassed to tell her the premise of the programme I was watching: a man with chlamydia revisits old girlfriends to inform them that they should get tested for it too. Creator Tom Edge, however, manages to turn this topic into a touching and poignant exploration of love in all its forms and the relationships that define us. All the while de-stigmatising the topic of sexually transmitted infections.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, each episode of Lovesick is named after one of Dylan’s ex sexual partners and intertwines flashbacks to their original relationship with scenes of him talking to them now. The process of revisiting old relationships gives Dylan a chance to reflect on how he acted in each one and how each relationship changed him. At the end of the flashback in the first episode Dylan tells Abigail, whom he has just met, that ‘only one can be the one’. What she asks next is basically what the show, at least in the first two seasons, is attempting to answer: ‘what do you do while you’re waiting?’ What the viewer and Dylan soon realise, however, is that life is about much more than just ‘waiting’ for the ‘one’ (who for Dylan is obviously meant to be his best friend Evie). Indeed, Dylan’s friends from University/flatmates Evie, Luke and Angus (in the third season) are just as central to the narrative as he is and many of the flashbacks and current stories focus on them. This show is as much about the love between friends as it is about romance. I know, this doesn’t sound like a very new idea (see: How I Met Your Mother) but the ingenuity of Lovesick is its authenticity: it is neither corny nor predictable.
Unlike some shows that have been rebranded as ‘Netflix Originals’ Lovesick actually got better after Netflix picked it up for its second and third seasons. Rather than doing their usual trick and rebooting old programmes that should be left in the past (Gilmore Girls, Full house) here the streaming service gave a platform to a programme that knew it had more to say and wasn’t done evolving. This evolution includes a movement away from typical rom-com tropes such as the misogynist bachelor and the whipped husband. It’s true that these cliches threaten to become a part of the fabric of Lovesick even in the first episode as Luke does nothing but search for a one-night stand and Angus’ bride, a classic ‘bridezilla’, tirades around their wedding reception. However, these issues are soon ironed out as the characters develop. In fact, character development is the biggest strength of the show. Once you really get into Lovesick you’ll notice how well each and every character is treated by the writers. No character is insignificant or a mere plot device. This show isn’t just about ‘the one’: its about the important relationships (romantic and non-romantic) that make us who we are by the time we find ‘the one’ and even after we have found them. It’s for this reason, along with the gentleness that these relationships are dealt with in the writing, directing and acting, that I would argue Lovesick has more in common with the coming-of-age than the romantic-comedy genre.
Lovesick’s coming-of-age nature is evident in the way it deals both with relationships and with the topic of STI’s. It’s just…real. Dylan’s chlamydia diagnosis, a very original inciting incident on Edge’s part, is treated as a normal thing. An inconvenience, for sure, but never a source of judgement. The relationships too are neither presented through rose-coloured glasses nor full of drama for the sake of drama. Edge recognises that there is already enough drama in daily life. The ending of Season 3 exemplifies this; it’s raw, moving and full of understanding.
To be honest, I don’t think the below trailer for Lovesick does it justice – it is about so much more than just Dylan and Evie – but still check it out.
You can watch the first three seasons of Lovesick now on Netflix.