Shows like 'The Big Bang Theory', 'Modern Family' and 'Black-ish' are to comedy what macaroni and cheese is to the culinary experience: good enough but not particularly surprising or interesting.
Sure, you can throw in a twist here and an odd ingredient there, but at the end they’re passably funny sitcoms that you can comfortably watch with your parents. Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum is not.
If we were to stretch the food metaphor to its breaking point, Chewing Gum takes the mac and cheese, lobs it out the window, and serves up some Asian-Mexican fusion with a side helping of jollof rice.
Now in its second season, the show follows the life of a Beyoncé-obsessed 24-year-old named Tracey whose fluctuating maturity levels could, at their lowest ebb, make a 16-year-old boy scoff. She lives in an English council estate, has a hyper-religious mother and cannot seem to rid herself of her virginity.
When we last saw Chewing Gum’s Tracey, she was walking into the sunset homeless and trouser free but clutching the hand of the love of her life. The second season kicks off with her having tracked down a pair of pants and lost a boyfriend. Her heart is breaking while his life with his new lover looks like it was plagiarised from a cheesy travel commercial. High jinks of the most riotous order ensue.
What sets Chewing Gum apart is a combination of reliability and what seems to be a morbid fear of the bog-standardness that plagues shows like Modern Family. It doesn’t feel like it was written by a group of people trying to be quirky, it just is. Cole also manages to tackle topics such as fetishism, body issues and religion in ways that aren’t preachy, condescending or fearful.
Those who’ve become accustomed to mac and cheese may not find it to their liking. The jokes can get a little racy for mother’s liking and the characters are not all cut from the same middle-class cloth. But those who like a bit of variety in their humour will probably find themselves chuckling like a tickled toddler.
WATCH the trailer for the Netflix series, Chewing Gum
• Seasons 1 and 2 of ‘Chewing Gum’ are available on Netflix.
• This article was originally published in The Times.