“My mum was gonna call me Alyssa, which means sweet angel in Indian,” says 24-year-old virgin Tracey Gordon in E4’s brilliant, raunchy new sitcom Chewing Gum, “but when I came out, she looked at me and called me Tracey.”
Bold and refreshingly original, Chewing Gum is bursting with explicit, no-holds-barred bon mots like this, with its diverse cast of characters chatting openly about aspiration, desire and, yes, sheer rampant horniness with a wit and off-the-cuff charm that is so rarely seen on the box.
Written and created by Michaela Coel, based on her award-winning play of almost the same name, the series tags along with the life of Tracey (played by Coel), who lives on a London council estate with her God-fearing mum and sister.
In last night’s series opener, an aggressively repressed Tracey becomes so desperate to open her, err, sexual floodgates that she commits to finally seducing her long-term boyfriend Ron (John Macmillan). The catch? Ron’s a devout, celibate Christian who’s more interested in memorising bible passages and patronising non-believers than he is in the passionate fire burning underneath Tracey’s undies.
Inexperienced in the art of seduction, Tracey enlists her best friend Candice (Danielle Walters) to help her look irresistible.
With lines like “I flopped so hard it’s like my vagina’s got epilepsy” and “I know sexual harassment is illegal, but it came from my heart”, Chewing Gum could well rival the likes of The Thick of It and Anchorman for endless quotability.
And even without the frank one-liners, the series is overflowing with painfully big laughs, mostly centring on the cringingly awkward encounters that stem from Tracey’s desperation and naiveté, such as a disastrous attempt to mount her boyfriend that begins with a terrible unconvincing-drag-act makeover and ends with a scarpering Ron being struck down in the street by a car.
Coel is sweet and likeable as the series’ silly and unfiltered lead, but she’s run close for the prize of standout performer by Susan Wokoma, who plays her Ludo-obsessed, evangelical sister Cynthia, and Walters as Candice, a naughty mouth-on-legs who is always ready with a handy sex tip or two: “If all else fails, just sit on his face,” she sagely advises Tracey at one stage.
The best thing about Chewing Gum, though, is its unique depiction of council estate living. There are no shots of gloomy, dilapidated flats here, nor are there any Rottweiler-owning skinheads or menacing drug dealers knocking about the place; instead, London’s Tower Hamlets is shown to be bright, vibrant and thoroughly inspiring. Much like the series itself.
Click here to watch Chewing Gum on 4OD