E4’s gloriously filthy new comedy Chewing Gum follows 24-year-old Tracey (Michaela Coel) and her misadventures on her London council estate. Being raised as a devout Christian means her life experiences have been somewhat limited, so she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Tracey’s long-term relationship with her pompous, uninterested boyfriend Ronald (John MacMillan) is going nowhere, and she doesn’t want to preserve her virginity until marriage. The art of seduction doesn’t come naturally to Tracey, who gets nosebleeds upon sexual arousal. She enlists the help of her best friend and relationship guru Candice (Danielle Walters) to give her a makeover so she can finally entice Ronald. Candice’s top-notch dating advice includes nuggets such as, “You can bang someone on Tinder – it’s free.”Tracey realises Ronald is a lost cause, and a closer look at the erotic portraits of Jesus on his bedroom wall tells her all she needs to know about their sham relationship. Instead she sets her sights on her neighbour Connor (Robert Lonsdale), an aspiring poet who enjoys spending time in the communal bins.
Tracey’s first sexual encounter gives her a pregnancy scare, leading her to an underground supplier of alternative remedies (the substitute for the morning after pill turns out to be nothing more than a tube of Anusol and 12 sips of diet Coke). Tracey’s cluelessness about relationships doesn’t end there; after several failed attempts at seduction Tracey goes to the trouble of arranging a threesome with a stranger she found online to impress Connor.Coel plays the dorky, naïve star of the show effortlessly, providing consistently funny scenes of wretched humiliation. She’s also the writer of the series and doesn’t shy away from embarrassing subject matter. Tracey taking sexy photos of Connor’s mother to set up her dating profile, hastily arranging threesomes, and her efforts to remove stray food from her bra flirtatiously are just the tip of the iceberg. Coel has established herself as a fine writer, one that we will hopefully be seeing much more from in the future.
Chewing Gum is an honest insight into navigating the evolving, puzzling and often cringing world of modern dating. This refreshing and original British series is exactly what E4 has been missing.