The latest comedy series to transfer from BBC3, this Irish three-parter tackles the subject of testicular swellings which might be cancerous, so as you may imagine isn’t exactly a laugh a minute affair. But it is a slightly unusual piece, the first episode being quite a broad and coarse comedy with a lot of teenagers talking nonsense about sex, before the other two episodes are often a far more serious affair.
That first episode introduces us to Michael (Nathan Quinn-O’Rawe) and his two friends, Tommy (Oliver Anthony), who’s a kind of more likeable version of Jay From The Inbetweeners, and Connor (Levi O’Sullivan), who potentially has an imaginary girlfriend given that mysteriously no one’s ever met her. At first it’s quite a laddish piece as the boys are sex obsessed and Tommy goes on and on about inserting a finger in to his anus, commenting “”So now, like, once or twice a week I sit down and really treat myself”, but once we meet Michael’s mother Patricia (Sinead Keenan) it becomes thankfully a bit more layered.
That’s partly because Michael’s father died of motor neurone disease when he was very young and so the two have a close relationship, but also because half way through the episode Michael becomes concerned when he discovers a swelling on one of his testicles and is understandably worried about it. There’s still some fairly crude humour as Michael panics “Shit, did I do that? Was I wanking too hard?” and when he tries to tell his friends while playing online they’re, well, they’re teenage teenage boys and so shite and don’t listen, but at least it’s more interesting than the opening ten minuets or so.
Michael’s concerns become magnified when he gets a date with Rachel (Jessica Reynolds) who he really likes, but he’s terrified she’ll notice his enormous swelling. Indeed at the start of the second episode it appears that she did, though not in the way Michael first imagined as a rumour is spread around the school that he has an enormous dick. So yes, more Inbetweeners style humour is the order of the day, though it does tackle more serious themes shortly afterwards as it’s also rumoured that Rachel gave him oral sex, and in her words “You’re a legend and I’m just a dirty wee slut”. It’s a bleak observation but an important one for the show to explore, and it also allows Michael and Rachel to bond further, with their relationship one of the rare, sweet elements of the series.
The rest of the episode is devoted to Michael finally telling his mother about the swelling, and the trip to the doctors to find out what’s taking place. There’s a fair amount of discussion about Michael’s father’s dying days as well, making it a fairly dull affair, and when it comes to the medical elements it’s not anything you won’t have seen before if you’ve watched any drama covering the topic of someone being seriously ill, and at times I found myself getting a little bored, the writing’s not bad exactly, just not particularly sharp or innovative.
The third and final episode is unfortunately the weakest of the three, again it starts off with a fair amount of crude gags as Michael goes to a party at Tommy’s house and though he wants to have sex with Rachel he worries she’ll freak out when she sees the swelling. But instead of being honest with her he gets ridiculously drunk, vomits everywhere and treats her like shit, in scenes which are mostly tiresome and lacking in anything that will make you laugh despite the vomiting clearly supposed to amuse.
At least when he drunkenly confesses his concerns the show stops being boorish and trite, and the nature of the relationship between Michael and his two friends is a more enjoyable element, but the rest of the episode is a bit saccharine, the ending especially, given what happens there’s not going to be another series but I can’t say I was particularly in any way upset by that fact.
It’s the kind of tv series where if it helps just one person come to terms with a similar condition then of course it has value, and there are a few other positive aspects to it as certainly the young cast are all superb and a few of the jokes land. But most of the time it’s a bit on the nose, a bit by the numbers, offering very little insight in to how someone might react in such a situation (well, apart from “Reasonably badly”) and the tackier sex related elements are painfully unoriginal.
Episode 1 – ★★★
Episode 2 – ★★1/2
Episode 3 – ★1/2
Series Rating – ★★1/2
You can watch the series on the BBC iPlayer here.