‘Sally4Ever’ excites despite mastering the art of boredom
It is no secret that queer women still lack normalized representation in the media, but we already knew that. And with more and more television shows mistaking representation for exploitation, it is refreshing to sit down and watch a television program in which a woman chooses to experiment sexually without the specter of the male gaze looming over its inclusion.
“Sally4Ever” is a British-American comedy created and written by Julia Davis (“Electric Dreams”), taking its place among “Chewing Gum” and “Crazyhead” in the new renaissance of female-helmed British comedies. The series follows protagonist Sally (Catherine Shepherd, “Paddington 2”), as she struggles to come to terms with the boredom of her existence. This boredom manifests itself through the many mundane aspects of her everyday life: her pointless job, her dull sex life and her seeming lack of friends. With her boyfriend David’s (Julian Barratt, “Flowers”) recent proposal of marriage, Sally’s life seems to be headed towards a permanent flatline. That is, until she locks eyes with a stranger named Emma (Davis) on the tube, and begins to question what she truly wants in life.
Where “Sally4Ever” shines is in its realistic exploration of this boredom. Showing that someone is unhappy with pretty much every aspect of their existence can be a tough feat — you must show that the person has a justifiable reason to be bored, yet avoid making their lives look like a farcical mockery of everyday life. Julia Davis’s writing nailed this niche to a T. The dialogue that took place between Sally and her co-workers and between Sally and her husband was so realistically awkward and passive aggressive that it was hard not to feel second-hand discomfort.
In addition to the realism that highlighted the cause of Sally’s crisis, the authenticity of her actions while in the midst of her break also felt sensible. Rather than writing Sally as going off the rails and abruptly taking on a new persona once she is momentarily tempted by Emma, she stays true to form. Sally challenges herself to sneak out to the rave that Emma is performing at, but attends dressed like a middle schooler. Some of the best comedy of the pilot episode was derived from this dance between Sally’s clear internal wanting to be dangerous and her subpar execution.
However, the downside of a show that is so realistically boring is that sometimes there are points where it just seems boring. Every secondary character retained more entertainment value than Sally. Even the supposedly unlikable characters, like her co-workers, were engaging enough to make me sit up during their scenes. I could not say the same for Sally. Unlike other “normal person bored with drab life” comedies, the character of Sally did not make me believe that she deserved better than what she already has. The most intriguing character on the show proved to be Emma, not simply because she is a hilariously untalented multi-hyphenate (actor, singer, dancer, artist), but also because of the clear manipulation she uses to lure in Sally that leaves the audiences wondering if she actually gives two shits about Sally or, if she is just using the poor girl as a form of entertainment.
“Sally4Ever” clearly has a lot of ground to cover; I am excited to see where the show will take its audience over the course of its eight-episode order. Hopefully, on a show with such an exciting and daring premise, the character at the center will be able to experience more development that elevates her from solely being defined by her sadness and boredom into a character who has multiple facets to her being.