'Lovesick' excels in its third season

Sunday, January 7, 2018 - 5:49pm

NOSELL

Netflix

 

Before moving to Netflix from Britain’s Channel 4, “Lovesick” was originally named “Scrotal Recall,” a title so laughable and eye-rolling it suggested the worst qualities of a television rom-com. Even the premise seemed slight: A young Englishman named Dylan (Johnny Flynn, “Genius") must seek out all the women he slept with after discovering he has chlamydia. But don’t let the original title and premise downplay its potential: “Lovesick” is a remarkable gem of a show.     

With a neat balance between snappy humor and poignant drama, “Lovesick” comes into its own in its third season. Creator Tom Edge (“The Crown”) has crafted yet another array of episodes that will make you cringe, laugh and contemplate your own perception of love in the 21st century.

After reconciling with his girlfriend Abigail (Hannah Britland, “Rush”), Dylan struggles to conceal his feelings for his best friend Evie (Antonia Thomas, “The Good Doctor”), a will-they-won’t-they romance that’s as intensely complicated as Ross and Rachel’s. Meanwhile, Dylan’s other friends — the extroverted, philandering Luke (Daniel Ings, “Instinct”) and the neurotic, sprightly Angus (Joshua McGuire, “Cinderella”) — find themselves in their own romantic entanglements. And unlike the previous two seasons, which depicted Dylan’s doomed affairs with women that led to his STD, season three of “Lovesick” focuses more on the roots of Dylan and Evie’s relationship and how it has blossomed over time.

The most refreshing aspect of “Lovesick,” and especially with this season, is that the subject matter is so utterly real and unapologetically honest. Underneath all of its whip-smart dialogue and zany cringe comedy, there is such heart within each character and their relationships to one another. The tricky conflict that stirs between Dylan and Evie — they love each other, but don’t want to ruin a good friendship — never feels flat. Thomas and Flynn’s performances and magnetic chemistry help capture the muddiness and awkwardness of their characters’ conundrum. Luke and Angus also get wonderful subplots this season: Luke learns that he wants more in a relationship than just a one-night fling, while Angus worries about starting his future with his pregnant fiancée Holly (Klariza Clayton, “Fox Trap”).

The show isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of how our desire for connection informs our desperation for love, or how our past experiences shape our present anxieties. Everyone, even the supporting characters, gets a nuanced personal journey.

What’s even more alluring about “Lovesick” is that it adds a rare layer of depth that other similar romantic sitcoms have mostly failed to consistently uphold. “Lovesick” mirrors the extended flashback format of “How I Met Your Mother,” but devotes more time to fleshing out character arcs than maintaining running gags. It shares the dysfunction of “You’re the Worst” but without any of the misanthropy. The young cast of “Lovesick” channels the charismatic, hyper-specific appeal of “Friends,” and, while they haven’t reached icon status yet, Dylan, Luke, Angus and Evie are certainly on their way.

Had “Lovesick” been made by the wrong hands — or even maintained its original title — it could’ve easily ended up yet another formulaic, cheesy and grating show about young 20-somethings figuring their shit out. It could’ve kept the cookie-cutter qualities of its archetypal characters — the insecure protagonist, the womanizing best friend, the nebbish acquaintance and the manic pixie dream girl love interest. Lucky for us, “Lovesick” is not that kind of show, as its third (and hopefully not final) season is a testament to streaming sitcoms.