After creating a sensation with their steamy, explicit sex on Bridgerton, Netflix returns to that genre — but this time without the costumes — with “Sex/Life.” Sarah Shahi plays a mother and wife in the middle of a midlife crisis. She longs for the wild sex she once had. Unfortunately, the Harlequin Romance trappings are too overwrought to bring out more pleasure than guilt.
The eight-episode series was inspired by the book “44 Chapters About 4 Men”, by BB Easton. Shahi, last seen on “Person of Interest”, plays the role of Billie Connelly. She seems to be living a suburban life with her children and her husband Cooper (Mike Vogel), who is a budding Master of the Universe in author Tom Wolfe’s literary terminology. Her career has taken precedence.
Cooper, despite his appearances, has become a person who is not interested in Billie (a mini-Cooper if you will). Billie begins to reminisce and fantasize about her club-hopping youth in Manhattan as a single woman with friend Sasha (Margaret Odette), while Billie reminds herself how great it is.
Billie is not convinced. She thinks a lot about her ex-boyfriend Brad (Adam Demos), an Australian record executive/sex god. Billie enjoyed heart-shattering and spine-tingling encounters with him. Her husband also found a journal that detailed their experiences.
Brad is not just a part of Billie’s past. He has returned to her life in an unexpected manner that challenges her insistence on how happy she truly is and the wonderful lives she and Cooper have created.
Stacy Rukeyser, a producer whose credits include the underappreciated, oversees “Sex/Life”. The show takes off in all sorts of crazy directions, and you have two options: either accept it on its absurd terms like the sexualized version of “Fast and Furious,” or look at what’s trending.
It might actually work better if the concept was not so conspicuously beautiful. This reinforces the idea that the goal is to less relate to these characters (and this new made-for-TV version of a desperate home wife) than to simply ogle them.
While push-the envelope has been successful in attracting attention before, “Sex/Life” might be viewed by some viewers as the TV’s equivalent of a summer trash read. It features novels featuring flawlessly tanned covers. This is a strategy that premium networks have used occasionally, often with mixed results.
Regardless of the inherent truths that the show explores — marriage can be hard, romance fades, and magic/romance fades – they are still true. The show’s wilful silliness can overshadow them. There are many subplots that make this a funny story. They include the narrow-minded moms in Billie’s social circle and Cooper’s work dynamics. Li Jun Li is a boss who sees Cooper the same way children look at ice-cream cones.
You can chalk up “Sex/Life”, as another series in which the characters, no matter how angsty or unhappy they may be, look amazing and act miserable. Even with this, you won’t have as much fun watching the series unless your brain is really fried.