Brow Beat

Don’t Be Turned Off by Scrotal Recall’s Awful Name. The New Netflix Comedy Is Delightful.

Dylan (Johnny Flynn), Evie (Antonia Thomas), and Luke (Daniel Ings) in Scrotal Recall.

Photo courtesy Netflix.   

When Scrotal Recall first showed up on Netflix this month, I wondered if it was a joke. When Netflix’s algorithm suggested that I would give it five stars, I marveled at how poorly the technology understood my impeccable taste. But then I finally watched the show. Though burdened with a terrible name, the six-episode British comedy is delightful: a funny, tenderhearted, and clever take on the friendship sitcom.

In the tradition of High Fidelity, Scrotal Recall, which first aired in the fall on the British station Channel 4, follows a shaggy-haired lad revisiting his past loves. But Dylan (Johnny Flynn) isn’t just on a quest to figure out where he went wrong. He’s tracking down his former lovers so he can tell them that he recently tested positive for chlamydia. (It’s the perfect STD to carry the story: Chlamydia is treatable, and people often don’t experience any symptoms. But those exposed do need to be alerted, because it can lead to infertility.) For his trip down sexual-memory lane, Dylan is accompanied by his two best friends, Evie (Antonia Thomas) and Luke (Daniel Ings).

Scrotal Recall is the dry British cousin of Happy Endings. Or maybe it’s How I Met Your Mother without the slather of CBS Velveeta that sometimes made HIMYM cringe-worthy. Its timeline hops between past and present. It contains some pithy observations about life as a single young adult—in one episode, for instance, Luke drags Dylan and Evie to a far-away gathering so he can try to bed a high-school crush. When the two fail to click with the rest of the attendees, the smart and endearingly sardonic Evie complains, “We’re at a party that doesn’t like us.” It’s a perfect description of a feeling that I, at least, know well: realizing at the beginning of a social event that you just don’t gel with anyone there. Luke is a Barney-esque pick-up artist, but his caddishness is dialed down just enough to make him seem vulnerable rather than venal. And Dylan, though he has an extensive list of ladies to alert about his STD, longs for true love. He and Evie are in a bit of a will-they-or-won’t-they situation, but the story line feels natural—perhaps because the short British season doesn’t drag anything out unnecessarily.

It’s also refreshing to see a show that handles an STD in a frank way, even if it does gloss over the long-term effects of chlamydia a bit. Dylan is embarrassed to call his old lovers to let them know, but he does the right thing—albeit occasionally at the wrong time.