Scrotal Recall Is The Best Show You May Never Watch
When Netflix sent out its most recent programming update to its subscribers, the streaming hordes responded with a resounding “What the fuck?!?” upon being told to watch a show called Scrotal Recall. Netflix users took to Twitter questioning “Why the hell” they would ever watch such a show and suggesting the service had lost touch with its subscribers for suggesting the program. The major media outlets thoughtfully responded with an eloquent description of the show’s premise and plot lines chimed in with a thoughtful, “Haha. Balls!” Two days since its release,1 it appears public conversation of Scrotal Recall has gone just as quick as it came.2
However, Scrotal Recall isn’t a porn parody of the 1990 classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall,3 nor is it a thinly-veiled attempt at cyber bullying. In fact, Scrotal Recall is probably the best comedy you’ll refuse to consider watching.
Netflix’s latest “original”4 comedy has a clever, but seemingly limited premise: After discovering he has Chlamydia, Dylan, an awkwardly charming 20-something, decides to contact all of his former flames in alphabetical order to reveal the bad news. On its face, it’s a concept that seems better suited for an online video series or a bad Vince Vaughn movie. However, Scrotal Recall is far more interesting and intelligent than its name would lead anyone to expect.
In its first moments, Scrotal Recall places all of its cards on the table: a bitingly British doctor informs Dylan of his diagnosis, and the pair trade sarcastic barbs before Dylan returns home to decide how to proceed. He chooses to inform all of his former lovers over the phone or in person, and opts to do so in alphabetical order — mostly because he doesn’t want to call a woman named Tasha first. From there, Dylan embarks on his journey, reaching out to the women he may or may not have given the clap. The origins of the romances are revealed through intimate and hilarious flashbacks, before the show returns to the present. If fact, the majority of the show’s narrative is told through flashbacks, with the present only serving to bookend each episode. This could be infuriating in the wrong hands, but Scrotal Recall‘s producers have used this tactic impressively, ensuring all of the flashbacks contribute to the present story. The entirety of the first season, a brief and easily consumable six episodes proceeds under this formula, making its way from Abigail to Phoebe.5 In this way, Scrotal Recall can feel like a protagonist-centric show – as Dylan’s journey is the primary driving narrative. However, this isn’t an appropriate characterization of writer Tom Edge’s phenomenal show.
While the series casts its brightest gaze on the STI-stricken Dylan, it serves more as an examination of young adult friendship in an increasingly monogamy-cautious generation. Dylan lives with his two best friends Luke and Evie. For the most part, Luke plays the role of the typical “former nerd turned super bro,” falling on the same plane occupied by How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson and New Girl’s Schmidt. He’s brash, he’s confident, and – as eloquently stated by a female minister – he’s “all about the pussy.” Meanwhile, Evie fits into a similarly familiar role, albeit one more typically seen in movies and Taylor Swift songs. Evie is the beautiful best friend who can’t bring herself to reveal her feelings for her best friend, Dylan. She tries to make her feelings known, but struggles to find the words. Combined with Dylan’s quirky awkwardness and optimistic naivety, this friendship trio struggles to wade the tides of young adult relationships.
For the most part, these molds allow for a charming but predictable first couple episodes. A disastrous wedding in episode one, “Anna,” provides near constant humor. Between the aforementioned foul-mouthed minister, Luke’s tireless attempts to sleep with the maid of honor, and a plethora of other alcohol-induced hijinks – Scrotal Recall kicks off with some strong comedy, but fails to break any major comedic barriers. Episode two, while wildly different in setting, feels largely similar, albeit slightly darker. As Dylan attempts to play cub to a mature, eloquent “cougar,”6 he’s forced to confront his own immaturity. Meanwhile, Luke indulges in his shallowness, and Evie is unfortunately left to wallow in loneliness.
Despite a slow start, Scrotal Recall hits its stride in episode three, “Cressida.” Its in this episode that (SPOILER ALERT) the show abandons the horrible “will they-won’t they” and allows Dylan and Evie to cross the friendship barrier and have sex.7 This act changes the entire trajectory of the show, allowing for a better understanding of the present state of the characters’ relationship and establishing a more important journey than Dylan merely completing his list. Not only does this event change the relationship of Dylan and Evie, but it allows for an impressively thoughtful dissection of the assumedly shallow Luke, who becomes the expected heart of the season’s later episodes.
From episode three onward, Scrotal Recall does everything you could want in a “romantic-comedy” show. It provides hilarious moments and surprisingly well-planned callback jokes. It illuminates the struggles of balancing romance with self-discovery. And most importantly, it demonstrates an understanding of its characters’ needs and wants, and provides real obstacles to the characters’ happiness. Scrotal Recall8 doesn’t lower itself to the typical lazy sitcom romance obstacles like long-distance or nosy roommates or mean parents; instead, it highlights the characters’ faults and demonstrates just how those human faults are responsible for their shortcomings and unhappiness. It’s a show that, while not entirely “realistic”,9 is rooted in true human emotion and experience.
Scrotal Recall is far better than its name would ever allow you to believe. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s emotionally compelling. With a premise that both provides necessary boundaries but ample room for exploration, a palpable chemistry between the show leads, and conflicts rooted in painfully relatable human experiences, Scrotal Recall is one of the best “new” shows of 2015. And if you let its stupid name interfere with your thinking, it could be the best show you never watch.