Though it sounds like a gay porn parody of a Paul Verhoeven movie, Netflix’s Scrotal Recall couldn’t be farther from what its awful title suggests. A British half-hour comedy that premiered on Channel 4 in October before stealthily surfacing among Americans’ streaming options last month, the show is romantic and sweet (and straight, alas), even in the select moments when it gets overtly sexy. It also only runs six episodes, making it the perfect low-commitment binge-watch for a time of year when you might be saving your precious free time for frolicking in the sunshine.
Scrotal Recall gets its structure, and its stupid name, from protagonist Dylan’s (Johnny Flynn) discovery that he has chlamydia and subsequent resolution to personally inform each of his past sexual partners that she needs to get tested. The show opens in a clinic, where Dylan’s diagnosis is delivered with sarcasm that’s as entertaining as it is jarring. This, it soon becomes clear, is how the world generally treats our hero: his sweet ingenuousness is often met with suspicion or scorn or straight-up cruelty.
Dylan is the type of character that could easily have been off-putting, his kindness and bad luck in love coming together to make him a dreaded Nice Guy. What saves him is that he’s not just “nice” — he’s genuinely openhearted and good-natured (and also maybe good-looking) enough not to blame his problems on the women in his life. Though he gets knocked around a lot on the battlefield that is love, he absorbs each blow quickly and gets back in the game.
Surely, part of his resilience has to do with the fact that, through all of his romantic entanglements, Dylan’s heart has only really belonged to one woman: his best friend Evie (Antonia Thomas). Of course, she’s a perfect complement to him — down-to-earth where he’s dreamy, sharp where he’s soft, ensnared by her own disappointing romances until finally she lets one of them grow into an engagement. If Scrotal Recall has a significant fault (well, besides its title), it’s that Dylan’s longing for Evie — and hers for him — is too obvious from the very beginning. As soon as we see them together, in a flashback to a wedding where Dylan also ends up in bed with a friendly bartender after his girlfriend dumps him right in the middle of the ceremony, we know they’re destined for each other. This barely feels like a problem, though; unlike most romantic comedies, Scrotal Recall isn’t powered by will-they-or-won’t-they suspense so much as by the sheer fun of spending time with the characters.
Although other friends and lovers recur throughout the short season, only one other character rounds out the central cast: Dylan’s roommate Luke (Daniel Ings). Like Dylan, Luke is the type of guy who should be annoying — in this case, a lothario who’s always scheming to hook up with some girl or other — but is written with such lightness that he remains not just bearable but endearing. Clearly meant to lend both contrast to Dylan’s character and zany antics to various episodes, he nonetheless cares deeply enough about his friends to play a vital role in their story.
There isn’t much more to the series than that, and there doesn’t need to be. Sometimes, all it takes to make a show satisfying is likable, attractive characters who seem guaranteed to find the happiness that we so badly want for them. Scrotal Recall may never become one of Netflix’s flagship shows, and it will certainly never lend itself to the intense online discussions that we now seem to demand Internet-only programs inspire — but it’s still among the most enjoyable comedies I’ve watched this year.