Scrotal Recall was afforded a rare opportunity in the oversaturated television “get ratings or be killed” marketplace: a second chance. The British import on Netflix charmed its viewers, but suffered from a lack of word of mouth, primarily because people were reticent to say the word “Scrotal.” And so, the summer before its second season, Netflix announced that the show would be born again, under a new name. Scrotal Recall is dead. Long live Lovesick.
If a bit less colorful, Lovesick feels like an appropriately pleasant moniker for the sitcom, which follows Dylan (Johnny Flynn) as he retraces his sexual history to tell his former paramours that he’s been diagnosed with chlamydia. The show jumps back and forth in time, capturing an impressionistic view of the mid-twenties turmoil of Dylan and his flatmates: will-they-won’t-they love interest Evie (The Good Doctor’s Antonia Thomas) and playboy Luke (Daniel Ings, The Crown).
Creator Tom Edge (who also wrote the standout season 2 episode of The Crown, “Paterfamilias”) has mastered the comedy of shortsighted people falling in love in the wrong order without ever retreating to slapstick or easy punch lines about millennials. Dylan, Evie, and Luke feel like people you knew in college — or people you wish you knew in college — and watching them grow feels as vital as catching up with stories about old friends. Everyone grows up: They’ve gone from bumbling flatmates with unchecked STIs to wedding guests, fiancées, company owners. In other words, from Scrotal Recall to Lovesick.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how did the actual decision to change the name of your show go down?
TOM EDGE: Everyone always assumes it was Netflix, but actually, we ended up asking Netflix if they could figure out whether the audience for the show found the title off-putting, and they did a little survey of people who had watched the first season, and rating it well, and they found that the majority of people wouldn’t recommend it to friends and family because it would involve saying the word “scrotal” out loud. In terms of word of mouth, this seemed problematic, to say the least, and because it was Netflix, and we knew that they would be able to tell people who loved the first season that it still existed, but in new garb, we figured that it might be a wise decision to change it. I think we still have maybe five percent of our viewers who think we threw away the greatest title of all time, but I think most people are quietly relieved to be able to tell their grandparents what they watched this weekend without curling up and wanting to die.
Are you in that five percent?
You know what, I don’t miss the title too much. Our original title was a wonderful misadventure. We just got used to a shady working title that amused us in the moment that we bookmarked to rethink later on and then forgot to rethink it. So we were offered a rare chance to undo our own idiocy, and that doesn’t happen too often in this life. It misrepresented the tone of the show quite profoundly; people either avoided Scrotal Recall out of a lack of desire to recall scrotums, or else they showed up thinking this is going to be a great, sweaty, frat boy comedy, and then were like, “What the hell, everyone seems melancholic and confused with questions of friendship.” We readily disappointed two whole constituents of people and hopefully we righted that.
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead about season 3. Continue reading at your own risk!]
So, in season 3, Dylan and Evie finally get together. Were you concerned about that upsetting the dynamic of a show that’s been all about balancing the “will-they-won’t-they”?
Yeah, absolutely. I think we were really conscious of precedent, and I think over the years, Moonlighting has often been talked about as a show that suffered once the tension of that central Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd will they-won’t-they was resolved, and we also looked at shows like Friends where they held off that final Ross and Rachel beat as long as they possibly could, and 250 episodes in, I mean, my god, what a Herculean task to keep their audience on track and rooting for that relationship despite all of the convolutions thrown at them.
I think the show was always quite streamlined in its themes. We weren’t going to go off and do episodes about character’s jobs; we really wanted to keep looking at those central relationship questions, so it didn’t feel like we gave ourselves a huge amount of wiggle room in any case. I also think the show is quite grounded, and I think we would have had to start reaching for some hokey devices to break them apart or somehow hold that moment away. There’s only so long you can do that before you’re having to ask yourself the question: are we holding off because we want another season out of this story line or are we doing this because sincerely the characters don’t feel like they’re there yet.
So, ultimately we made the choice to go with what felt organic to the characters, but we absolutely were concerned about how to manage that. And what we did feel confident about was that other characters have room to grow. Luke in particular felt like he was by no means a character who’s resolved. It felt like from the mid-point of the third season we had inverted where we began with the show: Luke is sitting, head in his hands, saying “I just want love, how do I find this,” and it’s Dylan tentatively offering him advice that may not be the right fit.
You also wrote the episode of The Crown that featured flashbacks and jumping in time.
Yeah, oddly, it felt the most similar to Lovesick in terms of its narrative strategies; the ability to go back and forward in time and uncover the complexity in the present and find your way back towards the more sympathetic moments that account for it. I loved writing the episode, and it’s a really great team that makes that show, and so generous of Peter Morgan to let me write it. He asked me what I wanted to write on the second season, and that seemed to me like an easy choice to say yes to — easy because how compelling it seemed. It is a great, and really painful story, the story of Philip’s childhood, and how those events sort of made him, and how the making of him made his relationship with Charles so problematic years later.
Johnny Flynn is an amazing singer and musician. Have you thought about integrating that into the show?
You know what? That karaoke scene in episode two of the new season is another piece of wonderful acting as Johnny tries to pretend he doesn’t have an astonishing voice, and Antonia has a beautiful jazz singer’s voice; she’s a very accomplished singer, and there she’s trying to nail singing slightly off-key. So it was very impressive watching these very good singers manage to pretend they were a bunch of semi-tone deaf friends having a good time.
Lovesick is currently available on Netflix.