The Bisexual, Channel 4
- Brian Donaldson
- 4 October 2018
A comedy drama about sexual awakening that fails to be funny or dramatic
'Pioneering' and 'ground-breaking' are just two of the adjectives that have been bandied around as part of the breathless build-up to Desiree Akhavan's comedy-drama The Bisexual. After the first two episodes, can 'dreary' and 'disappointing' be added to the mix? As director of acclaimed movies Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, much was clearly expected of Akhavan's debut as creator, co-writer, director and star of a network TV show. But after just over an hour into The Bisexual, it's hard to see much drama evolving and the search for anything approximating comedy will just have continue into its third episode.
Seemingly shot largely to replicate the grimy, semi-shaky ambience of 80s British film dramas (anything from Mike Leigh can act as a reference point), The Bisexual tells the very contemporary tale of Leila (Akhavan), a gay American woman high up in the London design world who takes the foot off the gas from her decade-long relationship with business partner Sadie (Maxine Peake) during which she experiments sexually with men. The moments that arise from these encounters are either awkward or embarrassing or a combination of both, as she attempts to keep this lifestyle sea-change hidden from her gay pals all of whom pretty much deny that bisexuality is even a thing.
Meanwhile, her new flatmate Gabe (Brian Gleeson) is an author who hasn't published a successful book in a decade, and a lecturer who isn't averse to bedding one of his students. Still, Gabe is just as awful a human being as anyone else in the show, none of whom have been redeemed by having anything especially witty or interesting to say.
So, in what way can The Bisexual be considered as 'pioneering' or 'ground-breaking'? Perhaps it's revolutionary in having a bisexual character on screen? Well, it is unless you discount characters in Dynasty, The Good Wife, LA Law, Babylon 5, The Bill, This Life, Sex and the City, 24, Peep Show, Grey's Anatomy, Gossip Girl, Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, The Fall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Him & Her, and any number of soaps.
A show entitled The Bisexual certainly puts all its cards on the table, and with a crew that is predominantly female, it signals a move in the right direction for stories about women being told by women (when Gabe tries to stir a pub debate by mentioning Blue is the Warmest Colour, he's met with a bruising silence). So, it's just a crushing pity that The Bisexual is an unfunny, undramatic and wholly lumpen affair.
Episodes viewed: One and two of six
The Bisexual starts on Channel 4, Wed 10 Oct, 10pm; all episodes will be available on All4 after episode one has aired.