Michaela Coel’s bold, sassy, emotionally mature and (let’s face it) very, very rude comedy Chewing Gum is back, eight months on from Coel’s best comedy performance Bafta win last May.
And while her character Tracey Gordon is feeling a little love sick in the opening episode of her next run, there are no signs of second series blues as we return to the East London estate where her dreams were made and wrecked last year.
It’s a delicious ship-in-a-bottle two-hander between Tracey and her gentle ex-boyfriend Connor (Robert Lonsdale, below) as the two deal with their series one break up in the convenience store where she works.
It’s a clever (if, perhaps, surprisingly restrained) way of both catching up and moving the story on from the end of series one when various mishaps and Tracey’s enormous emotional baggage conspired to seal the end of their union.
The awkward miscommunication as she pretends to have a celebrity squeeze is played to full comic effect, but it’s a motif which also allows for touching and tender moments between the two who clearly still love each other a great deal but just can’t quite say it.
This half-hour episode is wrought with such care, attention and emotional nuance it could have been expanded into a play (let’s not forget that the germ of the series came from Coel’s National Theatre hit, Chewing Gum Dreams); there really is not a line out of place.
Of course it’s funny too. A Chewing Gum set piece or one-liner can steal up on you unexpectedly – which is no surprise considering Tracey’s abiding innocence and sweetness which somehow withstands all the filth and mayhem around her – but can also make her do some really weird things. There’s a moment when she refers to “reptile dysfunction” which had me on the floor laughing.
One of the other hallmarks of the first run was its cheer and ebullience. This is a series based in a London council estate, but it’s never grim or downbeat. And like series one, it’s also set in the clement months which brings a sun-soaked joy to proceedings very much in keeping with its spirit (as well as the sheer adorable guilelessness of Tracey herself).
The only problem, of course, with this series two opener is that you may find yourself missing the other characters – her religiously fanatical mum (Shola Adewusi), Ludo obsessive, devoutly Christian sister Cynthia (Susie Wokoma) and perhaps most of all her mouth-of-the south but secretly quite tender-hearted and well-meaning best friend Candice (Danielle Walters).
But fear not, they all return in later episodes. Just tune in and savour some near flawless writing and genuinely top drawer comedy. And there’s a rather neat twist to enjoy at the end, too…
Chewing Gum series 2 on E4 on Thursday January 12 at 10pm