Netflix’s Sex Education, starring Gillian Anderson, is a sweet and raunchy charmer ( )

The show understands that teens are silly and clumsy about sex. And so are adults.

2019 has barely begun, but a contender for the year’s best show about sex and love has already emerged.

In spite of its too-clever-by-half title and under the guise of a raunchy premise, Netflix’s Sex Education — the tale of a dorky teenage boy named Otis and his sex-positive, overenthusiastic sex therapist mom — has executed a thoughtful and charming debut season. A lot of that is due to star Gillian Anderson’s bombastic performance as the aforementioned unapologetically sex-positive mom.

But what sets Sex Education apart from other shows that concern themselves with adolescence, sex, and love is its tenderness. Instead of perpetually treating the sex lives of teens as a childish joke, the show’s directors, Kate Herron and Ben Taylor, tend to them with kindness.

That isn’t to say that Sex Education somehow avoids silliness or gross-out humor, because there are at least two instances of handjob pantomimes and a fellatio-related vomit anecdote in the first couple of episodes alone.

But there’s no sneering at teenage ideas of lust or love, or at feeling rejected or insecure. Nor is it cruel. Sex Education takes all those emotions seriously and doesn’t discount them just because they happen in the brains, loins, and hearts of 17-year-olds. And in doing so, the show becomes something familiar, sweet, and relatable — even if your teenage years are decades in the past.

Sex Education surprises by going beyond the obvious joke

On paper, the humor of Sex Education isn’t that far-fetched. Otis Thompson (Asa Butterfield) is the son