Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
13 January 2017updated 02 Aug 2021 10:27am

Chewing Gum is back – and the more surreal it becomes, the more relatable it feels

The second series of Michaela Coel’s bizarre sitcom brings us cringeworthy farce and human empathy in equal measure.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

It’s pretty much impossible not to fantasise about that first run-in with your ex. Yes, this time, you won’t be sweaty and make up-free in Sainsbury’s, trying to hide the fact that you’re locked out of your flat. No, you’ll be cool, calm and collected, with your ridiculously gorgeous new date.

Chewing Gum’s Tracey (both played and created by Michaela Coel) uses children’s toys to facilitate her own fantasy, and imagines it going something like this. “Oh, my god! Connor? Connor! It’s Tracey! Yeah, no, no, no I know I look different now! Yeah, I’ve becomes successful! Is this wide-legged hyena your new girlfriend? Oh? I wish I could but I’ve actually got to go and see Beyoncé. Yeah, I’m going to fly there.”

Aaaand enter the ex, just as she lifts her plastic dolly in the air zooming her off to her imaginary Beyoncé concert. Improvised make-up, fake boyfriends, and bizarre avoidance tactics follow.

This is a relatively minor catastrophe in the life of disaster-prone Tracey, and perhaps one of the least cringe-worthy punchlines in a terrifyingly relatable episode, the first of Chewing Gum’s second season. The first season included a whole host of openly horny women, scenes of mass dildo washing and jokes about “throbbing so hard it’s like my vagina’s got epilepsy” and Coel’s brilliantly dirty sitcom shows no signs of toning down in its second series. The farcical climax of the first episode involves a disabled toilet, sexy dancing, fake orgasms and a healthy dose of projectile vomiting.

This first episode takes place almost entirely within the confines of the newsagent where Tracey works, so there was little opportunity to reconnect with the hyperreal housing estate where much of the last season was set. But supporting cast members still shone in this episode – in particular Ola (played by Olisa Odele, Ola is, in Odele’s own words, a “Nigerian diva” and “full time bad bitch”). There’s even a cameo from Stormzy, who was a fan of the first series.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

But as the show becomes more and more surreal, it only becomes more relatable. Tracey almost compulsively lies to hide her embarrassment, inevitably making every situation worse. Though you will her to stop, the impulse is undeniably familiar. After all, who hasn’t told a white lie about having a date lined up to their already-taken-again ex?

Chewing Gum airs on Thursday nights at 10pm on E4.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them