Sex Education Creators Explain Why The Show Looks Like It's Set In 1980s US High School
| Last updated
Sex Education became an instant classic with audiences when it debuted on Netflix last year, praised widely for its frank treatment of sexuality and relationships as much as for its refreshingly fun vibe.
Pumped full of bright colours and almost magical, swooping drone shots, the show guides us through the awkwardness of adolescence with a decidedly buoyant touch - softening the blow of wet dreams and hormone-fuelled punch-ups with varsity jackets and sunny bike rides through the woods.
The result is nothing short of an absolute delight to watch, though that's not to say it hasn't left some of us scratching our heads. Is it set in America or the UK? Are the characters from the present day or have we been transported back in time a few decades?
With 1980s fashions sitting alongside present-day mobile phones and many attributes of an American high school dropped right into the heart of rural south Wales where the show is filmed, it's almost jarring - but, as the creators explain, that's entirely intentional.
Speaking to LADbible, writer Laurie Nunn and director Ben Taylor said the surreal, otherworldly aesthetic was not only intentional, but also integral to the show's narrative.
Referring to the stylised format, Nunn said: "I think part of that is just to do with the way I naturally write, but also a lot of my references were kind of from American film and TV shows that I loved when I was younger.
"When Ben came on board the project and we both met each other for the first time, he had a shared passion for all of the same American teen genre stuff, and we both got really excited about how we could create this fictional world that felt very elevated and aspirational."
But despite various references to teenage films of yesteryear - including a heartwarming ode to The Breakfast Club in season two - Nunn explained that there was much more to it than merely paying homage to John Hughes and co.
She continued: "I think the hook of the show is so heightened - you know, obviously about the teenager giving out sex advice in a toilet cubicle - but it really felt like that needed a heightened world to match that.
"In my mind Moordale is not a real place. Even though we shoot the show in Wales, it's very much a fictional place.
"We see it like a teenage utopia, and I like to think of it almost like a comic book world where these teenagers exist."
Agreeing, Taylor added: "It came early on when we all started to put our heads together.
"Everything was very deliberate and distinct because when I first read the script it read like a world that would not just benefit from it, but it would make sense of the characters and the high concept."
Taylor also explained that they agreed the storyline wouldn't work if it was set within the same world as other UK-based school dramas like Grange Hill, which are more commonly associated with the fluorescent strip lights and dull, grey uniforms - and, more importantly, have tended to focus on the sheer misery of growing up.
He said: "If you put this storyline into Waterloo Road, everybody would just be rolling their eyes. It needed a take, and that was when we started to put our heads together and design the best world to tell these stories.
"For me was that we created a positive rendering of a school experience, which Americans tend to do incredibly naturally.
"I think we as a country tend not to - we tend to do more of a sort of strict, grey, less fun version.
"Even though Laurie's scripts were full of heartbreak and angst, I wanted to see it sort of rendered with warmth and beauty."
Hopefully this technicolour dream world will be something the duo can continue to build on, with Nunn telling us she's already writing a follow-up to the recently released second season, with hopes for life beyond that yet.
She said: "I've started writing series three, but that's just a very normal part of the process because we work on such tight schedule, and season three hasn't been greenlit yet or officially commissioned.
"We won't find out whether we get a series three until the end of January, so fingers crossed!"
And Nunn also said she even has high hopes for a future for Sex Education beyond that tentative third series, adding: "I love writing these characters. It's such a big ensemble and I think the theme of the show - in terms of it being about sex and relationships - it really just offers up endless story opportunities.
"So I think the show definitely has legs if Netflix are nice enough to let me keep writing it and let Ben [Taylor] keep directing it!"
The second season of Sex Education is out now on Netflix, where you can also catch up on series one.