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Recommendation Machine: ‘Lovesick’ Is Still a TV Rom-Com Gold Standard

Three friends' roller-coaster romantic histories form the basis for this three-season charmer that became far more than its unconventional premise.

"Lovesick"

“Lovesick”

Neil Davidson/Netflix

Welcome to Recommendation Machine, your daily IndieWire destination for TV suggestions of what to watch. Each weekday, we’ll offer up a series we think should be on your viewing radar. Though most of the shows included here are recent offerings from networks and streaming services, this will also be a place to take a look at different chapters in TV history readily available for anyone looking to immerse themselves in an ever-expanding medium.

As everyone with even a passing connection to TV will have happily told you for the better part of the last decade, there are too many shows. They’ll use words like cornucopia or plethora or deluge or glut. Bottom line: There are plenty of options for things to queue up next. So, while we’ll try to provide as many of those as we can from streaming’s heavy hitters like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, there will also be plenty of chances to highlight the best shows on lesser-known services —  hidden gems to try out during one of those free trials you haven’t used up yet. International shows, docuseries, some projects that, at first glance, might not even seem like TV: They’re all up for grabs. 

In every installment, we’ll not only make a case for the show itself, but pick out some particular elements that make the whole thing worth a try. And for those who may have already taken the plunge on that day’s pick, we’ll also try to throw in some next-step ideas for something similar. Along the way, we may even toss in some suggestions for an album or a book or a movie. There’s no telling what the Recommendation Machine might manage to turn out next!

All past Recommendation Machine installments will be carefully housed here, for your bookmark and perusal needs. For now, here’s our choice for today’s show that’s very much worth your TV-watching energy:

“Lovesick”

Where to Watch ‘Lovesick’: Netflix (after its first season originally aired on Channel 4 in the UK)

One of the most satisfying feelings from a TV rewatch is realizing how much of what makes a show great is right there at the start. While the show that became “Lovesick” definitely evolved over its three seasons, the first episode carries a lot of its effortless charm.

Up top, there’s the deceptively simple premise: After finding out he has an STI, Dylan (Johnny Flynn) now faces the prospect of reaching out to all the women he’s slept with. Each episode uses one of Dylan’s past encounters (whether circumstantial one-night stands or the source of more long-term heartbreak) as a way to show his shared adventures with best mates Evie (Antonia Thomas) and Luke (Daniel Ings).

So that “Lovesick” opening, which centers on the wedding of another ill-fated friend, Angus (Joshua McGuire), is a perfect entry point for how the show gets the most out of its flashbacks. Small tossed-off details end up looping around in the present, all while writer/creator Tom Edge’s canny misdirects play with certain audience assumptions.

Most unmistakably, it sets up the “two ships passing” nature of Dylan and Evie’s sometimes-more-than-friendship, a font of confusing and conflicting feelings that only the best romantic comedies know how to grapple with. It’s an early preview of the missed chances and close calls that pepper the rest of the series, particularly while Dylan and Evie manage to find certain stretches of happiness on their own.

In lesser hands, “Lovesick” would be framed as just a cartoonish parade of uncomfortable conversations. While it certainly isn’t afraid of slapstick — McGuire’s performance on this show is like training for the Pratfall Olympics — another one of its joys is seeing effective character growth.

The main trio still keep their defining qualities. Dylan is the hopeless romantic who somehow stumbles backward into being charming. Luke is the commitment-phobic, self-fancying Casanova who deep down just wants to be loved. And Evie is the one with more emotional maturity than the both of them, who stays in their lives out of a genuine sense of friendship, but maybe for another reason she can’t always admit.

Watching the three of them fit into each of their lives’ as they change is also watching “Lovesick” sharpen its jokes, experiment even further with its formal conventions, and skirt around the pitfalls of the genre. In a just and benevolent world, Season 4 would already be a reality, but there’s something poetic in the ending as it stands. Regardless of whether or not there’s still more to come, “Lovesick” leaves a lot to live up to.

Pair It With: While no one in “Lovesick” is haunted by a centuries-old curse, V.E. Schwab’s novel “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” has a similar time-spanning collection of one person’s attempts to find a meaningful, loving connection with someone. This book has significantly fewer instances of a guy falling out of a car before he’s driven away from his own wedding reception, but there’s still the specific pull of seeing someone try to overcome seemingly impossible hurdles between them and what they’ve long yearned for.

Other Fans: Absolutely do not read it until you’ve finished the existing episodes, but Esther Zuckerman’s Vulture interview with Edge gets into everything from the show’s name change (maybe you remember it as “Scrotal Recall”) to his work writing on “The Crown.”

Missed any other outputs from Recommendation Machine? You can read every past version here

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