Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been responsible for bringing some brilliant female characters to the small screen through her series Fleabag and Killing Eve but as fans await each shows return they might want to focus their attention on Channel 4’s The Bisexual.
The comedy series comes from the brilliant mind of Desiree Akhavan, the Iranian-American filmmaker behind the critically acclaimed indie flicks Appropriate Behaviour and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the latter of which starring Chloe Grace Moretz.
The Bisexual is Akhavan’s first sojourn into television since doing the TV movie The Circuit and appearing in a few episodes of Girls, and it is arguably a far superior series. It delves into the romantic life of a lesbian who, after making a pivotal life decision, starts to explore the long-dormant side of her sexuality that has always fancied men too.
The actor-writer-director came up with the idea for the show after reading the press around her directorial debut. It is a film about a bisexual Iranian-American inspired by her own life, but not autobiographical, which meant she was constantly being described as a “bisexual filmmaker” too. Having that label thrust upon her in print made her feel uncomfortable and informed her thinking that bisexuality is the “last taboo.”
“Why does the word bisexual make me feel sick to my stomach? Whenever someone was like, ‘Are you gay?’ I’d have to be like, ‘Ugh, yeah sure, I’m gay’. I would lie,” she tells i-D. “I wouldn’t want to say bisexual, it feels really, um, in bad taste. I mean, it just seems like you’re a disingenuous lover. It’s not something I wanted to be associated with, and I started to think, like, why? It’s technically true.”
Fast-forward a few years and Akhavan, with her writing and producing partner Cecilia Frugiuele, have created a hilariously dry and nuanced six-part comedy series that explores just that, through the perspective of Leia, a 30-something New Yorker who has relocated to London to be with her female partner in work and love, Sadie (Maxine Peake).
The Bisexual begins with Leila ending their ten-year relationship after the subject of marriage and kids comes up, and carries on with her exploration of the hetero side of her romantic leanings. Leila can barely admit it to herself that she is a bisexual, let alone her friends who are almost all exclusively lesbians except for her new housemate, Gabe, a straight white male writer who has just as many romantic issues as she does.
“I read Gabe as an excellent description of modern masculinity, which I hadn’t really read before. And it was written by two women, so there you go,” Gleeson told the Irish Times.
“In keeping with the ethos of the whole show, he could have been stereotyped the way any other group is stereotyped and he wasn’t. It’s about labels and identity and what’s behind them, and that holds true for a white, straight male as much as anybody else.”
The Bisexual is also a show that breaks new ground for Arab representation. There aren’t many TV series out there that have Arab actors in it and if they do they are more than likely playing a terrorist or a Muslim stereotype.
So for a TV series to not only feature an Arab woman who is funny, sexually fluid and not defined by religion but to also centre her in the series is an inspiring move that pays off and will hopefully open doors for better representation in comedy as well as film and TV in general.
So if you’re looking for a funny and irreverent commentary on dating culture from an LGBTQ perspective, set in East London, then The Bisexual is the comedy for you.
If you’re not looking for that, watch it anyway.
The Bisexual airs on Channel 4 tonight, Wednesday 10 October, at 9pm