You’re terrible, Muriel! Or very, very good.
Tuesday’s UK premiere of Australian actor Toni Collette’s new drama Wanderlust has created sensational headlines (‘Orgasmic!’) and sharply divided audiences amid claims the show is the “filthiest” ever created by BBC One.
Metro said the BBC had entered “new territory” with “their raciest and arguably most thought-provoking drama yet”.
Prudish readers of The Sun – if there are any – may have blushed at the newspaper’s description of the six-part series, co-produced with Netflix, as the Beeb’s “most X-rated drama ever”.
Wanderlust’s plot, as boiled down to tin tacks by the UK tabloid? “Bonking, drug taking and solo sex acts.”
Actually, it’s more than that, but it was noted by various media outlets that Muriel’s Wedding star Collette has the first female orgasm ever on a BBC show.
“I’m happy to take the accolade,” the Sydney mother of two, 45, said.
As for Wanderlust, “We’ve never seen anything like it on BBC One,” the network’s drama boss Piers Wenger said.
So envelope-pushing was it that Britain’s Daily Mail said the “sensational” debut of the drama “turned the air completely blue” and left viewers “blushing” over the “graphic” sex scenes.
Social media users also weighed in on the racy bits, with one tweeting: “Well the opening scene on Wanderlust BBC 1 was enough to put me off sexual relations for a lifetime”.
17 year-old me watching Skins with my parents: Nothing could be more embarrassing than this.
28 year-old me watching Wanderlust with my parents: 😳😳😳#wanderlust
— Natasha Wynne (@natashaajwynne) September 4, 2018
— Vicky Caine (@vickycaine) September 4, 2018
Despite The Sun’s claims, the show – which has no screening date set yet for Australia – does have an actual plot involving long-term fidelity, suburban boredom and honesty.
Calling the show “sexy”, Digital Spy said, “The BBC asks the question, ‘Is monogamy outdated?'”
The G-rated version, leaving out the hydrotherapy pool: While Collette’s character is recuperating from an injury, her husband is disinterested in their sex life and both of them make marriage-altering choices.
“It’s so honest and fresh in the way the women are portrayed,” Collette told the Radio Times.
“To be a middle-aged woman, to be in a long-term relationship and to be alive, dealing with a lot of things – it’s tough. Certainly a middle-aged woman’s sense of self-esteem, of sexuality, is not often talked about.”
TV blogger and producer Elliott Gonzalez gave it rave reviews, calling it “truly original and unlike any drama I’ve seen on BBC1”.
Other viewers were also instant fans. One Twitter user called it “funny and honest and gloriously well observed and so painfully English”.
Refreshing, well paced interesting,and observant modern drama with a great soundtrack to match.
— ray moseley (@raym2012) September 4, 2018
really enjoyed #Wanderlust. great cast, strange and moving and funny. did a big honking laugh at 'I tossed off a bloke from hydrotherapy.' Also Warren G so COME ON.
— Sarah Phelps (@PhelpsieSarah) September 4, 2018
But others were underwhelmed. “Is this meant to be a comedy?” asked one viewer, while another noted, “Wanderlust … a desire to travel … very far away from this drivel”.
A repeated criticism was the show was “middle class”, the one state many Brits appear desperate to avoid:
This is really bad. Jumped up, over-privileged wankers being self-indulgent. How vanguard for the BBC. Oh and let’s over-soundtrack it with cool bands to make it relevant. Whoever commissioned this had obviously watched Catastrophe, but didn’t really observe or listen #Wanderlust
— Nick of the North (@PeripateNic) September 4, 2018
#Wanderlust I am afraid that I found this dull, middle class and London centric. I found myself admiring the sets more than the script. Great print of Siouxsie on Claire’s shelves.
— Caroline Cornell (@CarrieCornell) September 4, 2018
— VoiceOfAmbridge (@voiceofbramley) September 5, 2018
One of the biggest fans of Wanderlust is Collette’s “really open-minded” musician husband of 15 years, Dave Galafassi.
“The one thing he did say was, ‘This is the best thing you’ve ever done’. It made me cry,” she told Stellar magazine.
Despite what it called “unexpectedly risque” scenes in the first episode, Digital Spy said the BBC only baulked at one aspect of the show.
“I don’t think I realise how much swearing it had,” playwright Nick Payne, who wrote the series, told the news outlet.
“There were a couple of times where I thought, ‘Does this scene need 15 f–ks?”