Spreadsheet, review: Katherine Parkinson stars in desperate Australian sex comedy
Spreadsheet (Channel 4) is about a woman with children who successfully manages her life. Kidding! Obviously, the lead character is a calamity who forgets the date of school concerts, is a failure at making costumes, and barely holds down her job because of the various daily disasters that befall her.
This isn’t just a slummy mummy comedy, though. It’s a sexually explicit comedy. I can’t stress that enough, in case you tune in expecting it to be just like Motherland. Katherine Parkinson’s character, Lauren, wants commitment-free sex after splitting from her dozy husband. But she doesn’t have the time or the inclination to go on romantic dates (she’s a woman! With a job! And children! How could she possibly?) so instead makes her assistant compile a spreadsheet of men with whom she’s having no-strings encounters, complete with grades for their performance. And this assistant (Rowan Witt) really does go beyond the call of work duty, even taking a “downstairs pic” (use your imagination) of his knickerless boss so she can send it to a prospective date.
The programme publicity describes Spreadsheet as “edgy”, which perhaps it is in Australia (it is an Australian-made show, with a British lead). It’s certainly very frank about women’s sexual desire, which is fine. But it doesn’t quite know what to do with the subject, because Lauren doesn’t appear to particularly enjoy any of the sex she has, although that may be because it’s the sort of comedy where everybody is very deadpan.
Anyway, she’s a mother (did we mention that?) so the awkward comic scenarios often involve the kids. For example, her youngest takes an item into school for “show and tell”. It turns out to be a used condom that she found on her mother’s bedroom floor. And Lauren is pulled over by the police for erratic driving because she was trying to grab her phone from her daughter’s hand to prevent her from seeing some bondage photos.
The best thing about the show is Parkinson, an adept comedy actress. Individual scenes and set pieces can be funny. But the writers, Darren Ashton and Kala Ellis, are trying too hard to marry their woman-has-lots-of-sex concept with Motherland, and the result is slightly desperate.