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Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani explore the complexities of post-#MeToo Hollywood


Whether you’re a cleaner, a lawyer or a shop assistant, #MeToo has changed the world of work for ever. Women are far more aware of what we shouldn’t put up with behind closed office doors, and more empowered to report misbehaviour. There are some new safeguarding measures, and the naming and shaming of the most powerful offenders has led to real change.

But no field has been more publicly ironed out than showbusiness, the industry that kick-started the explosion of stories when Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial sexual offender in 2017.

It is with this tricky new landscape that Chivalry, Channel 4’s latest comedy, is concerned. How does one, for example, make a sex scene in a safe, secure way, and have it still be believable? How do you navigate falling in love with a colleague? Are compulsory intimacy co-ordinators actually helpful? Chivalry answers these serious questions with sharp satire and refreshing honesty.

Written by Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani, the opening double bill introduced Bobby (Solemani), a director fresh from the success of her own arthouse film, who was brought in to have a “creative conversation” with fellow director Pierre (Djilali Rez-Kallah) about a particularly abrasive sex scene in his forthcoming Nazi movie, A Little Death.

She was shepherded by producer Cameron (Coogan), whom we first met chatting up some models, and who wasn’t quite up to speed on how to conduct himself in his new “woke” world.

When Pierre dropped dead within the first five minutes, Bobby found herself brought aboard A Little Death by studio boss Jean (Wanda Sykes, in all her sarcastic glory), having agreed to reshoot the offending sex scene to ensure funding for her next project, “an Iranian biblical biopic”. While Bobby wanted to get the scene right, Cameron wanted it done as quickly as possible. Inevitably, they bumped heads over almost every decision.

The success of Chivalry hinges entirely on the push-and-pull chemistry between Solemani and Coogan, and I could watch their bickering for hours. In a hilarious scene towards the end of the first episode, Bobby goaded Cameron into correctly labelling a woman’s genitalia (he fails, unsurprisingly), while the second episode had Bobby concede to the producer that perhaps the overly careful intimacy co-ordinator (Aisling Bea) she has hired (who turned out to be an out-of-work chiropractor) isn’t helping anyone get the shots they need.

Steve Coogan as Cameron, Sarah Solemani as Bobby and Lolly Adefope as Ama (Photo: Matt Crockett/Babycow/Channel 4)

That the show refuses to cast either character as the good or bad guy shows an understanding of how complex #MeToo has become for both men and women.

Solemani and Coogan’s supporting cast were equally fun to watch. Lolly Adefope was fantastic as a socially inept but willing production assistant, while Sienna Miller was wonderfully droll as the upset star of the sex scene in question.

Quick cameos from the likes of Paul Rudd and John C Reilly (who starred opposite Coogan in Stan and Ollie) not only provided a jolt of excitement but add to the authenticity of an LA crawling with Hollywood movie stars.

#MeToo isn’t an obvious source of humour, and Chivalry never reached for the low-hanging fruit of mocking the movement. Instead, it picked apart the blanket ban of anything sexual that has been laid over an art form which has a lot to say about sex and the absurdities of protocol that come along with it.

Its brave, candid writing and its dedicated performances make it one of 2022’s best comedies yet.

Chivalry continues on Thursday 28 April at 10pm on Channel 4

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