Julia Davis is a comic genius, and by genius I mean she has a profound and uncanny gift for pinpointing the horrors buried in your subconscious mind and wrenching them out into the open. Teeth flossing, those tiny brown bits you sometimes find in raw eggs, the tampon scene from Fifty Shades of Grey—all these emerge in the first episode of HBO’s Sally4Ever, visceral and depraved. And it gets worse. Gluten-sparked gastrointestinal distress. Ferrets. That moment when someone picks up an acoustic guitar at an otherwise perfectly genial dinner party. These are the kinds of nightmares that Davis is primed to exploit.
It was Davis’s macabre brilliance that brought us Camping, the dastardly British comedy about a weekend away that was adapted by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner into a softer and substantially less funny version starring Jennifer Garner. HBO, which produced that adaptation, has imported Sally4Ever directly to American screens this time, which feels both necessary and potentially cataclysmic. I’m not certain U.S. viewers are—or will ever be—ready.
Sally4Ever is about Sally (Catherine Shepherd), a woman so meek and so diffident that she communicates most of her emotions by blinking (Shepherd, to be clear, has gifted eyelids). Sally has been in a relationship for the past decade with David (Alex Macqueen), a man whose exclusively beige wardrobe is matched in atrocity only by the noises that he makes when he moisturizes his feet. Ten minutes of Sally and David’s relationship is enough to make you want to garrote yourself with the nearest cable; that Sally has somehow survived 10 years gives a sense of how superhumanly passive she is.