I had no idea what to expect going into the first episode of Showtime’s Ill Behaviour (that’s “ill,” not Roman numeral 3). I had not heard much of it, other than that it was acquired by Showtime from the BBC not too long ago and that it starred FXX’s Chris Geere of You’re the Worst. And so I blindly watched without so much as reading a sentence of its premise. As such, the events unfolded in a funny way for me–I have no concept of where it all was headed, and only in the literal final two lines of the episode did it click for me.
We open on money raining down on the streets of Bristol, England. Panning up, we see our main character, Joel, sitting on the ledge of a balcony, throwing out money to all those who pass by. It clearly looks like a suicide attempt, so police start to gather. Soon enough, best friend Charlie appears out the window asking him what he’s doing. It turns out Joel was just divorced that day, and feeling a little funny about it. Other friend Tess shows up in the other window and grabs Joel, pulling him to safety.
Once back in the hotel room, Joel explains that he acquired two-million quid in the divorce of his wife. She’s apparently loaded, and he never did much of anything. That was one of the reasons she divorced Joel; he hasn’t accomplished anything. At any rate, Charlie and Tess have gotten him a cake to celebrate his divorce. Turns out, they never liked his wife and thought he was wasting years with her. This doesn’t comfort Joel; he just flushed ten years down the drain with nothing to show for it (I guess two million isn’t a lot in quid?)
Anyway, Joel moves in with Charlie and his wife Kira. They have two children and work at some sort of New Age health center. Joel spends a couple weeks on their couch eating caramel ice cream until Charlie gives him a little push to get a life back by kicking him out and setting him up on a date using some generic internet app.
Joel protests at first but ends up having dinner with Nadia (played by Lizzie Caplan). She’s an American oncologist who went to college in the United Kingdom and stayed because cigarettes were cheaper. She also keeps a beeper so that she’ll be harder to contact when she’s away from the hospital. They cap off their date by having sex in the restaurant’s bathroom before even ordering their meal. She gets off; Joel does not. He’s smitten.
Playing video games and telling Charlie about his date, Charlie drops a bomb shell on Joel. He has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma–cancer. He tells Joel his doctor recommended chemotherapy, but Charlie refuses. He is going to heal himself in natural ways, which Joel has his doubts about, justifiably. Come to find out chemotherapy has a 94% success rate in curing Hodgkin’s. But Charlie still will not listen.
Recruiting Tess, they try to figure out how to convince their friend to take the damn chemotherapy instead of the fruit juices and enemas he is currently treating himself with. Going to Charlie and Kira’s home to hopefully convince Charlie’s wife, they see that she is completely on board with the holistic approach to Charlie’s treatment. They’ve both seen people walk out from their health center cured. Joel and Tess will have to resort to other means.
Remembering Nadia was an oncologist, he shows up at her apartment. “You didn’t get the message?” she asks, and he says he hasn’t. But she actually meant the message that she is not interested by not returning his calls. That he got. He implores her though to help him convince his friend Charlie that he must take the chemotherapy. The next day Tess and Joel take Charlie out to lunch and just happen to find Nadia sitting at a table outside. They sit with her and she soon gets to talking about how chemotherapy is the only option if he wants to live. Charlie obviously know his friends set this up so he gets up to leave, thanking them for the free community theater. Joel then slides over the agreed upon payment for Nadia.
Some time later, Joel rushes into Tess’s work once again (where she is treated poorly by her boss and in her secret moments works on a novel). He tells her that he learned that treatment for Hodgkin’s is pretty simple–just involves injecting one thing, swallowing another, etc, etc. Nadia has agree to connect them with somebody who could sell them those treatments, though it is illegal. But Tess still wonders how they could even get Charlie to take them. That’s when Joel offers a plan: kidnap Joel, tie him up, and force the chemo into him to save his life.
And the episode cuts to credits right there. Billed as a dark comedy, I found myself feeling a little uneasy with the premise surrounding impending death and not laughing all that much. The dialogue is sharp and the cast is great. I honestly could have given or taken the show up until the last few seconds, but now I’m hooked and need to see where this goes. I’m sticking with it, and I suggest you do the same.
Season 1, Episode 1 (S01E01)
Ill Behavior airs Mondays at 10:30PM on Showtime
Paul Gulyas | Contributor