Programming Review: ‘I May Destroy You’

Actress and producer Michaela Coel (Netflix’s Chewing Gum) delivers to HBO a provocative comedy/drama/mystery series that tackles the issues of dating and sexual consent in today’s society.

Michaela Coel in ‘I May Destroy You.’

Michaela Coel in ‘I May Destroy You.’

Set in London, I May Destroy You stars Coel as Arabella Essiuedu, a rising London-based internet author who is set to pitch her first book manuscript. Resigned to pulling an all-nighter in order to meet a morning deadline with her agent, she eventually decides to take a much-needed break to meet some friends for drinks at a local club. What initially begins as a fun, relaxing experience turns out to be unnerving for Arabella the next morning, as she can’t remember parts of the previous evening.

A cut above her forehead and a cracked cellphone, along with bank charges and withdrawals that she doesn’t remember, lead Arabella to believe she may have blacked out from a spiked drink and to worry about what else may have happened to her during that period of time.

The series revolves around Arabella trying to piece together her fateful evening. Her dogged pursuit of the truth also leads her to begin taking inventory of her own life choices as well as the people within her inner circle — including friends Terry (Weruche Opia), Simon (Ami Ameen) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu) — to determine who truly has her best interests in mind.

Coel isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo on casual sex, monogamous relationships and sexual consent, which she clearly establishes within the first few episodes. Coel deftly introduces Arabella’s care-free personality into a much broader tale of contemporary dating and relationships that builds into an interesting and infectious storyline. Coel smoothly interjects comedy, drama and mystery elements as Arabella’s own personal journey evolves throughout the 12-episode series.

I May Destroy You is a co-production of HBO and the BBC.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.