Hayley Squires as Jolene Dollar in ‘Adult Material’
Comedy performance of the year: Hayley Squires as Jolene Dollar in ‘Adult Material’

Like any teenage girl, Phoebe has something embarrassing to confess to her mother. “If I tell you, do you promise to be normal about it?” Fat chance; there’s nothing normal about a household where mum Jolene is a porn star with a sideline in selling used underwear, and dad is the brand manager, amateur director and social media rep (“I’ll put in a stint on your Twitter”). This home set-up entails numerous humiliations for Phoebe, including having a latex reproduction of mum’s privates brandished by jeering classmates. It’s yet another money-spinner helping to pay Phoebe’s school fees. 

The opening scene of Lucy Kirkwood’s four-part comedy-drama gives fair warning of the tone. While her car sloshes through the car-wash, Jolene Dollar is vigorously faking an orgasm in the driving seat and filming it for her fans, before taking a pensive bite of a sandwich. With her cute doll-face and huge hair, she’s the highest ranking female star at adult entertainment company Bang Cherry. Her age wavers according to who’s asking — “Thank God for Botox!” — but Jolene (Hayley Squires), is uncomfortably aware that her time on top (and underneath, and upside down) is finite. It’s underlined by the arrival on set of angel-faced ingénue Amy (Siena Kelly). “I love sex!” ex-dancer Amy giggles, as she prepares for her first shoot. “Well, that is a good place to start,” Jolene says kindly. 

It turns out a porn set can be as tedious as any other workplace. (“He took 40 minutes!” “Thass just rude.”) When Jolene has to leave early (that home-made fan footage won’t film itself) she’s happy to hand over to Amy for the final scenes.

Phil Daniels brings his unageing naughty-boy persona to the role of Bang Cherry’s star director, while gravel-voiced Rupert Everett as producer-impresario Carroll Quinn seems to be channelling Hugh Hefner in a dressing gown and croc slippers. Quinn’s relationship with his maturing star is a spice-and-honey mix of “Love you, babe!” and bitchery.

Squires gives what may be the comedy performance of the year as the porn-star mum, while Alex Jarrett is exceptional as Phoebe, mingling bolshie belligerence with shy sensitivity. Having a sex-positive mum isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

★★★★★

On Channel 4 from October 5 at 10pm

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