Sure enough, there she is, moaning loudly in the studio. Just suck on a lollipop, and then, louder, louder, on to the fake orgasm. The men behind the buttons grin approvingly as we see in a flash the effect this telephone play has on the audience on the other end of the line.
The new Dutch Netflix series Dirty Lines bursts into action with student Marly Salomon (Joy Delima) who dedicates herself with apparent abandon to her wonderful side job – recording exciting tapes for horny callers. After the climax, she laconically confesses to the viewer: ‘Actually, I’m very prudish.’ Then we dive into a rollercoaster of entanglements, in which, among other things, Marly goes from very prudish to not so prudish.
Dirty Lines is about the rise and inevitable fall of the 06-line, in the late eighties. We follow the fictional company Teledutch, founded by the Amsterdam brothers Frank and Ramon Stigter, loosely inspired by George and Harold Skene, who once started the first Dutch 06-line company. According to this newspaper: ‘the cowboys of the 06 Wild West, an industry that exploded in the late 1980s’.
That period and that riotous Amsterdam Wild West atmosphere are in Dirty Lines exceptionally catchy. In dingy Amsterdam, with Terence Trent D’Arby on her walkman, sexology student Marly comes into contact with the brand-new company of the Stigter brothers through her slightly more brash friend Janna (Julia Akkermans), where she will make a surprising career. Amsterdam is meanwhile on the threshold of a new era, with the introduction of house and ecstasy. Marly and her friends await the ‘second summer of love’, full of optimism, prosperity, prosperity, sex and (chemical) happiness. Although the viewer also knows that the 06 sector did not last very long.
In that arc – from unimaginable success to deep disillusionment – we follow Frank and Ramon Stigter, breathlessly played by Minne Koole and Chris Peters, who together play the stars of heaven. Koole as Frank is the bon vivant: charming, explosive and frivolous, with always something vulnerable in his gaze. Counterpart Ramon, the sensible one, struggles with feelings that tear him apart inside. Peters plays him brilliantly imploded and skittish, full of longing and self-censorship. With their bold Amsterdam accent and clumsy entrepreneurship, they are also exceptionally funny. Across the board, in Dirty Lines by the way wonderfully played, by a whole generation of nice new actors. (Special mention goes to André Dongelmans, Joes Brauers and Charlie Chan Dagelet in a few strong supporting roles.)
With all these characters, storylines and time jumps – Marly looks back non-chronologically from the present – will Dirty Lines a little too much. The series is industry history, eighties nostalgia, sibling strife, coming-of-age story and sex education lesson all rolled into one. Not every storyline is equally interesting, some are downright unnecessary or cliché. But that hardly matters, at this smooth, cheerful, light-footed party.
Marly’s voice-over is also a smart move: for example, a successful woman can comment sharply on a somewhat questionable men’s industry, and supplement information about female sexuality and lust that was lacking at the time. The most crucial innovations are also done by the women here.
likes Dirty Lines the perfect balance of cheerful romanticization and sober perspective. Slightly overcrowded and drifting, this remains an invigorating, irresistible series, which makes you long for spring, freedom, and celebration. Perfect post-pandemic binge material, in short. Bring on that new ‘summer of love’.
By Pieter Bart Korthuis (direction and screenplay), Franky Ribbens (screenplay), ea
6 episodes of approximately 50 minutes
To be seen on Netflix