Netflix doesn’t make it easy to keep up with all of the new content the platform releases on a weekly basis, but the latest show to hop in the ring is Bonding, a seven-episode series that begins when Pete, a gay comedian going broke in New York, is hired by his former high school best friend, Tiff, to assist her while she works as a dominatrix. Brendan Scannell plays Pete, and Palo Alto‘s Zoe Levin plays Tiff (or Mistress May, as she demands to be called by her clients).
Bonding is Netflix’s first or only entrance into the short-form arena previously dominated by YouTube or other free streaming platforms. Ryan O’Connell’s semi-autobiographical comedy series Special and Tim Robinson’s absurdist sketch show I Think You Should Leave are recent programs featured on the platform with episodes that last around 15 minutes each, making for an easy weekend binge. It’s almost as if Netflix is saying, Why spend your time trolling the Internet for a mediocre web series when you could watch a short-form series in just a day on the site that you already for each month.
The story is based, in part, on creator Rightor Doyle’s personal experience assisting a dominatrix. Bonding is an ambitious attempt at laying out a sex-positive narrative, with aims to both de-stigmatize sex work and untangle the patriarchal relationship between sexuality and shame. Online, the show has garnered praise from Lena Dunham, Zoe Kazan, and more, but the narrative may have slightly missed the mark, according to some actual dominatrixes in the BDSM community, who felt that the “inaccuracies feed the stigma of bdsm & it doesn’t really show what the life of a dominatrix is like at all.”
Before joining the cast of Bonding, Scannell appeared in the swiftly-canceled Heathers television reboot as Heather “Heath” Duke, and received attention for his comedic sketches on YouTube.
He’s also managed to rack up those Instagram followers, a feat which is possibly attributed to his status as a stand-upcomedian, just like his character on Bonding, who talks about being a midwest transplant in Los Angeles (he’s from Indiana). The actor also co-hosts a monthly comedy show called “The Cure” with Joel Kim Booster that features all of the alt-comedians you should be following if you aren’t already, like Sydnee Washington, Jacqueline Novak, Brandon Wardell, John Early, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Drew Tarver. On Instagram you can see that Scannell has also forged a friendship with Kate Beckinsale, who is possibly even more of a comedy nerd than previously assumed.
It’s become something of a trend for celebrities to wear harnesses on the red carpet (or bibs, as some of them might want to assure you), and on Bonding Scannell’s character does get into the leather lifestyle with some of his “office looks,” (if you consider the dungeon an office). In real life, or at least on his Instagram feed, the actor does seem to take a somewhat daring approach to style, which deviates from the typical, often-times drab, stand-up comedian uniform of t-shirt, hoodie, and jeans. The highlight of following Scannell on Instagram is the bevy of fits he gets off, seemingly every day, regardless of whether he’s going to a formal event or completing some banal task like going to the doctor. There was, for example, a leather skirt moment quite recently at the Bonding premiere, that stood out.
Other highlights of Scannell’s aesthetic include the actor donning a seemingly Elton John inspired sparkly jacket, wearing a perfect Miranda Hobbes Halloween costume (complete with desk salad), proving that he was an early adopter of the yee haw trend revival, putting on a full length floral jumpsuit and patterned heeled boots, and dressing like a chic divorcée having a girls weekend in Palm Springs. This is all to say, Scannell’s style has the range.
And as long as Scannell is workshopping some character work on his Instagram, we’re going to need more of whomever this evil fashion editor character is, and a tip on where to get those Cyclops sunglasses.