Diane Keaton: Sex without love is an empty experience.
Woody Allen: Yes, but as far as empty experiences go, it's one of the best.
From Oz to Big Love, HBO is known for delivering some pretty powerful original drama series. Tell Me You Love Me is their latest offering (it premiered last night on Movie Central up here in Canada), and it has some pressure to perform after the John From Cincinnati misfire.
And speaking of performance, can I say...holy sex action Batman?!
But it's not like you think. We're not talking over-the-top teen movie sex, nor long-winded robot porn star sex...it's real sex, as in, like real life. It's almost as if Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's "thirtysomething" got together with Clement Virgo's "Lie With Me" and they had a baby. The result is a sex-filled program that's pretty unsexy.
Why? Because it's goal isn't to arouse or stimulate, but to show how sex (or the lack thereof) plays a role in the lives of three couples of different ages and at different stages in their relationships who are all seeing the same couples therapist.
Shall we break it down? I'm going to ask the three questions I always ask of anyone pitching a story to the room:
What's the hook? I guess it's the graphic sex scenes....that's what everyone seems to be talking and writing about (I read a funny live blog of the show that basically read...he's jacking off...some talking....balls, I saw balls!...more talking...etc.). So what seems to be 'unique' about this show is sex scenes between some known Hollywood actors. And they're sex scenes where you see, you know, stuff.
What happens? Lots of heavy relationship talk and drama, interspersed with several scenes of sex either solo or between the members of these three couples.
And what's it about? Who knows for sure, since it's so early in the game, but I'm going to agree with others and say honest or pure intimacy...you know, the desire for each person to find or preserve or recover some degree of passionate closeness with whoever they are partnered with.
So, did it deliver the goods?
It's too soon to tell, but my feeling is that the parallel stories might be it's undoing. There's a distancing effect that occurs to a viewer when you intercut three or four disparate storylines --- you feel like an observer as opposed to being drawn in and moved emotionally (think Syriana or Traffic or Babel). I know this style makes the whole and the juxtaposition of the parts more important than the parts themselves, which can be swell for a movie, but for a continuing dramatic TV series, I'm not sure how well it can work.
And then there's the discomfort that can happen when you watch shows that cut a little too close to the bone, as it were. In this boys opinion, real life and real issues and realistic relationships can be informative and educational, but they're not very fun or entertaining. Entertaining is what I want my TV to be.
Then there's the fact that the world of the show is pretty, um, normal. The Sopranos and Buffy and Six Feet Under and Deadwood and The West Wing and Oz and on and on were fascinatingly entertaining because they took us to a unique new arena. But real life...real relationships...real problems...real issues - all set in a non-unique arena?
Sorry...been there, done that. Don't know if I want to relive it. And that's not to knock the acting or the drama that was being portrayed...I enjoy seeing all that stuff, but set in a funeral home, or an old west town, or the White House.
And lastly, there wasn't even a hint of a smile in the one hour. Pretty sombre serious stuff. Could've used a little sprinkle of the Woody Allen I say.
But what do I know...I just tuned in for the boobies.