Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Suddenly everything means something else": Tell Me You Love Me

The second episode of Tell Me You Love Me was basically consistent, quality-wise, with the first, but it did have me briefly wondering about this show functioning as a series. Not because of its lackluster ratings and the widespread critical apathy (although it looks like this show gets a second season basically never), just...this show could get pretty gruelling week-in, week-out. Things haven't quite devolved into pure hate yet, but you get the feeling these relationships are gonna get a hell of a lot worse before they get better. Nonetheless, it's too bad the show's basically being ignored and left to die, by both HBO and the critics. I never thought anyone would watch it, but it really seems like not a lot of people are responding to this.

No matter. I'm gonna tackle the couples the same way I did last time: oldest to youngest, aka most interesting to least interesting. That's not counting Jane Alexander's character, who, although she's good, seems almost kind of an afterthought. She's great in the therapy scenes, but her home life scenes have mostly left me cold so far. I think it might be because her marriage seems uninterestingly happy, and this show is so far all about tension and undercurrent and so on.

Anyway, Ally Walker is definitely the standout of this show so far. I'd say I prefer all the female characters here, actually. They all seem a bit better drawn, and it always seems like we're seeing things from their perspective, like Carolyn's pregnancy fears and Katie's sexless marriage. Whereas all three men are moody, troubled and usually stand-offish. Anyway--Ally Walker. She's just terrific! She has the best material, but she sells her therapy scenes so well. Even better was her and David getting into bed after the therapist had talked about sexless couples being terrified about bedtime. Their dialogue was almost endearingly married-couple, and you could see hints of the chemistry they once had, but what her therapist had told her clearly weighed on Katie as they turned the lights off, and Walker was just perfect in the scene. All of their stuff was pretty solid, but I was a little disappointed with their out-and-out fighting. Their arguments seem more staged, especially because it's always David being obviously angry about her attending couples therapy alone, but him framing it in some other way. Maybe it's just the depressing repetitiveness of it all. I'm too young to be exposed to how depressing marriage can be!

Carolyn and Palek, meanwhile, seem to be observing my predictions (and other critics' indications) of real nastiness ahead. Their pregnancy stuff is just so touchy and uneasy, constantly. Especially as Carolyn was more excited and upbeat this episode, which seemed to just result in Palek being that much more removed. It wasn't pure horribleness yet, but the brunch scene with Carolyn's sister was pretty nasty. One thing that really emphasizes the coldness of a lot of these characters is the setting, I feel: I don't know what city this is supposed to be taking place in, but everywhere the characters are is cold, and metallic, and really lacking character. Especially in that brunch scene. It was like the characters couldn't be comfortable even if they tried (which they certainly weren't). Palek seems generally irritated at Carolyn's angst, about her father and about the pregnancy, and Carolyn isn't really helping with comments like "if [my sister] gets pregnant before me I'll kill myself". Probably the best line of the episode was Palek's response, "of course you will", in a half-jokey, half-resigned way. Aaaagh! Shit is gonna get heavy there quickly, you can tell. Especially as it's obvious Palek's infertile. They're delaying that revelation for a couple episodes, but it's gotta hit eventually. Boy am I gonna look stupid if I'm wrong about that.

As usual, Hugo and Jamie left me pretty cold again this week. Their fights are basic, repetitive, and less well-acted. Jamie seems kinda immature and is constantly harping on the fact that Hugo doesn't want to marry her/she doesn't want to marry Hugo. It's not nearly as convincing or engrossing. And Hugo is a pretty irritating presence, too--you totally get why Jamie has problems with him, but less why she loves him in the first place. However, they do sell their sex scenes very well. The intensity they show there is enough to convince you of their connection as a couple. The rest of their scenes, though, I could take or leave.

Is anyone watching? Word on the street is, most people don't like this. But I think there's a lot here. And considering it's a show about people having tense conversations with the occasional sex scene, it moves along pretty quickly and never feels boring.


Justin said...

I'm watching and enjoying it so far. But it makes me nervous; I sort of think it is going to be painful to watch by the end. It already sort of is.

I agree with your assessment on the interest level of the couples; however I think this isn't necessarily because of talent or writing but to a degree because of maturity. The young couple is natural going to be less complex and more stubborn and passionate, and I think this makes them seem more base as a result.


David Sims said...

Yeah, I know what you mean, but it just isn't interesting to watch. I mean, the youngest couple is closest to my age, and the problems of the older couples almost baffle me (sometimes I think "come on, just have sex already, what's the big deal!"). But all Jamie and Hugo do is yell, have sex, yell, have sex, and call off their wedding. If their fights were as intense as their love scenes, it might be different. But so far they've been very rote.

I agree with you about the painful, though.

Todd said...

A lot of influential critics really liked this. I think it's just like The Wire, where most of the press came in the first week because critics had seen the whole thing over the summer. Then they largely forgot about it and keeping up with it.

That said, no way this gets a year two.

David Sims said...

Yeah, those numbers are like, nothing. And you KNOW half the viewers are just watching for T&A.