Amazon gives us a series of interesting portraits of love in the modern world.
It’s an anthology, people. I can’t summarize every episode without kind of ruining the surprise. Just know that each of the stories focuses on something about love between people. Mostly romantic, but not always.
Eh, fine, here’s a 1 sentence summary of each episode:
WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN
A woman (Cristin Miloti) has a doorman (Laurentiu Possa) who’s a gatekeeper for more than just her building.
WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST
A woman (Catherine Keener) interviewing a tech billionaire (Dev Patel) about his lost love (Caitlin McGee) reveals her own (Andy Garcia).
TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM
A bipolar (Anne Hathaway) woman tries to have a relationship with a guy (Gary Carr), despite her condition getting in the way.
RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE
A married couple (Tina Fey and John Slattery) start to realize that they might not be meant to last, but don’t want to quit.
AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY
Two people on their second date (Sofia Boutella and John Gallagher, Jr.) get a crash course in each other after an injury derails their evening.
SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?
A young woman (Julia Garner) tries to replace her father with an older co-worker (Shea Wigham), but he misunderstands her attention.
HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE
A couple (Andrew Scott and Brandon Kyle Goodman) tries to adopt a baby from a homeless woman (Olivia Cooke).
THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP
A woman (Jane Alexander) who found a new love (James Saito) late in life takes a run around the rest of the series in his memory.
The upside of the show is that it’s an anthology, so if you don’t like an episode, you can still try the next one and it’ll be different. The downside is that it’s an anthology and if you really like the way an episode is done, the next one is probably going to go a different way. The episodes, though they all focus on love, are varied in style and also in their focal interpretation of love. Since love comes in all different colors, flavors, shapes, sizes, sexes, Tex-Mexes, and Shrekses (guess what I’m drinking? Hint: Whisky), that also means that a creator is pretty much allowed to justify whatever interpretation they want to put into their story. Apparently, each of these stories were taken from a column published in The New York Times every week, but I have to confess that I don’t think I ever read it, even when I read the paper. Not that I don’t enjoy a good love story, I just never did.
The quality of the episodes also varies a lot, although, on balance, I thought the series was pretty good. I do admit the finale montage is weird to me. Since there were only eight episodes, it seems kind of unnecessary to spend a bunch of time recapping the series, particularly since the clips don’t really interact, so they don’t give us a ton more perspective on the characters. They could just as easily have added the post-credits epilogues to the actual episodes and maybe spent ten more minutes on the narrative of the last story.
So, since I don’t want to spoil the show too badly, I’m going to do a 1-2 sentence review of each episode, in ascending order of quality.
8) SO HE LOOKED LIKE A DAD. IT WAS JUST DINNER, RIGHT?
This story is super creepy and includes a girl trying to force herself to sexually fantasize about her fake father figure, which is double creepy. Emmy Rossum directed this, and it’s only a slight step up from Dragonball Evolution.
7) AT THE HOSPITAL, AN INTERLUDE OF CLARITY
Two good actors are absolutely ruined by stilted dialogue and pacing taken from a silent film. The ending feels forced, as do a lot of the moments of supposed clarity.
6) THE RACE GROWS SWEETER NEAR ITS FINAL LAP
The story of finding a second love late in life is adorable, but too much is wasted on the series recap. Still, it was cute.
5) RALLYING TO KEEP THE GAME ALIVE
Tina Fey and John Slattery are great, but honestly it has a melancholy that never feels either closed or cemented as unending to me.
4) WHEN CUPID IS A PRYING JOURNALIST
A cute story, but even with the epilogue, the story just doesn’t feel like it’s that significant.
3) TAKE ME AS I AM, WHOEVER I AM
By far the most artistic episode, the representation of Bipolar may not be accurate, but it does make the condition more relatable. Also, Anne Hathaway’s breakdown is just damned heartbreaking.
2) HERS WAS A WORLD OF ONE
This one is the most complex story in terms of characterization and Andrew Scott’s performance is just damned perfect.
1) WHEN THE DOORMAN IS YOUR MAIN MAN
The person who requested I review this series said that if I don’t end my review of this episode with “I cried like a tiny child,” then I have no soul. Well, I may have no soul, but I definitely cried like a tiny child.
I hope they keep this show going. Even though some of the episodes weren’t great, I think they’ve got a lot of stuff left that they could cover.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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