Monday, September 10, 2007

Tell Me You Love HBO

Last night, Tell Me You Love Me, HBO's newest one-hour-long drama premiered with much ado and almost as many commercials as that Justin Timberlake thing. I don't usually like to form an opinion on shows based on pilot episodes, but the internet is abuzz today with talk about the show so I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

From the outset, I knew a point of comparison for this show would be the brilliant Six Feet Under. Although centered around death, Six Feet Under was really about relationships, familial and sexual and marital. From the first episode of Six Feet Under on, we were thrown headfirst into a troubled family and all the crazy characters of that family, the Fishers, and all those around them.

After one episode of Tell Me You Love Me, I can't say I know much about any of these characters except that one couple is not having sex, one couple is trying to have a baby, and another couple is young and likes to have sex.

Okay, so I guess I'll talk about the sex now. Everyone else is. There's a word for the kind of sex we saw on display last night. It's called pornography. The producer and headwriter Cynthia Mort joked that she didn't think people would pay much attention to the sex (at least I hope she was joking). HBO has been showing nudity and sex scenes for years on their dramas, but this was long, drawn-out, choreographed sexual escapades.

In other words, gratuitous.

From the outside, one could say the enormous amount sex and the extreme display of flesh was a simple ratings ploy. If this was any other network, I would say they're right. But this is HBO and HBO, to me, has more credibility than... well, anybody and anything.

So the question remains, was all the sex trying to prove something? I kept watching the episode wondering if there was hidden meanings in all the bare asses and naked breasts.

Early in the episode, therapist Mary Coster looks at two pictures of naked bodies for an photo for a book she's writing about sex. A scene or two later, the young couple gets down and dirty and certain flashes evoke those same images. Okay, that's interesting. But by the fourth sex scene in single hour, I started to wonder if this wasn't just a way of shocking people.

Well, I'm not shocked. And frankly, I was kind of bored. Six Feet Under had a lot of sex, some of it graphic, but all of it served some purpose. Some overlaying story arc that needed to be shown during that sex scene, not just two straight people getting it on for fun.

Furthermore, trying to go beyond the obvious, the show seriously lacked a sense of humor. The premise of the show, couples dealing with relationship issues through therapy, is serious stuff. You must buoy that seriousness with some kind of comedy. A joke here or there or - shit, have someone fall on a rake, if that's all you can come up with.

All that being said, I will watch another episode, just because it's HBO and because I'm damn loyal. But there better be some serious improvement or I'm out.

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