What I thought about: You Me Her (Seasons 1-3.5)

Any interest I had in this show unfortunately fizzled out at the beginning of Season 4. Characters became annoying, the plot wore thin, and the initial intrigue I had in the show’s premise simply faded away. I’ll try and unpick my thoughts here.

I had a hard time thinking Jack’s smile was ever sincere.

What’s it about?
Married couple Jack and Emma have pretty successful careers and live in the rich and fancy suburbs of Portland, Oregon. The one thing they don’t have is a sex life. After a series of increasingly tense couples therapy sessions, Jack’s brother offers some advice: go and see an escort, and you’ll have such a good time it’ll reignite something in your own sex life.

Enter Izzie, a grad student who escorts in her spare time. Jack backs out of the session before anything serious happens, but his guilt gets the better of him and he immediately confesses to Emma. Understandably pissed, Emma arranges to met Izzie as a customer, planning on exposing her and telling her to keep the hell away from Jack. Instead, uh, they end up making out. Long story short, the couple are both infatuated with Izzie and form a polyamorous relationship.

What do I like about it?
You can’t help but be intrigued by the plot here, right? Their unusual relationship situation (not to mention the fact that Izzie is quite a bit younger than them) is a poor fit for their socially conservative professional lives, and the first couple of seasons sees Jack and Emma flip-flopping over whether to commit fully to the relationship, which at times is an emotional watch.

I also really liked the side characters. Emma’s best friend Carmen and her husband Dave are particular stand-outs, as is Izzie’s room mate and fellow escort Nina. The supporting cast really helps tie the show together and I think are a big part of what kept me invested in the show for so long.

What do I not like about it?
Unfortunately, the supporting cast’s magic eventually runs out and you start to realise how boring the main characters became, or perhaps how boring they always were. Despite claiming to be fully committed to the three-way relationship, the show is fully of petty and often bizarre fall-outs between them. Characters change their minds on a whim. Emma, who essentially comes out as bisexual in the first season, ditches the throuple for a full-blown lesbian relationship at the end of Season 2. By Season 4, she’s basically the most annoying character in the show.

Put simply, it lost its polish.

Worth a watch?
No. Not because the idea is bad – but because, if you’re a completionist like I usually am, you’ll find the latter seasons a real grind.

By the way…

  • It says a lot that, when writing this review, I had to Google Jack and Emma’s names, but not Carmen or Dave’s.
  • I like how, on Wikipedia, episode synopses for the show stop at the beginning of Season 3. Seems like I’m not the only one who gave up on this show.

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Quickfire round: Love and Anarchy

This quirky Swedish show – ostensibly a workplace comedy romance – was an intriguing watch and ended up having a much deeper emotional side to it than the trailer would suggest. It won’t be for everyone, though.

The lipstick is a token for their dares.

Married mother-of-two Sofie is called in to a small publishing house in Stockholm to help them restructure as they struggle in a tough marketplace. Sofie is good at her job, but must be having trouble with her husband because, in the first few minutes of Episode 1, she’s masturbating in the family bathroom before work. After a long day at the office, she does the same thing, this time at her desk. Enter Max – no, literally, he enters the building to carry on with his IT construction work, having been sent home by Sofie earlier in the day for making too much noise. Max quickly gets his revenge by snapping a photo of Sofie doing her thing, and the next day turns up to work with a renewed sense of power.

“How much do you want?” Sofie asks, keen to have the video deleted. “I just want you to take me out for lunch”, says Max (character building earlier in the episode shows us that Max, many years younger than Sofie, has a thing for older women). And so out they go. Max hands over his phone for Sofie to delete the photo, but she then refuses to hand it back. “You made me do something, now you need to do something to earn this back”, she says, “do something outrageous at the office”.

And so begins a pretty hilarious game of workplace dares between Sofie and Max.

What I loved about this show was the setting. Everyone else at the publishing house are just trying their best to keep going, but still manage to be funny in their own right. Friedrich is an old stalwart of the publishing world whose older, male, clientele occasionally clash with Denise’s younger and more liberal authors. At one point Friedrich, following a series of failures (one of which is at the hands Sofie’s dare to Max), goes to an Ayahuasca retreat to treat and find his true self. You can imagine how that went.

Towards the end, the show reveals a sort of underlying purpose. We learned earlier that Sofie’s father, a staunch communist, is sometimes mentally unstable. Although her willingness to participate in Max’s escalating dares is perhaps an indication that Sofie might be suffering a similar ailment, it’s not until she literally hisses at her husband, animal-like, that we can be sure of it. You could also say that Max, feeling the pressure from his spiteful mother and stepfather, also loses it when he poses completely nude for a family photo. (This is also a good time to mention that there is full frontal nudity in this show.)

A short, charming, crazy show that’s absolutely best watched in its original language with subtitles, I really quite liked it.

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What I thought about: Emily in Paris

A charming comedy romance with breathtaking views of Paris, I was really enjoying this one up until its somewhat chaotic end, whereupon it suddenly felt, well, a bit of a sausage fest. I hope a second season, if there is one, focuses more on Emily’s marketing prowess.

Of course her phone case looks like a camera. It’s so _ringarde_!

What’s it about?
Emily is a young but successful marketing executive from Chicago. The company she works for recently acquired a boutique marketing agency in Paris – Savoir – which her senior colleague was due to be seconded to. Said colleague falls pregnant and Emily, who doesn’t speak a word of French, offers to go in her place.

When she arrives in Paris, she’s treated to quite the culture – and language – shock. Receiving a less than friendly welcome from her boss and metaphorical dinosaur of the marketing industry, Emily tries her best to remain upbeat by pulling off a number of successful marketing stunts and blogging her journey on Instagram, where she quickly racks up a decent following.

Being so good(looking) at her job does grab the attention of a number of male clients, including a perfumer, fashion house boss, and vineyard heir. Here’s the chick flick element – Emily has to carefully navigate the sex-infested waters of Paris to figure out her true love.

What do I like about it?
Emily is a well-written character portrayed fantastically well by Lily Collins. She is resourceful, smart, quick-thinking, and career-driven. I felt inspired watching this, and I’m a male lawyer. I can’t imagine what it might do for those more closely aligned to Emily and her career path. Also, the wardrobe department pulled off some simply amazing looks. Emily is a fashion icon in her own right.

Seeing Emily settle into Parisian life, struggling at first but slowly improving her language and grasp of the culture, was a joy to watch and included several genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments. The show’s gotten flack for stereotyping the French, but I’d have thought the majority-French cast would have pointed out if the writers were being too cruel.

And if you’re wondering, the male love interests are, to borrow a word from a friend who’s also seen the show, ‘fit’. Make of that what you will.

What do I not like about it?
Emily’s skill and endless optimism gets somewhat sidelined in the second half of the season and relationships become increasingly complicated. This culminates in a final episode that literally felt as though she was being passed around by the male love interests. It’s hard to explain, but it was quite off-putting.

Worth a watch?
It’s not a must-see, but if the premise sings to you, sit back and take in the 4K views of Paris as the story unfolds.

By the way…

  • I found it funny that Emily’s American boyfriend is literally subtitled as ‘Boyfriend’. They didn’t even give him a name!
  • I alluded to it above but I can’t stress enough – the scenes were so brilliantly shot. Try and watch in Dolby Vision if you can.

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Quickfire round: Love Guaranteed

This film was rubbish. A shallow, childish, and ultimately very weird film about a man who sues a dating website for failing to find love. I mean, it sounds interesting, right? But it wasn’t good.

Susan striking the classic ‘objection!’ pose, in what is one of the more exciting parts of the movie

The trailer looked so impressive. Man shows up in lawyer’s office, asking for help to take advantage of a clause in a mega corp dating agency’s terms that guarantees love, as long as you’ve been on 1,000 dates. This guy did that, somehow. (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, he says).

Alright! David v Goliath! A kickass lawyer! 1,000 dates? Sign me up!

And then you press play and you get this sort of clown music going on in the background. The lawyer rolls up to her office in a battered old car, the handle of which falls off as she shuts it. She shoves it in her bag.

Oh no, it’s one of those Rom Coms. The ones where all the characters must be dosed up on LSD because all of their actions are slightly exaggerated and eccentric. This is the sort of thing you see in kid’s movies except that kids don’t really understand the concept of suing a company so I have no idea why they did it this way.

Anyway, yeah, she’s a great lawyer but she’s too nice because she does everything pro bono and so can’t afford to look after herself. Her client is supposed to be a nice, even charming, guy (no prizes for guessing he’s the plot’s love interest) but when someone walks into your office and says he’s been on 1,000 dates, would you ever – ever – think of them as charming?

I will save you all 90 minutes of your time. For the curious, and this is something I saw coming after about 20 minutes, the case goes to trial and he confesses his love for his lawyer, which means, technically, that he did find love through Love Guaranteed after all. The case is withdrawn. But then… the company pays them the damages anyway (either way they were destined for charity) and wants to make them the ‘new face’ of the company???

???

That’s it. That’s the review.

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What I thought about: Love on the Spectrum

Can people on the autism spectrum find love? Yes, of course, and for any doubters out there, this show sets out to prove it. Going much deeper than Channel 4’s The Undateables, this Australian series is awkward, endearing, funny, and genuine. Yeah, I shed a tear at the end.

This couple are adorable. Watch the final episode to get the waterworks going…

What’s it about?
Autism is a developmental disability that has different characteristics (hence the ‘spectrum’), but in one way or another makes it more difficult for autistic individuals to interact socially with non-autistic people, also known as neurotypicals. This can manifest itself in a particularly difficult way when it comes to dating. In this show we see problems in keeping the discussion going, an inability to process and understand social cues, and, occasionally, a complete mind-blank when things become too overwhelming for the individual.

The show goes deeper than just showing singletons on dates (although that does make up a lot of the show). We catch mini interviews with their parents, lessons from an autism behavioural expert who teaches them how to have a successful date, and there’s even coverage of two happy couples (all on the spectrum).

What do I like about it?
The show is better than The Undateables essentially because it goes deeper than just showing people on their dates. Viewers will gain a deeper understanding of autism because of it, which is important especially as it a disability that is often not immediately visible.

The show also covers differing sexual orientations, and also those with other disabilities (commonly deafness). Also, the parents of each of the show’s participants are truly adorable. None of them resent having a child with autism, and they’re all proud of how far their child has come from childhood (one parent tells the show that their child started out being non-verbal and having a tendency for violent outbursts. The grown up person we see featured on the show is talkative and caring).

What do I not like about it?
One good point I saw mentioned in another review of the show is that the people they dated were autistic, and all of the events they went to were specifically for disabled or autistic people. You do get a sense that there is some segregation, but one part of me feels as though it’s good to develop the social skills among people who better understand your own disability before trying it in the wider world.

Worth a watch?
Yes! This was an adorable series and it has one of the best since filming began… end credits scenes I have ever seen. You become really attached to the show’s participants by the end and you really want their love lives to succeed.

By the way…

  • Let me know your favourite participants – mine are Andrew and Maddi
  • The show was created and directed by Cian O’Clery, who is also the voice you hear asking the participants questions during interviews

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What I thought about: Spinning Out

From the gashes in Justin’s leg and the crack in Kat’s skull, to the racism, loneliness, and crippling bipolar disorder, Spinning Out cuts deep. This is a rare example of a trailer failing to sell a show properly – I took a punt and loved it.

Kaya Scodelario is excellent in this, by the way.

What’s it about?
Kat Baker (Kaya Scodelario) lives (at first) with her younger sister, Serena (Willow Shields, of Hunger Games fame), and mother Carol. They’re a family of figure skaters – Carol having dropped out of the sport after having Kat a fairly young age. Kat’s about to take a test to be a skating coach, her dreams of making it to the Olympics as a figure skater were dashed since she cracked her head on the ice in a bad fall. She’s been too afraid to land a proper skating jump ever since, so coaching is her last shot.

Or is it? Well, no, that would be rather boring. Kat predictably fails the test, but is spotted by Dasha, a coach for the talented pair skater, Justin Davis. What follows is their incredibly turbulent journey to try to compete together as pair skaters – with Justin promising never to let Kat fall.

What do I like about it?
You get a cool insight into life as a figure skater. The show is full of little details, like the chatty, fiercely competitive mums who swap passive aggressive comments about how their kid is better than the others, and the determination of the skaters who get up at 5AM every day so they can arrive in time for the first session on the ice, every single day. Skating is, as you will come to learn, full of sacrifices.

There’s also a varied spread of characters – Justin is a rich kid who parties (a bit too much), Kat is harbouring a dark secret about her mental health, her best friend is nursing a hip injury but feeling pressured to continue skating, Serena battles loneliness despite being a successful junior skater, and her coach is coming out of a messy divorce. Whilst the plot for some of them is quite spotty, I still got incredibly invested in their lives both on, and off, the rink.

What do I not like about it?
The plot is choppy, especially towards the end, and character behaviour is sometimes off. Time-keeping is also non-existent, with weeks of time having flashed by in an instant without any cues besides a character casually dropping a line like ‘we’ve been doing this for weeks now!’.

But you know what? For better or for worse, for no tangible, objective, reason, Spinning Out is one of my favourite shows of the year. It’s hard to explain why, but it just is.

Worth a watch?
I certainly think so, unless you’re sure you have no interest in a drama set around figure skating.

By the way…

  • The show features numerous body doubles from the Canadian national skating team.
  • Although I’m sad to see it cancelled after one season, I do think it works well as a standalone series.

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What I thought about: Dating Around (Season 2)

With its carefully choreographed camera angles and unique story-telling structure, this American take on First Dates is refreshing, cute, and genuinely brought a smile to my face more often than not.

The smooth panning shots and excellent colour grading make this show an especially cosy watch.

What’s it about?
Five first dates, one follow-up. Each episode of Dating Around follows one central person and the five dates they go on. Each date is shown simultaneously and smoothly using a unique structure. The central person might be shown asking a question to Date Number Two, and in the next shot we see Date Number Three answering it.

Two important differences to First Dates. Firstly, Dating Around puts food and drink on the back burner and lets the daters cover some pretty deep conversational ground. Secondly, the final few moments of each episode don’t involve two people awkwardly announcing whether they’d see each other again (neither of them wanting to go first for fear of being rejected). Instead, the closing moments of each episode sees the central person casually hanging around, awaiting the arrival of their chosen second date. The producers tease us with shots of random passers-by, making us wait with baited breath to see if they chose the person we were rooting for from the earlier dates.

What do I like about it?
Everything about the show – from the colour grading, cinematic camera angles, narrative devices, and the final ‘second date’ reveal, is more cosy and inviting than the harsh CCTV-style we see in First Dates. Don’t get me wrong, I like First Dates too, but Dating Around certainly feels more suited to its American participants, who will excitedly talk about where they came from before they settled in New Orleans, where this season is filmed. I’m not sure us Brits could be that excited talking about our hometown of Skegness or Guildford (no offence to those places).

It’s for this reason that I found myself having a smile on my face more often than not, as I enjoyed seeing the diverse range of dates warming up to each other and forming what, occasionally, looked like some pretty deep connections. Speaking of diversity, there’s plenty of it here – especially in the age and sexuality department. That said, Season 1 had a dedicated episode for seniors, which was missing this time around.

What do I not like about it?
Very little. Episodes are 30 minutes and therefore very bingeable. The show is warm and inviting – perfect for watching with friends, family, or significant others. I just wished we got to see a little more into the post-show lives of the participants. Besides the second-date reveal, we are completely left in the dark.

Worth a watch?
Yes, especially if you like this kind of show. You don’t need to have seen Season 1, but you might as well!

By the way…

  • One of this season’s participants has hinted at a possible ‘where are they now’ episode, saying that Netflix asked him to ‘keep coy’ about his love life for now.
  • One of the dates in Episode 3 is polyamorous and only dates bisexual women. See if you can guess which one it is.

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What I thought about: My Secret Romance

My first foray into Korean television is this ridiculous romantic comedy whose premise is truly absurd and which stretched on for far longer than it had to. I still finished it, though.

The show goes into multi-camera slow-motion whenever something like this happens.

What’s it about?
Three years ago, Yoo-mi, a struggling nutritionist student, caught a bus to her mother’s third wedding at a seaside resort. On the bus, she met Jin-wook, a chaebol heir (that means he’s the son of a wealthy businessman). A spoiled brat, Jin-wook had been sent to the same resort for hard work and discipline. Long, painfully comedic story short, the pair have a one night stand.

Fast forward to the present day, and Yoo-mi has achieved her dream of becoming a qualified nutritionist and begins her first proper placement at a large conglomerate in the city. As she soon finds out, Jin-wook is the CEO of the company, and he never quite forgot about the night he shared with Yoo-mi. What follows is a nonsensical plot – all you need to know is that it is, after all, a romance story.

What do I like about it?
It can be funny. Jin-wook’s personal assistant is hilarious – sharp, professional, but good friend to him when he needs to be, he wears patterned suits to impress his crush (one of the other staff at the canteen). In fact, there’s a theme here – much of the supporting cast were really quite good, such as Yoo-mi’s best friend from school, a popular travel author who owns his own bar (literally, ‘Beer and Book’), exudes an effortlessly cool vibe.

And, credit where it’s due, actor Sung Hoon fulfils his role as an attractive lead character with what has to be the most chiselled jawline I have ever seen.

What do I not like about it?
Two things stick out to me. Firstly, the show’s entire premise is ridiculous – this guy is so emotionally damaged that he never moved on from a one night stand he had three years ago? And she ends up working in his company’s canteen? I suppose this is completely international – is it supposed to be funnier this way? I’m not sure western viewers will find comedy in this.

Secondly, without going into the plot too much, it felt a lot like Jin-wook was massively abusing his position as Yoo-mi’s ultimate boss. It seemed a bit abusive. But it is romantic – Yoo-mi gets a happy ending, it’s all fine. I just cringed a lot whenever Jin-wook would exercise some kind of control over her in a way that made her appear uncomfortable. I suppose this is another cultural difference, perhaps?

Worth a watch?
Not really. This is rather different to western TV and honestly, not even worth it for the plot. But do go ahead if you’re curious – I was.

By the way…

  • Yoo-mi is played by K-Pop idol Song Ji-eun
  • One episode has Jin-wook meet with an overseas investor. I have NO idea what country this guy was supposed to be from. He spoke English in a weird sort of Dutch-American accent.

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Quickfire round: The Half of It

What is love? One of the best lines in this quirky LGBT romance movie answers that question, shall we say, boldly. It’s just a shame that it fails to tie everything together nicely by the end of its runtime.

I have no idea why Netflix marketing thought this was the best shot to use for media publications.

Ellie Chu is a high-school genius who writes paid essays for her classmates – it’s much needed money, given the work-shy state of her father. Knowing how good Ellie is for words, underperforming (and far too nice) jock, Paul Munsky, asks her to write a love letter to his crush. But, friendless and bullied, Ellie has never known what love is, so she ironically plagiarises an old movie for inspiration.

The girl in question, Aster Flores, perfectly fits the somewhat cliched mould of beautiful and popular, yet complex and misunderstood, that we often see in indie romance films like this one. Upon receiving Ellie’s letter, which was far too intellectual to have realistically come from Paul, she begins to rethink her relationship with her rich and popular boyfriend. Maybe there is some out there that gets her?

So far, so cute, so typical. But there’s a bit of a twist – Ellie is crushing on Aster just as hard as Paul is. Ellie isn’t faking it when she writes to Aster; her writing, that resonates so strongly with Aster, comes from the heart.

So, look, it’s an adorable and often funny movie. It’s beautifully shot, well paced (objectively slow, but fittingly so), and touches on the sensitive subject of unreciprocated lesbian romance. It’s no surprise that the movie won Best Narrative Feature at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. However, I do have a couple of issues with it.

Firstly, Ellie comes across as remarkably confident and assertive considering she has no real friends and is often bullied, which seems a little… odd? Secondly, the movie doesn’t really come to any kind of satisfying conclusion. The best it can muster up is a sweet link to an earlier scene in the movie, producing a warm fuzzy feeling but not one of satisfaction. I suppose it’s intentional – as wild as the concept of Ellie’s pseudonymous back and forth with Aster is, the film brings it right back to reality at the end, leaving me a little dejected.

Altogether, though, this is a nice movie to watch if you like what you see in the trailer (and much better than Dangerous Lies on the scale of Netflix films).

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