It's officially January...and boy, does it ever feel like it.
Isn't January the worst? The holidays are over, the cold weather is setting in. A couple of days ago we had freezing rain that coated absolutely everything in a thin layer of ice, which is the bad weather trifecta: treacherous, ugly, but not really bad enough to justify staying at home with a good book. The shine has started to come off my New Year's resolutions. It turns out that giving up alcohol for three weeks has not magically resulted in losing ten pounds, having a bunch of extra money, and sleeping eight hours every night. And my TV choices have been similarly sobering. I just finished both seasons of HBO's Love Life, and I have thoughts.
The premise of the first season of Love Life is laid out in the first episode: statistically, most people have 7 relationships before finding "the one," and this show will follow the experiences of one person as they fall in and out of love with a variety of partners until they find the person with whom they can build a happy, healthy, supportive relationship. The first season follows Darby (Anna Kendrick) as she evolves from an insecure 20-something who works in a museum to a successful gallery owner with a family that looks different than she ever imagined. Her relationships range from match-made-in-heaven to borderline-abusive. Some of them fundamentally alter the path of her life, while others help her redefine how she sees herself and her control over her own future. The show also expands "love" to refer to friends and family, and there are episodes exploring Darby's relationship with her mother (Hope Davis) and best friend Sara (Zoe Chang) that are among the best in the series. There's also a couple of cringe-worthy moments--whose love life would be complete without crushing embarrassment? While there's a lot of humor in this show, it's not exactly light. Characters are dealing with job loss, addiction, painful break-ups, and existential questions about their future. It's all set against the background of 2010s New York City, with many of the city's hot spots and low lights as featured locations. Love Life is a good choice if you're looking for a complex and nuanced picture of modern relationships, but it's definitely not all squishy feels with an easy HEA. The season ends with a 2020 New Year's Eve party, and it's a mark of how much I'd come to care for these characters that I found myself wondering how each of them would deal with the years to come.
The second season of Love Life starts out much bleaker than the first: instead of providing unsourced statistics about the number of partners most people are likely to have during their lifetimes, this season's narrator intones, "There is no destiny. There are no soulmates." This season's protagonist is Marcus (William Jackson Harper) who is already married in the first episode when he starts a flirtatious relationship with a woman he meets during a party for Darby's wedding. This flirtation ends up being the wrecking ball that destroys his marriage, and the series follows him as he tries to learn from his mistakes while continuing to make more of them. The person who recommended this to me found this season to be more compelling, but I found it easier to empathize with Darby's foibles than Marcus's. This is a show set in a very specific time and place, which started to feel a little too real when the final episodes were set in 2020 and beyond. I don't know if I'll ever get used to seeing that year on screen, complete with masks, hand sanitizer, and the Black Lives Matter protests that inspire a major shift in Marcus's life. That said, I found that Marcus's love story was actually more fulfilling than Darby's, and showed more of the real-life moments that build the sort of deep connection that lasts a lifetime. Season 3 hasn't been released, but the creators say they intend to follow another side character during the same time period. I'm definitely interested in more content that focuses on how relationships change lives, particularly this sort of content that shows characters making mistakes and learning from them. Y'all know I love a candy-coated rom-com, but I really enjoyed biting into something a bit more substantial and not quite as sweet.
I’m in the market for suggestions! Let me know if there’s something I have to watch at email@example.com.