Tim DeKay and Ally Walker, Tell Me You Love Me
Question: HBO is premiering its new show Tell Me You Love Me this Sunday, and to my astonishment, you haven't yet written a single word about it. You're my go-to TV critic, and I'm especially eager to hear your opinion on this one. Some critics love it, calling it the HBO version of a Herskovitz-Zwick program (a huge endorsement in my book), while others think it's dull and pretentious. What do you say?
Answer: Thanks for asking. One of the reasons no official review has yet appeared in the magazine or elsewhere is because there was no room for my regular column in the jam-packed Fall Preview issue (on stands now; I recommend you all go out and get one). The magazine review goes out next week, but this gives me an opportunity to weigh in a few days early, and I'm happy to, because I think Tell Me You Love Me signals HBO getting back on track after John from Cincinnati (which I did feel was dull and pretentious) with a powerful, demanding and at times excruciatingly painful drama about authentic characters in extreme emotional crises. I found myself thinking of the great Herskovitz-Zwick shows, because I was often both deeply moved and deeply exasperated by some of the characters, whom some I'm sure will see as whiny as they go to therapy to confront their problems with relationships, commitment and intimacy. Much has been made about the very explicit sexual content of the show, and I won't lie: The bedroom scenes are about as raw and graphic as anything HBO has produced outside the Real Sex franchise. But this is anti-porn, sex intentionally deglamorized. This is not a show where people have sex to candlelight. If anything, you may wish they'd turn the lights out more often. But the most affecting couple, played beautifully by Tim DeKay and Ally Walker in performances worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Once and Again, are long-marrieds who haven't had sex in a year, though they love each other deeply, and their desire to reconnect while fearing becoming one of those "couples with problems" is pretty searing stuff. I expect Tell Me You Love Me to be polarizing, but it gets richer as it goes on (I've seen all 10 hours), and I can't wait to start hearing reaction to it, pro and con.