Sunday, October 21, 2007

HBO's Remarkable New Series

One young couple is planning their wedding until the woman overhears her fiance confiding to someone that he'll "deal with" the fallout of his inevitable unfaithfulness when it comes. A young man feels turned off by his wife's constantly pressuring him for sex so she can get pregnant. A man approaching middle age loves his family, but he and his wife haven't had sex in over a year, and the thrill of any kind of real intimacy between them has given way to weariness and numbing routine that she can no longer tolerate. An older woman (Jane Alexander), who happens to be a marriage counselor conducting therapy with two of the aforementioned couples, says to her husband of 42 years that they have worked their way through the very problems she's assisting the other couples with.

I'm writing about a startlingly realistic new HBO dramatic series about intimate male-female relationships titled Tell Me You Love Me. This series, with its extremely revealing glimpses of marital accord and discord and its graphic simulations of sexual intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation complete with visible ejaculation, is like nothing I've ever seen on TV or at the movies before, and, judging from the first three episodes that I saw today, after recently subscribing to HBO for a six month discount, may well end up numbering among the small handful of TV shows that have made me genuinely and profoundly wiser about life.

Almost everything about this series--except, perhaps, the invariably fast and furious sex scenes--shines with extraordinary authenticity delivered by exceptional scripts and acting. Virtually every act, gesture, and spoken and unspoken word is ripe with meaning and intensity, so much so that it can often make one squirm in one's chair with the discomfort of self-recognition, and fill one with apprehension over how any marriage or intimate relationship, one's own included, can reasonably be expected to avoid or surmount the obstacles that beset the troubled couples in the series. Indeed, after watching a few episodes, one marvels that the national divorce rate isn't significantly higher than the 50+% that it's reported to be

Yet, if experience can enable one to live more wisely, avoiding the pitfalls one has encountered or seen others encounter before, then watching this HBO series all the way through and reflecting on the issues it raises may be a shortcut to wisdom and an antidote to failed relationships. Because the intimate revelations of these four couples are so powerful that they sear themselves into one's brain and consciousness. The scenes are so effective that one vicariously experiences and is changed by the relationships he observes on the screen. It's almost like they become one's own personal experiences supplementing and complementing one's actual personal experience.

Maybe I'm just swept away by excessive enthusiasm and hyperbole in the wake of today's viewings and will come down to earth or even indifference after I see a few more episodes. But I doubt it. I think this is truly an extraordinary series, and if you get HBO and haven't seen it, you might want to give serious thought to checking it out. Or renting it after it comes out on DVD. Just be prepared to squirm a lot.

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