In the US: Sundays, HBO
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic. Starts tonight
Is patience a virtue? It’s supposed to be, isn’t it? When it comes to TV, patience certainly can be a necessity, at least, as both the now-retired Carusometer and its successor, the Barrometer, can attest. Indeed, these days, plenty of shows start badly and it’s not before you get to anywhere between episodes three and seven that they get their acts together and reveal their true merits.
Patience is now particularly expected of us when it comes to ‘prestige TV’, which is often almost defined as being slower moving than regular TV. Remember The Leftovers? Great by the second or third season, apparently, but the first season was depressingly dreadful.
Maybe you are virtuous enough to be so patient as to stick with any given show until it gets good. But in the age of Peak TV, you need something more than patience – you need time. There’s so much good television, particularly serial shows, and prestige shows, you have to have oodles of hours spare in your day to actually watch them.
Here and Now
So how patient should we be with HBO’s latest prestige project, Here and Now? Already, you can sense its worthiness, with a name that’s as portentous as This is Us‘s – it might as well have called itself Very Important Drama About Modern Life. It’s also from Alan Ball, who wrote American Beauty and created Six Feet Under and True Blood. Very prestigious indeed.
Then there’s the cast and the plot. It stars Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter (wow!) as two former 60s radicals now all grown-up and living in Portland, Oregon – a place with so many liberal niceties and ticks, it can be satirised on multiple levels for multiple seasons with Portlandia. But it gets even more liberal than that: Robbins is a philosophy professor, Hunter a former therapist who nows heads something called ‘the Empathy Initiative’ focusing on conflict resolution by teaching empathy.
Even if that weren’t enough, they’ve adopted kids of different races from all around the world, all of whom are now adults. There’s Jerrika Hinton (Liberia), who’s the creator and owner of a retail fashion website; Raymond Lee (Vietnam), who’s now a successful life coach; and
Daniel Zovatto (Colombia), a student studying video game design.
At this point, even if you’re quite literally a card-carrying liberal like me, your patience will probably be extremely tested. You might not even have the patience to start watching the show. I wouldn’t blame you.
Even if you can muster that patience, the first episode is extremely… prestige. You get to watch Robbins screwing around with young prostitutes because he can’t cope with being 60, having a loving family and seeing Donald Trump as president. Hinton’s a dick to her staff for having the temerity to put a hat on a male model who’s being photographed. Hunter gets to patronise her Spanish-speaking staff with extended r-rolls and constantly rail against Western values and medicine. Lee’s offering motivational advice about not crying, while not actually having any relationships, while Zovatto’s having sex with blokes he meets in bars. Hunter and Robbins’ birth daughter (Sosie Bacon) is having arguments with teenage alt-righters in school about the patriarchy. Everyone’s wondering what pills they should be taking to cope with their undiagnosed ADHD or whatever.
And for about 45 minutes, it’s the most tedious, naval-gazing, First World Problems nonsense you could ever hope not to have to watch, interspersed with trips to the dry cleaners. You’ll want to throw a brick through the TV then drive down to Hooters with your shotgun in the back of your pick-up truck.
What, you might think, is the point of all of this? When exactly is the shoe going to drop and the series reveal why a lot of money and talented people have been spending their time on it?