Showtime's Polyamory series begins: Impressions.
Update July 18: If you don't get Showtime, you may be able to watch the show (for now) by searching YouTube for the phrase "Polyamory: Married and Dating". This may also work for Episode 2, which airs tomorrow night July 19 (and which I'll miss -- I'm away from TV and fast internet.)
So I just watched Episode 1 of Showtime's new reality series Polyamory: Married and Dating. We follow two families: the triad of Lindsey, Anthony (who are married) and Vanessa, and the quad of Kamala and Michael (married with 5-year-old Devin) and Tahl and Jennifer (also married; on the left in the photo above). Both groups are deeply in love and have been together long enough to have settled into their patterns and ways; we're seeing them long after the get-together stage.
-- Sigh of relief. The show is just as good, nonexploitive, and real as the trailers led us to hope.
-- There sure are a lot of soft-core group sex scenes. They're portrayed sweetly and briefly but frankly, as part of the ongoing relationships and discussions that are happening among everybody and as genuine expressions of shared love and playfulness as Kamala has been telling her fan base in the last couple weeks.
-- I was struck by how the group sex sometimes functioned as it does among bonobos as a means to diffuse group tensions and reinforce bonds among the group. Yes, couples sometimes use sex this way too. But I felt I was watching something deep in our ancient nature.
Just when the show had gone on being lovey for so long that it was in danger of looking like propaganda for poly perfection, comes the conflict. The Lindsey-Vanessa-Anthony triad is rocked by Lindsey's admission that she has totally fallen for an outside guy, Krystoff, which she tells the others awfully late in the game. The triad has rules, and while I didn't hear anyone say "No surprises," that seems to be the biggest one she broke. Vanessa, in particular, is hurt and jealous about Lindsey almost ignoring her (they are in a bi relationship) while skyping and texting to Krystoff "constantly" in giggly NRE. Vanessa and Anthony ask Lindsey to take a break from Krystoff. She resists, and we see a cut to her telling the camera that she feels that her thing with Krystoff is big enough that "it's worth pissing my partners off a little for him."
But finally she agrees. They did, after all, set up a rule giving each other veto power. It was a tough family meeting but it also looked like a model of honest layings-out of problems and resentments with respectful, open-hearted communication. Watch, people, this is how it's done. Oh, and it was followed by bonobo sex.
But we wonder, will Lindsey follow through? Where is this going to lead?
Meanwhile, We see Kamala and Michael making their big will-you-move-in-and-live-with-us? proposal to Jennifer and Tahl.
Kamala has predicted, correctly, that Tahl will be gung-ho and the questionable one will be Jen. Tahl has been telling Jen about wanting to live in community ever since they married, years ago; Jen has only recently come around to an interest in the idea. We watch another deep group family discussion, unrestrained in the saying of difficult things but with mutual heartfulness and civility. Jen explains that she fears a housing merger might mean she loses her level of daily connection with Tahl. (Cut to Jen telling the camera: "If you're not willing to do personal work, then polyamory is definitely not for you.")
And again, the holdout comes around. Jen agrees, and yes, the big move-in will happen.
But the issues are on the table, they're examining the elephant in the room under bright light (and it remains visible in their first day together in the new home), and we wonder what is coming next for these people. Aside from more bonobo sex.
And now, I am just about to leave the internet behind (almost) for ten days of exploring life-in-community and personal-work stuff myself at the Network for a New Culture's Summer Camp East, in the mountain wilds of West Virginia. So, please put your own impressions in the comments here and continue the discussion.
And, here's a Google News search that will show links to recent news coverage of the show, with the most recent first.
Here's one outsider's early review on a TV-programming website.
Here's the show's website. Click "About" for brief profiles of the seven characters, "Video" for clips including two from the second episode (where the Lindsey drama indeed escalates), and "Ways to Watch" for the first week's rerun schedule and on-demand purchasing (which I haven't tried. How well does this work?)
There will be seven weekly episodes through August 23.
Critics with only a passing interest in the subject may call this first episode tame, as reality shows go (sex aside) polys sit (or lie cuddling) and talk and process a whole lot. We knew that.
But almost never before have we watched it on television.
P.S. July 16: A columnist at the big conservative site Town Hall declares, after learning about the show (and this website), The Next Sexual Revolution Has Arrived. He does not sound like a happy camper. A lot of his commenters seem to be obsessed with animals.