Season opener of Showtime's "Polyamory: Married & Dating":
The first new episode of Showtime's Polyamory reality series, which aired last night, had a lot of catching up to do from last season, and new groundwork to lay.
We meet a new family, seen in the video clip above. Chris is a beefy, chiseled mixed-martial-arts fight champion with, apparently, a kind and thoughtful heart. He now owns and runs the gym Legends, where he coaches up-and-coming MMA fighters. His wife Leigh Ann owns and runs a pole-dancing school, "making a better world one sexy woman at a time," she jokes. Their younger mutual girlfriend Megan owns and runs a business of her own, a fashion line. Three busy entrepreneurs, who for three years have lived and loved together — in Hollywood, in a gorgeous California home with a pool. Yeah, this is Showtime. They tell of their happy life and intertwined relationship, and explain how they discuss and negotiate through unexplored territory. "When you find out that this is what love is for you," says Chris, "you're kind of flying by the seat of your pants."
And we see that they're gorgeous with their clothes off. They narrate, over an extended threesome sex scene, how they enable the group lovemaking among them to work right for everyone. They are blissful and delighted with one another and know each other very well... it appears.
So then, where's the story? We know turmoil and drama must be coming. Indeed, we are set up with what to look for: Leigh Ann cooks while the other two walk the dog, and she frets how she seems to be getting left alone a lot these days. Megan frets about how much Leigh Ann has to travel for her business and leave her alone. Are they really all going to be the good relationship managers they appear to be?
Down the freeway in San Diego, the poly pod of Kamala, Michael, Jen, and Tahl have been living together for a year since we witnessed their move-in and tribulations last season. They seem stronger and happier together now, and if complex networked intimacy is their thing, they've got heaps of it. Tahl has happily come out as bisexual and seems to be loving it as he dates around. Jen, the most tentative, most giving-in of the four last year, seems to have gained new confidence and strength. She has a new boyfriend, Jesse, a kid really, who's 10 years her junior. And he's mono. Oops.
In real life, the pod and (I gather) their extended San Diego network follow a practice that each person be fluid-bonded — not using a condom or other fluid barrier — with no more than one other person, usually a spouse. The pod has regular Monday family meetings that they look forward to, and we see them sitting together holding hands and going over various matters. Jen says she has decided to fluid-bond with Jesse, and husband Tahl will be the one to use a condom with her. The others ask Tahl, with concern, how he feels about this change. He says he's actually sort of delighted and finds the idea of Jesse ejaculating unprotected to be pretty exciting. But he is having a different problem: the amount of time that Jen is spending away from him with Jesse these days. And also, the rules that mono-oriented Jesse puts on her, like no kissing any other man but Tahl on the lips; these seem potentially creepy. And there's Jesse's unwillingness to come to parties and be part of the extended community. Tahl says that he and Jen need to schedule a further talk about his own needs here.
Jen is not happy about this turn of events. And at their talk, which goes rather stressfully in a restaurant, Tahl asks that all three of them meet over lunch so that he and Jesse can get to know each other and work out their understandings and needs. Oh, and by the way, he wants more alone time scheduled for himself to date a new guy.
We see Jen and Jesse making love, real love — this is not a porn scene — and at greater length than the lovemaking scenes we saw last season. Young Jesse is truly head over heels for her. He is overjoyed not to be using a condom now; this new bonding means the world to him. To him, condoms and safer sex feel like relationship diminishment. Uh oh.
He is scared about getting more involved with the poly tribe, Tahl in particular. He is sweet and open and... has mono attitudes written all over his very body language. It surprised me how sensitive to seeing this I've become.
It's too bad that Showtime turned down the director's request for hour-long shows this season. Considering the depth, complexity, and unusualness of what we're seeing, the pacing is very fast and it ends awfully soon.
See the long, bedazzled review of Season 2 at Gawker.com.
Here's Mindchaotica's review and recap of this first episode.
Next week's episode is titled "Triggers." Description: "Chris tries to mend his relationship. Jen is caught between Tahl and Jesse." A pic:
Incidentally, amid the deepening drama, in Episode 2 we'll see what came of my signing a release letting Showtime display this website on the air. Apparently one of the families had Polyamory in the News open while cameras were rolling. Maybe I'll be famous.
Here's the upcoming schedule. Note that each episode of the seven-week season will air several times on subsequent nights each week (on the left at the link, click On TV > All Airings).
Episodes can also be watched on demand after the first time they air (click On Demand), and on a computer or device if you're a Showtime subscriber via Showtime Anytime.
For official news and publicity see Showtime’s site for the series.
Here are all trailers and video clips for Season 2 so far.
Here are all the video clips for Season 1. If you didn't see it, they give a good idea of what it was about.
To keep up with doings of the San Diego family, see their Facebook Fanpage.
Here's my own stuff about Season 1, with plots, spoilers, commentary, and notices in other media.
And here's my stuff about Season 2.