Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

March 23, 2016

Poly review of You Me Her

The three stars of "You Me Her"
From left to right, Emma (Rachel Blanchard), Jack (Greg Poehler)
and Izzy (Priscilla Faia), as Izzy plays with a lock of Emma's hair.

At the SXSW festival a couple weeks ago, poly journalist and activist Kit O'Connell previewed the first two episodes of You Me Her, the self-described "polyromantic" sitcom that debuted on DirecTV last night. And he talked to its writer. He's posted a long, thoughtful review from a poly-community perspective. Excerpts:

You Me Her: ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’ And Polyamory On TV.

By Kit O'Connell

“Be careful what you wish for,” declared Greg Poehler during the SXSW audience Q&A for “You Me Her”...

He was describing the reaction of Jack, the character he plays in the show, to discovering that his wife is bisexual.... But he could also be describing my reaction to the news that a sitcom centered around polyamory was coming to the airwaves. My trepidation was compounded by the fact that there seemed to be very little information on the show online... and even further when the show’s publicity team seemed reluctant to grant me access to their talent at SXSW.

...The quick version:

“You Me Her” doesn’t get everything right, but it represents an important “baby step” toward seeing alternative relationships and ethical non-monogamy represented on TV.

If you’re concerned about spoilers, I’ve mostly contained them to the next section, and tried to keep them to a minimum after that.

The basics: Izzy meets Jack & Emma

Jack and Emma (Rachel Blanchard), a cisgendered, upper middle class white couple living in a suburban Portland neighborhood, stopped having sex after they couldn’t conceive a baby. Even worse, they’ve stopped being intimate altogether.... One day, Jack’s brother Gabe (Kevin O’Grady, charmingly boorish) confesses that he hired an escort, and the experience reinvigorated his sex life with his wife. So Jack finds Izzy (Priscilla Faia) on the Internet, and makes a date.... On Izzy’s date with Jack, a long, drunken conversation turns into an over-heated make-out session before a guilt-stricken Jack pushes her away and runs home to confess to his wife.

Emma hires Izzy the next day with the intention of confronting her. She’s not as much angry as curious: she wants to understand why Jack likes this woman. She discovers Izzy is a smart, sexy, likable woman — especially likable after Izzy gives Emma a foot job under the table at a shadowy pub where they meet, then the pair make out in the bathroom.

The first episode ends as Jack and Emma have passionate sex before Jack confesses that he briefly saw Izzy again to say goodbye, and Emma confesses that she more than saw Izzy, and that she’s bisexual.

The second episode aired at SXSW reveals the aftermath of that night and those first encounters. Izzy is clearly emotionally entangled with the couple already, and struggles to pay attention to her nominal boyfriend, Andy (Jarod Joseph). Jack and Emma are enjoying the afterglow and their fantasies of another encounter, while at the same time struggling to understand what it means for their marriage and their lifestyle....

The good and bad of ‘You Me Her’

...I’m more concerned by how reductive Izzy’s character seems in the first two episodes, despite being a “progressive” depiction in the media. Although she’s no “Pretty Woman,” she’s being perfectly set up to be rescued from reluctant sex work by Jack and Emma....

Overall, the show depicts the simplest, most vanilla, most non-threatening to the status quo configuration of nonmonogamy imaginable: a bisexual woman who conveniently finds herself almost perfectly situated to join an established married couple who need someone to recharge their sexual and romantic lives....

I don’t want to be too hard on this show, which has a lot going for it too. Writer John Scott Shepherd’s words and the skillful performance of the actors achieve some very real moments in the first two episodes. I think anyone that’s stepped outside their (or society’s) sexual comfort zones can relate to the simultaneous feelings of exhilaration and trepidation Jack and Emma feel together. Like many polyamorous people, I’ve found sexual intimacy with a new person can reinvigorate my lust for the other lovers I’ve already had. And for all that some of us may be tired of seeing “hot bi babe” hunters on OKCupid, I’ve never seen a show that focuses on a three person relationship like this, even if it’s one that doesn’t look much like the ones I’ve been in.

I also appreciate that Jack is set up to be the person with the most to lose, and the most hesitation about going outside of cultural norms. While the perception of polyamory is frequently that its driven by male lust, in my experience heterosexual men are often terrified of granting their partners freedom to explore their desires. And used to being the recipient of patriarchal privilege and power, I’ve sometimes seen these dudes crumble at the idea of giving up even a tiny percentage of that privilege by joining a sexual minority....

John Scott Shepherd at the SXSW premiere of “You Me Her”
John Scott Shepherd at the SXSW premiere
of “You Me Her.” (Kit O’Connell photo)
A few words with John Scott Shepherd

...During the red carpet, I asked him about what attracted him to the project.

“I’ve always been interested in alternative relationships and extramarital relationships,” Shepherd told me. “But when I was watching movies about them and TV shows about them, it seemed like they were all dark. I thought, what would it be like if it happened to me, if I was actually drawn into a romance that involved more than one person.”

He continued, “What would it be like if we actually got into a relationship and we realized that our happiness was based on something we didn’t ever foresee? It makes my heart patter if my definition of happiness was so different from my societal norm. Would I have the balls to do it?”...

A sitcom with a lot of heart(s)

In the end, I’m glad to see TV exploring new stories about different ways of relating. Given that it still sometimes feels revolutionary just to see opposite sex friends in a TV show (c.f. “Sleepy Hollow”), I’m all about a show that wants to mix it up.

I also appreciate any storytelling that sets out to depict sex as something that has a positive influence on people and relationships — a notion that’s shockingly rare in the media, and puts “You Me Her” in the same rarefied air as “Shortbus” (2006), albeit in a much safer, TV-friendly form....

There’s genuine chemistry between the cast, and the writing has emotional depth and realism, even if it never strikes as far into uncharted territory as some polyamorous folk might like. As the show continues, perhaps Jack, Emma and Izzy will seek out some other polyamorous friends, giving the show a chance to show even more ways of relating. Despite these limitations, it feels like a real slice of life that we’ve never seen sliced up on screen before.

...Whatever happens, I’ll still give credit to Shepherd, Pohler, Blanchard, Faia and company for trying something new, and letting some viewers see that love comes in many forms, if you’re brave enough to admit it.

Read his whole article (March 22, 2016), with more pix and videos.

And if you see more reviews of the show worth noting here, please let me know: alan7388 (at) gmail.com


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