Reviews are in for new polyam TV series 'Trigonometry'
|Gary Carr, Thalissa Teixeira, and Ariane Labed play Trigonometry's Kieran, Gemma, and Ray.|
Reviews are arriving for the BBC's new 8-part TV series "Trigonometry," which premiered last night in the UK. It's due to air in North America on HBO, start date not yet announced.
● The Telegraph, a Conservative paper, gives the show a four-out-of-five-star rating: Trigonometry review: less a controversial drama about polyamory than a lovely study of relationships (March 16, 2020. Paywalled.)
By Anita Singh
To begin with, you think you know what Trigonometry (BBC Two) is going to be. There’s what we might term a solo sex scene in the first 10 minutes, with Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira) watching porn while waiting for boyfriend Kieran (Gary Carr) to get home. ...
But what we got was something unexpected: a quite lovely study of relationships and all the messiness that real life entails, disarming in its moments of sweetness. There was one lyrical scene, in which the camera tracked Gemma and Kieran as they walked through the flat, that played out like a piece of modern dance.
I don’t mean to make it sound pretentious. The drama is very much grounded in reality, albeit a hipster kind of reality where Gemma and Kieran hang out with drag queens and live in a flat with 1970s styling. She has opened a café, he is a paramedic. Gemma is the impulsive one who jokingly refers to their relationship as a “six-year hetero-blip”, Kieran is more laid-back and conventional. I’m not sure they’d make it this far outside the confines of a fictional drama. They needed to rent out the spare room to help pay the mortgage and so into their lives came Ray (Ariana Labed), a former Olympian synchronised swimmer whose career was wrecked by an accident. Soon all three were making eyes at each other.
It would have been easy to take a subject like this and go down the salacious route, but by the end of the second episode the trio hadn’t even kissed. Instead, we’re given time to get acquainted with the characters. The three leads gave natural performances that at times felt semi-improvised – Labed in particular draws you in – and the chemistry between them crackles. It feels like a show you can slowly fall in love with.
● The liberal Guardian had an interview with the actress who plays Ray: 'It's not just "We’ll watch them having sex"': Trigonometry's Ariane Labed on the polyamory drama (March 15)
By Ammar Kalia
Sunday nights on the BBC are usually the time for easy viewing.... This weekend, though, there is an altogether different type of entertainment on offer. Trigonometry is the sex-laden tale of a thrupple which develops when Ray, a Frenchwoman who is a newcomer to London, moves into the cramped flat of cash-strapped couple Gemma and Kieran.
The series begins with a Black Swan-style synchronised swimming contest gone wrong, an interrupted bout of masturbation and an argument. And that’s all in the first five minutes. This is bracing TV to make you sit up on your sofa.
“The show isn’t us just going, ‘Here’s a thrupple and we’ll watch them having sex together’,” says Trigonometry’s star Ariane Labed, who plays the French interloper in her first TV role. “There’s no judgment here – we want the audience to just be accepting of their love and not questioning morality because it’s clearly love first.”
No fit for the bureaucracy: a scene from episode 7
...Filming eight episodes of Trigonometry over four months, Labed had to adjust to the snappy pace of television. “It was so fast I remember thinking: ‘I don’t have time to learn my lines, since they’re all in English,’” she laughs. “...We had to adapt – that’s why the camera is always moving, so [filmmaker Athina] could shoot up close and give a sense of our growing closeness, as well as film multiple takes together.” One of the most striking examples of this is used in a bathroom scene where the three lovers are trying to wash glitter off themselves after a night out; the camera continually cuts to their longing gazes for each other’s bodies, honing in on the tense intimacy that develops in this least romantic of locations.
“We don’t see enough portrayals of authentic female desire on screen,” Labed says. “What I love about Trigonometry is that sexuality and sex is seen as light, cheerful and clumsy. It’s not like suddenly the light changes and now it’s a sex scene and everything starts to be weird and serious.”
...“We all had a great connection on Trignometry,” Labed says. “It was easy to be generous with each other as Athina has this wonderful approach to the sex scenes where she doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but it’s always very choreographed. Everybody involved is respectful and everybody cares; when it’s like that, it’s very easy. We didn’t need an intimacy coordinator, because of that....”
● The reviewer at RadioTimes (which has paid attention to this series since it was announced) was disappointed, perhaps because of his being glaringly couple-centric: BBC Two’s polyamory drama doesn’t measure up (March 15)
By David Craig
BBC Two’s Trigonometry lives up to its name in the sense that it can be confusing and sometimes a bit dull. The series explores the friendship between three thirty-somethings as it gradually evolves into a polyamorous romance. Emphasis on gradually.
This eight-part series is a very slow burn and from a certain perspective you can understand why. After all, it would be easy to jump straight in and tell this story with all the subtlety of a tabloid exposé. Admirably, Trigonometry goes in the opposite direction.
The show spends a lot of time setting up its three central characters and putting them on their plodding collision course. There’s a palpable sense that the filmmakers want this relationship to feel truly authentic, like something that could happen to anyone in the right circumstances. But it doesn’t.
...The issue with this arrangement is twofold. First, while Ray is a kind and thoughtful person, it’s hard to imagine why a couple would completely upheave their life for her. For one thing she’s unbearably naive, frequently displaying an almost childlike innocence that you would think might get tedious.
Gemma and Kieran
Second, the crucial element of this arrangement is that Kieran, Gemma and Ray all love each other completely equally. Except it doesn’t really feel that way. From the outset, Gemma shows significantly more interest in Ray than Kieran does. It seems to contradict the idea that the addition of a third party doesn’t detract from their long-standing connection. ... The script goes round in circles trying to explain this issue away, but only succeeds in deteriorating Gemma and Kieran’s individuality. ...
It isn’t much more entertaining than scrolling through Instagram posts from your coupled-up friends. Sure, you’re happy for them but you don’t need to know every tiny detail.
My diagnosis of that problem, and also of the slowness of Season 1 in the US polyamory series "You Me Her": Each show thinks the audience needs way too much explaining of how such a relationship could possibly even come to exist, dragging on for way too many episodes. Get over it, TV producers! If you're going to do a polyfamily series, dive right in and present the family as a given from day one. People get that now.
And if you guys don't grasp how successful nesting polycules naturally work — with their joys and dramas and failings and their endless talky processing (a gold mine for humor if there ever was one; think "Big Bang Theory") — then get the eff out of the way and hire writers who do.
What could make a mass-market smash of a polyfamily dramedy?
Picture a big old Victorian house in a fairly hip city, full of clutter and cats and six adults embroiled in an ever-morphing constellation of mutual relationships, with lots of kitchen-table angst and hilarity and oversharing among metamours. Add a couple of super-precocious kids and a baby, weirded-out (or over-eager) friends and neighbors, older relatives visiting from Peoria in various states of cluelessness that requires impromptu closeting (and here come the kid-blurts) — make them quirky and mostly-lovable, and hey, you'd have the makings of "Big Bang Theory"-level success.