- Why is no one talking about this show?
- Saying goodbye to Friends.
- U-S-A! U-S-A!
- The year’s best movie.
- Never forgiving HBO for this.
There is perhaps no greater evidence that there are far too many shows on TV than the fact that the current season of MTV’s seedy, high-concept dating series Are You the One? has been airing and, by my rough calculations, not a soul is talking about it. You see, this current season features a cast of entirely sexually fluid and gender non-binary contestants. In other words, every single person on the show is fair game to bang each other. And you know what? They do! Gross! Also, progress!
At any juncture in recent years, but especially today when gender and sexual identity are scorching-hot button issues, the first time a dating series has explored something like this would be major news. Progressive outlets would be championing it. Conservatives would be clutching their pearls so hard they’d have permanently spherical indentations on their palms.
In the first episode alone, a trans man who recently had his top surgery heads to the “boom-boom room” to have sex with a sexually fluid cis girl, and then a few hours and several drinks later returns to have sex with a cis guy. It’s wild. And yet, scanning the web for reaction, not a peep. It’s like Horton Hears a LGBTQ. “We are here! We are queer!” And yet, no one is listening.
I’m not saying that this season of Are You the One? is good. Oh, quite the contrary. It is one of the trashiest things I’ve ever seen. I’m also addicted. Every single person on it is an actual monster. “Me” and “I” are said so often you might catch a severe case of residual narcissism just from watching. They are all moaning about bad past relationships and feeling doomed in love forever. They are all, like, 23.
Because this is MTV, everyone is also constantly plied with alcohol. Want to make a monster more unlikable? Give them some shots and watch them stumble around, slurring and crying. It’s grotesque. I love it. I hate myself.
The cynic in me—and, oh boy, does he make up about 90 percent of me—feels like this sexually progressive season is less a gesture of inclusivity than it is a play for attention and ratings. (A bit of a failure at that, judging by the radio silence surrounding it.) But there’s something refreshingly egalitarian to that crass commodification. It’s almost uplifting in its badness.
This isn’t a Very Special Episode of a dating show, or even a particularly responsible portrayal of the LGBTQ community. It is a sexually fluid dating series that is as sad and trashy as the ones the straights get. That, folks, is what you call progress.
The future of TV is exhausting. Not only are there more than 500 series that have aired this year, long-canceled series also now demand your attention as well. The hottest story in entertainment is what is going on with reruns of sitcoms that aired more than a decade ago, one of which was only moderately popular at its peak.
We’ve already written about how truly wild it is to us—a big The Office fan—that the NBC series’ upcoming removal from Netflix sparked a collective hysterical breakdown on social media. Round two of the meltdown came this week when it was reported that Friends is also leaving Netflix in 2020 for Warner Media’s upcoming streaming service, HBO Max. (Both deals are worth more than nearly every deal being made for a new TV show right now. Again, wild!)
People are acting like the shows’ removal from Netflix means that they will never again be able to watch them, something that, on the one hand, I get and, on the other hand, you’re all idiots. I’m not trying to explode anyone’s mind here or rock you off your axis of understanding, but I watch Friends every single day after work, and again before bed, and do it without ever once logging onto Netflix. I have a secret, decades-old trick for this, something of lore from the olden days that is only whispered about with wonder and astonishment now. It is called cable.
But yes, cord-cutting, blah, blah, blah. I stand with everyone in the assertion that the sheer number of streaming services we’re going to be expected to subscribe to in order to see old content we love and new content we’re supposed to like is frankly ridiculous. I mean, HBO Max? What the hell is that? Then there’s Disney+, CBS All Access, whatever NBCUniversal is cooking up, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, plus Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. I’m tired. I’m gonna turn on TBS and watch some Friends.
Finally, the U.S. is making news on the international stage for reasons that aren’t utterly embarrassing and completely mortifying. (Just kidding: It is also one of the most egregious examples of gender pay disparity we have right now. You’re trash, America!)
In any case, it’s been a thrill to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team blaze through the World Cup in a swell of glory, led by the infectiously impressive Megan Rapinoe. (More like Megan RapinYAAAS, amiright?) Seeing the squad relish their victory has led to some of my favorite pop culture moments of the year, which, on that topic, may I steer you towards the Instagram videos of Ashlyn Harris?
Truth is stranger than fiction. Yet nothing this year has been packed with more uncomfortable, beautiful, complicated truth than the lie in The Farewell. The film stars Awkwafina as a Chinese-American New Yorker whose grandmother, “Nai Nai,” receives a terminal cancer diagnosis back home in China. As is sometimes custom in China, her family lies to Nai Nai, allowing her to think she just has a cold so that she can live out the rest of her life without fear. In order to see Nai Nai one last time, the family lies again, throwing a fake wedding for a cousin so that everyone can be reunited to say goodbye.
Though the opening title card reads “based on an actual lie,” this is a true story that happened to writer-director Lulu Wang. When I saw The Farewell for the first time at Sundance, I burst into tears near the end. So did everyone around me. I’m pretty sure just minutes before, we were all laughing hysterically. It’s a gorgeous movie about universal themes of grief, loss, family, and identity. I can’t recommend it enough.
They deleted this scene, in which Reese Witherspoon throws an ice cream cone at Meryl Streep’s head, from an episode of Big Little Lies, so we never got to see it. HBO is canceled.
What to watch this week:
Sword of Trust: Phenomenal indie director Lynn Shelton, fake news, the Civil War, and Marc Maron in one of the best performances of the year. Enjoy!
The Farewell: Once more for the cheap seats.
Shangri-La: A very good documentary on Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam records.
What to skip this week:
Stuber: He’s an Uber driver. His name is Stu. I’m serious.
Crawl: The flood is the least of their problems! (The killer alligator, however, isn’t!)