Thursday, August 09, 2007

(Photos: bottom Ally Walker and Tim DeKay HBO; top: Actresses Ally Walker, Michelle Borth, Sonya Walger and creator/executive producer of 'Tell Me You Love Me' Cynthia Mort during the 2007 HBO Summer TCA Press Panel in Beverly Hills. (photo: Jason Merritt/

Oh Grow Up!

HBO’s Much-Discussed
“Tell Me You Love Me”

During the TCA (Television Critics Assn.) press tour at the Beverly Hilton last month, HBO execs had to answer some tough questions ("go on the defensive" is how one reporter put it):

Is it art or porn? Were they doing it for real? Here’s what BeansTalk says: Blah, blah, blah.

There’s no question that in the 10 hours of “Tell Me You Love Me,” which premieres 9 September on HBO at 9 p.m. (Sunday – in their big show slot) you’re probably going to see more explicit sex and nudity than you have in the whole of watching network and basic cable television. But really, we’re grown ups, aren’t we? And if you’re not, you have absolutely no business watching the show. Get over it. Move on. The story’s worth it.

But while much of the discussion has focused on the sexual aspects of the series and the unabashed full-frontal and just nearly complete nudity of actors, who include 67-year-old Jane Alexander and 66-year-old David Selby (once best known as Quentin Collins on Dark Shadows, and Richard Channing on Falcon Crest). Still, the series’ real focus is on the evolving relationships of three couples.

Unsurprisingly, much of their marital troubles centers on issues of sexuality – one couple’s relationship is best in bed, another couples sex life has focused totally on procreation, and yet another couple – married for 12 years – haven’t had sex for an entire year.

Our initial fear had been the sensationalism of the (occasionally) blinding sex (yah, you see it all) and the potential for tawdry melodrama. Those fears were not quenched after the first episode, which, if you’d read anything, just one story on the series, you now know ends with a wife giving her hublet a hand-job. Before you get all worked up over the postings of how it’s real, how it shows actors really doing it, it was a prosthetic! A very realistic one, but not actually Adam Scott’s John Thomas.

You do, however get more than a glimpse of beleaguered David’s (Tim DeKay, loved him as Jonesy in Carnivale) Johnson. Viewers are spared any kind of peek at Selby’s one-eyed snake. Audiences are also treated to less than flattering views of a bearded Luke Kirby’s tickle-tackle.

Oh, and yes, for those of you wondering, each of the female leads bare their beautiful breastages, from 28-year-old pin-thin Michelle Borth’s boobies to the aforementioned Alexander’s womanly mammaries. Even an actress with as high a profile as Ally Walker (Profiler, Moon Over Miami, mother of three) does more than just flash 'em. Interestingly, and in keeping with the series emphasis on realism, none of the women seem to be enhanced (certainly not making them any less lovely).

Now that we’ve made it crystal clear that 1. There’s nudity and 2. There’s descriptive (and genuinely realistic – no soft-focus, no cautious editing) sex, let’s get to the point. And here it is: we actually ended up really enjoying this entire season (which could easily function as a stand-alone).

Despite the initial distraction of the frequent depictions of sex (you may find yourself, as we did going “oh my god)), creator Cynthia Mort has managed to create characters who are both familiar and interesting. They’re flawed but not to the point of where you can’t bear to watch them anymore (“Brenda” on Six Feet Under became that for us). They could be people you know. You may see something of yourself in them. You’ll find yourself rooting for them, not to blindly mend their fragile couplings, but to do what is best for each other.

The three tales are kept fairly separate and to avoid spoilers we wont’ reveal any specifics, except to say that paths do eventually cross – but not until the season is half-way through.

We were especially pleased with how it was rounded up at the end – even though there are no “fairy tale” endings in Tell Me You Love Me, there aren’t any in real life, either.

Tell Me You Love Me premieres 9 September 2007 at 9 p.m. on HBO.