Critical Condition: Here and Now

Here and Now | SoHo, 8.30 Monday

➢ “Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball returns to HBO with the new drama Here and Now. It’s a family saga whose gnarled emotions give way to a surprising metaphysical twist, and it advances everything that was so special about Six Feet Under. On that show, a family’s work with the dead filled them with anxiety about how best to live their lives; on this one, a family organised around liberal and libertine philosophy confront the limits of their intellectual framework. Here and Now is aptly titled, as it depicts an identity crisis that’s nothing new–but that feels especially pressing as our own reality grows encroachingly more hostile.” — Time.

➢ “Tim Robbins stars as a depressed adjunct professor (yup) who adopted three multi-racial children and raised them alongside his biological child with his New Age-y wife (Holly Hunter) … creator Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) has an impeccable track record for writing fantastic shows about unconventional families and so I wouldn’t bet against him, and the performances are as excellent as you’d expect from the level of talent involved, but at least in its first episode, Here and Now suffers from a self-seriousness that’s hard not to laugh at for the wrong reasons.” __ Entertainment Weekly.

➢ “Hunter and Robbins play the well-meaning, progressive parents of four children of different races (the three oldest were adopted; the youngest, a high schooler, is their biological child). The show tries to be a few different things: A meditation on the state of political and interpersonal discourse in a polarised America; a sprawling story of two families in Portland who become linked; and an exploration of mental illness, the efficacies of self-help philosophies and the possibilities of mystical intuition. If only these thematic strands didn’t involve people who are mostly insufferable.” — Variety.

➢ “‘We’re living in a new reality’ is the tagline on the show’s billboards, and Mr. Ball wants to say something definitive about it. Unfortunately he doesn’t have anything new or particularly interesting to say. Straight white people are self-loathing and lame. Dads are depressed but redeemable, moms are pretty much a lost cause. We’d all be better off if we put away our cellphones and got outside … Mr. Ball touches on important themes here, but he’s not offering much more than one-sided lecturing. Issues like racism and sexual exploitation are reduced to the dramatic equivalent of soundbites, and there’s never any doubt which side of a conflict we’re expected to be on.” — New York Times.

➢ “Since it often plays like This Is Us with sex, and it’s never shy about concocting emotion at every turn, there’s definitely going to be an audience for HBO’s Here and Now … There’s a secret at the heart of the show as well, but one that has weirder, more paranormal roots. Oh, and Here and Now also wants to take on Trump, post-election depression, possibly some liberal idealism and race absolutely, with some gender issues in there as well, plus gay and possibly trans culture, the notion of fluid sexuality, Muslims, aging and empathy … Ambitiousness is not a problem with Here and Now. But there are definite issues in the four episodes HBO sent for review as the series tries to figure out, without much success, just what show it wants to be.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

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