TV Reviews

Here and Now Season 1 Episode 1: Eleven Eleven (Early Review)

Tim Robbins, Holly Hunter, Alan Ball, and HBO seem like a great combination for a series.

Synopsis: As Audrey Bayer puts the finishing touches on her husband Greg’s 60th birthday party – a milestone Greg is loath to celebrate – cracks begin to emerge in their progressive, multiracial family. After a troubling incident at the birthday party, Audrey and Greg take Ramon to a therapist, Dr. Farid Shokrani, who has an unlikely and unexplainable connection to the young man. (HBO)

Writer: Alan Ball

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 59mins

For as long as there’s been TV dramas, there’s been family dramas, however, family dynamics have drastically changed over last 20 years. This new series reflects this new dynamic but it never felt like a novelty. The story here is about a married couple named Greg (Tim Robbins) and Audrey Bayer (Holly Hunter) and their mixed family of three adopted children and one biological daughter.

The first episode plays out the way you would expect, introducing all the characters by giving us just enough for us to get a decent understanding of all of them, however, there is definitely a lot more underneath the surface that will surely be unveiled over the remaining episodes. In this episode, all the characters were getting ready for Greg’s 60th birthday party. However, we began to see their true nature once they were all together as cracks began to build within their seemingly progressive family.

Ramon (Daniel Zovatto), a college student, was adopted by Greg and Audrey from Columbia. He also recently came out to his parents who were also getting used to this. He was close with his sister, and Greg and Audrey’s biological daughter, Kristen (Sosie Bacon) who suffered from self-esteem issues, feeling ordinary in comparison to her siblings. Duc (Raymond Lee), another adoptee from Vietnam, was a “motivational architect”, focusing on the here and now (the idea of here and now coincidentally comes up a few times in the episode). Ashley (Jerrika Hinton), another adoptee from Liberia, owned a fashion website and was unhappy with her marriage to her husband Malcolm (Joe Williamson).

Greg, a philosophy professor, was depressed with his marriage and had lost faith in the world because of the way he believed it was going. Despite this, he was still proud of his marriage to Audrey, a therapist who liked to use her background when dealing with the different personalities within her family. The character that got the most focus in this episode was Ramon. What could have just been a straight family drama changed at least slightly and he was at the center of it. An outburst at the party led to him being taken to a therapist named Dr. Farid Shokrani (Peter Macdissi) for whom he shared a mysterious connection.

The performances were great across the board with Robbins and Hunter being the standouts for obvious reasons and all the actors playing the children were great as well, especially Zovatto who had a little more going on here. Family dramas succeed or fail depending on the likability and relatability of the characters. Thanks to the strong writing and performances, all the characters were compelling to watch with the mixed family aspect of the story being more than just a gimmick. The family dynamic so far was interesting, however, we haven’t seen enough of the characters yet.

Overall, this was a good start for this drama series, introducing an interesting family dynamic brought to life by strong writing and compelling performances. What could have been a straight family drama which could have worked on its own, took an interesting direction which didn’t quite work at first but was redeemed by the end. It will definitely be fascinating to see where it leads from here.

Score: 8.5/10

*Here and Now premieres tonight at 9pm on HBO and HBO Canada*

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