We all know the warning for people who live in glass houses. But what about people who live in gleaming metal buildings?
The new Showtime limited comedy from Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie The curse, these people shouldn’t be doing reality TV shows. Just as a metal house – see the work of architect Doug Aitken as an example – appears to directly reflect the world around it, reality TV shows give the impression of reflecting reality. Instead, both the house and unscripted television reflect something more twisted and distorted, and as a result are perhaps more emotionally revealing.
The buzziest new show of the year.
Air date: 10 p.m. Sunday, November 12th (Showtime)
Pour: Emma Stone, Nathan Fielder, Benny Safdie
Creator: Benny Safdie and Nathan Fielder
Or that is the underlying theme in The curse, a show that’s hard to properly describe – in a way that makes sense to fans of its main cast. Given the sensitivity of Safdie (Unpolished gemstones), one half of a brotherly team known for instilling strong fears, and Fielder (The sample), a master of the sometimes bumbling awkwardness – and with the star power of Emma Stone, who has given some of her best performances when asked to channel the author’s discomfort – the result was never going to be casual levity or straightforward hilarity.
The curse is the windiest new show of the year, predictable, a work of angst and awkwardness. With 10 episodes, most of which are almost an hour long, The curse likely exceeds the FDA recommended annual allowable amount of cringe. It’s a series that has a lot to say about the way we live now, but many of its astute commentary – which appeals largely to its likely target audience – and many of its laughs are sure to be lost as viewers look away in shame .
Expressed differently, The curse is a show that will almost certainly be more fun to argue about after watching (and after a long, cleansing shower) than to watch. From draft. So to speak.
Whitney (Stone) and Asher (Fielder) are the married couple behind the pilot for a new HGTV show called Flipanthropy. The premise: Asher and Whitney, designing so-called “passive houses” in the Aitken-esque metallic reflective style, seek to revitalize the community of Española, New Mexico, bringing environmentally sustainable living and new jobs to a city better known for crime Poverty. They are committed to respecting the region’s indigenous roots, honoring local artists, and maintaining certifications from the Passive House Society in Germany.
The pilot is produced by Asher’s childhood friend and tormentor Dougie (Safdie), who is dedicated only to chaos, both in his badly damaged personal life and in the on-screen “reality” he creates. Whether Dougie is directly evil or just Hollywood’s “evil” is unclear. But he’s able to see the cracks in Asher and Whitney’s marriage – the sexually dysfunctional couple’s attempts to conceive only add to the drama – and he’s sure HGTV viewers will want more from THIS Show will be more interested in a series about the pressure to make a pregnancy and make the entire city climate neutral.
Why, you rightly ask, is it called the Showtime series? The curse?
Well, literally, Asher has an unfortunate confrontation with Nala (Dahabo Ahmed) and her father Abshir (Barkhad Abdi) in the parking lot, which ends with Nala declaring, “I curse you.” A streak of bad luck ensues. But is it actually a curse, an expression of self-inflicted fear or just a product of sadistic series creators?
On a metaphorical level? I’m pretty sure there are a dozen things the “curse” in the title could refer to.
First and foremost, Asher and Whitney are the curse – or perhaps “we” are the curse. The show is a ruthless erosion of hollow progressive altruism, the performative compassion exercised to make money or seek absolution for other sins. Whitney’s parents (Corbin Bernsen and Constance Shulman) are slumlords and she wants to believe she can suck on that poisoned teat and save the world at the same time. Asher used to work as a parasite in a Native casino, struggles with anger issues, and has a small penis, which isn’t a “sin” but is definitely a motivating factor. Everything they do is under the guise of healing the world or the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which Whitney wouldn’t understand because her conversion to Judaism – Stone reciting blessings in Hebrew is a sight to behold – is also performative .
The show is a vicious condemnation of a certain kind of half-hearted liberalism, and while it doesn’t quite aim for that South ParkIn the “people on both sides are crazy, but let’s focus on the hypocrisy of the left” style of commentary, there’s a lot of that – especially in a mid-season episode that stars a prominent conservative Hollywood guest and some of our anti-heroes Can teach valuable lesson about tolerance.
The curse uses its Latino, indigenous, and immigrant characters to contrast authenticity, though I can’t say for sure whether it knows this is a stereotype of a different kind or whether it’s actively optimizing that stereotype. Either way, it’s a show that nails it when it comes to people whose version of doing good and being tolerant is telling the world that they’re doing good and being tolerant.
Dougie may be the devil, but he knows he is the devil. Do viewers who watch HGTV and HGTV-style shows while criticizing the lack of sexual tension between married renovators or predicting divorce for couples looking for a home have the same level of self-awareness?
The curse Fielder and Nathan & David Zellner’s direction aims to reinforce the voyeuristic take on the reality genre. We constantly watch the action unfold from precarious fly-on-the-wall positions, peering through sometimes opaque surfaces, peering around obstructive props and recording conversations on hot microphones. If you’ve ever dreamed of following Chip and Joanna Gaines when the cameras weren’t rolling, or imagined how embarrassing or banal their conversations might be in real life, The curse is either a show made for you or a punishment for this curious tendency.
And just as any reality show with two hosts has the star power and the dead weight – we all know which Property Brother is which – Stone and Fielder aggressively step into their respective roles. Stone is remarkable at capturing the splintering perfection of a woman desperate to sell her soul to become America’s sweetheart. And if you’re never quite sure if Fielder is even acting, that’s the trick of his performance that makes you believe that Asher’s desperate need and vulnerability might be exposed by accident.
It is significant and intentional that many of the supporting actors – professionally cast by Jennifer Venditti and Angelique Midthunder – give the impression of coming from another series. Whether you recognize these actors or not – Abdi, Gary Farmer and Nizhonniya Luxi Austin, a Diné painter and musician by trade – the characters all give the impression of living real lives in which Asher, Whitney and Dougie are interlopers.
Just think about what the creative team is up to The curse sounds tiring, it’s nothing compared to watching it every now and then. The series has refined the humiliation and unsympathy to the point of outrageousness, and the various misunderstandings and questionable intentions make it hard to make a case for anything in particular other than the incineration of many of our culturally shared delusions and illusions.
The curse is a deeply uncomfortable and often fascinating place to be. Assuming viewers don’t flee in embarrassment at what aspects of their own lives the series reflects on them, I’m very excited about the conversations we’ll have after the series ends.