• Post category:Television
  • Post last modified:November 16, 2020

Tell Me You Love Me: Scenes from Marriages

In 2008, Tell Me You Love Me creator Cynthia Mort decided that she couldn’t come up with a way to continue her HBO series after the first season’s ten episodes. To the dismay of fans, the show was canceled. But it was the right move. Everything was wrapped up in the tenth episode (without unnecessary answers to every single problem) and the complete series stands as an excellent example of the kind of piercing, thought-provoking drama that HBO and its collaborators are capable of. Ā 

A fly on the wall in a therapist’s office
The show was one of several contemporary TV dramas where viewers were invited to be a fly on the wall in a therapist’s office. May Foster (Jane Alexander) had primarily four clients that we followed; Katie (Ally Walker), Palek and Carolyn (Adam Scott, Sonya Walger) and Jamie (Michelle Borth). Katie was in her 40s and had two children together with her husband David (Tim DeKay). Their marriage had been in poor shape for quite some time; their sex life was nonexistent, a fact they couldn’t talk about, but Katie knew that David had taken up sex as a solo act. Eventually, she decided to go to a therapist over David’s objections… but soon he also found himself on May Foster’s couch. Palek and Carolyn were in their 30s, doing quite well financially, but their recent (and in Palek’s case half-hearted) decision to try to have a baby was affecting their sex life. His new role as baby maker instead of lover was a turn-off to Palek, but his reluctance had other reasons than simply worrying about feeling like a breed stud.

And then there was Jamie, a twentysomething with seemingly hopeless relationship issues. She was dating Hugo (Luke Kirby), a teacher, who wanted to marry her, but that turned into a huge commitment problem for Jamie. They split up, painfully, and May tried to help Jamie understand that she needed to deal with the fact that she was incapable of independence and afraid of long-term commitment.

Constant bedroom action
What initially made the show controversial was its many very explicit sex scenes that led some viewers to believe that the actors were actually having real sex. At first, the constant bedroom action seemed like a cheap trick, but not only did that make the show more genuine, it also helped illustrate the various sexual and emotional problems between the characters. The sex was usually not very good at all for these people; unsurprisingly, the sixtysomething therapist and her husband Arthur (David Selby) had the most successful sexual relationship of the bunch. The show made it clear that experience and, as May pointed out, “courage to be happy” are what comes closest to being keys to a great marriage. No easy solutions really and the couples never truly sorted out their many issues.

But the superior acting, insightful scripts and the tension created on set in several spellbinding moments of honesty (such as the one where David blurts out to May his deeply hidden feelings about the boredom of life as a suburban dad and husband) became the real core of the show, not the lack of problem-solving or the sensational sex. It was fascinating to get to know these people, understand what drove them ā€“ and even though no one was made out to be a villain we couldn’t help but take sides, affected as we are of our own experiences.

In 1973, Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage had people all over the world beginning to talk about the state of modern marriage. This TV show has the power to repeat that phenomenon ā€“ and its future on DVD and streaming could still make it happen.

Tell Me You Love Me 2007-U.S. Made for TV. 10 episodes. Color. Created byĀ Cynthia Mort. Cast: Jane Alexander (May Foster), Ally Walker (Katie), Tim DeKay (David), Adam Scott, Sonya Walger, Michelle Borth, Luke Kirby, David Selby.

Last word: “Every once in awhile, I would have to go to Cynthia, but I also really found a lot of mystery to the writing and wanted to retain that and I didn’t want to know too much from Cynthia, because she’ll tell you but I also kind of liked the idea that every week I’d get this script, and I figured if I was way off, they’d tell me. By the end, I felt like I was part owner of the character, so I tried to keep a little of that to myself and try to figure it out.” (Scott, IGN)



What do you think?

0 / 5. Vote count: 0

Got something to say?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.