Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alan Ball, the creator of series “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood,” has returned to HBO with his new show “Here and Now,” a dramedy about a multi-racial family. The show tries to tackle family issues, race, teen angst and more, but it feels like it’s trying to do too much.
The show is centered around the lives of the Bayer-Boatwright family. There’s dad Greg, portrayed by Tim Robbins, a philosophy professor, and mom Audrey, played by Holly Hunter, a former therapist who now runs a conflict-resolution consultancy.
They have three adopted adult children: Duc, played by Raymond Lee, a controlling life coach adopted from Vietnam; Ramon, played Daniel Zovatto, who seems to be having strange visions and is adopted from Colombia; and Ashley, played by Jerrika Hinton, who is adopted from Liberia and has a fancy job in the fashion industry. They also have one biological daughter, 17-year-old free spirit Kristen, played by Sosie Bacon (Kevin Bacon’s daughter).
As if this wasn’t enough, there’s another family with a whole different set of identities. They are Muslim and have a gender fluid son named Navid. The show takes place in Portland, Oregon, a city known for its progressive views, fitting for the show.
From the moment the pilot episode begins, something just seems off. It starts with Ramon having a weird dream, in which a lady cuts her own face with her fingernails. The rest of the episode is peppered with his strange visions, but we don’t get any kind of explanation. Will supernatural or magical forces play a role in the series? The answer is unknown but leaning towards yes, which seems completely irrelevant and unnecessary.
The first episode of the series introduces the characters, giving us a glimpse into their lives at work and at home, and already begins discussing sexual identity, class, gender and pretty much any other societal topic you could think of.
There are so many different identities going on that “Here and Now” seems to miss the mark. Instead of focusing on a few minority groups and exploring them and bringing them into the spotlight, there are so many identities fighting for attention that they all end up falling into the background, which seems like the opposite Ball’s intentions.
Critics agree that the show is a bit too messy.
According to The Guardian, “The overwhelming problem, though, of ‘Here and Now’ is its earnest but clumsy attempts to make a comment on the state of America as it currently is, repeatedly and awkwardly… ‘Here and Now’ desperately wants to be the show we need right now. But in the past year, breakout cultural phenomena such as “Get Out” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” have shown that social commentary within fiction often tends to work best allegorically.”
“Watching pedantic debates play out among poorly developed characters is both boring and predictable. It’s as if someone brought my post-election Facebook feed to life — a “Black Mirror” premise that should never happen. Time and again, “Here and Now” picks up hot-button topics like racism, sexism, transphobia and xenophobia only to put them down again indecisively,” Variety Magazine said.
“Here and Now” will have ten episodes in its first season, and is available on HBO. The next episode premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.
Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.