It starts innocuously enough: Gorgeous Guinevere Beck – a well-read and well-bred but ditzy, directionless wanna-be writer – connects in a New York City bookstore with Joe Goldberg, a handsome, seemingly self-effacing nurturer with an infectious smile and a head of hair just begging to be tussled.
She’s shimmering and bubbly … he’s chivalrous and charming.
And while both of them are clearly damaged goods – and over-eager for the witty/ pithy exchanges between them – everything seems simpatico at the outset. In fact, for a moment, you’re probably thinking you’ve stumbled into some sort of modern-day, millennial Manhattan rom-com … a You’ve Got Mail-type scenario in which the technology and cityscape backdrop has been upgraded to reflect the passage of the past quarter century. Instead of clunky dial-up internet tones and inch-thick laptops we are now treated to Gaussian smoothed, pop-up iMessages as our backdrop (with lead actor Penn Badgley and actress Elizabeth Lail looking twenty years younger than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in their respective heydays).
Oh, and apparently the little bookstore around the corner didn’t bow to the big, bad corporate chain … because Goldberg is able to afford a relatively spacious Manhattan apartment from all the Stephen King and Dan Brown novels he slings to the intellectually incurious masses.
Anyway, the protagonists of Netflix’s You probably would have made a good couple. One of them needs to take. The other is desperate to give. They get each other’s literary references. And there is an endearing argot evidenced in the ensuing interplay between them.
We can certainly see a symbiosis forming …
But this is not a rom-com. And obviously that’s no “spoiler.” The series – developed by writer-producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble – is clearly labeled a psychological thriller. Which means someone is going to go “psycho.” With the intention of “thrilling” the audience.
And within the first five minutes of the series’ pilot episode – which first aired on Lifetime in September of 2018 – that switch is flipped. Which makes everything that follows a roller coaster of tension and release between our signature couple and anyone who is unlucky enough to get sucked into the vortex of their “everythingship.”
Included in that mix? A wealthy bisexual heiress named Peach (played by Shay Mitchell) who is alleged to be related to J.D. Salinger. But doesn’t like to talk about it.
Is the show worth the ride? Once it landed on Netflix, audiences certainly responded to that question in the affirmative – with the first season of You drawing 43 million “streamers” following its December 2018 debut. A second season was ordered, which premiered on Netflix in December 2019. In January, the series was renewed for a third season – which is slated for release sometime in 2021.
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Critics liked what they saw, too. You’s first season got a 93 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the second season drawing an 88 percent score.
“Unsettlingly creepy and riveting television,” noted Ani Bundel for NBC.
“Its sparklingly cruel sense of humor is what makes it compulsively watchable,” opined Anna Leszkiewicz for New Statesman.
Others read a little bit more into it …
“You serves as a clinic on how to smartly tackle a host of weighty, relevant issues while also being a tremendously fun and pulpy ride,” wrote Joshua Rivera for GQ. “It uses the tropes of so-called low culture to eviscerate the rot that has infected all culture.”
Wait … didn’t that guy used to write for Deadspin?
Our view on the show? Really, who cares … we cover news and politics in South Carolina, people. Our insight into one of the literally innumerable entertainment options you can choose to “binge” right now during the ongoing coronavirus confinement is bound to be as forgettable as most of these shows.
Plus we aren’t professional film critics and have no idea what the rules are for spoilers …
Basically, one of our friends told us we “had” to watch the show. So we did. And midway through the first season, it has managed to hold our attention. In fact, at times the tension has gotten so thick we felt the need to wash it down with some Community. Which is a sign that You is fulfilling its “thriller” billing.
Or, a sign we really like Community.
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Truth, though? We are only writing this “review” because we are absolutely done covering the coronavirus and its attendant economic and political issues. Well, we are not really done (sadly). Just mentally done.
Seriously, though. It was time for us to put pen to paper about something totally unrelated to what we usually write about. So thank you for permitting us this departure from the norm. We needed it for what little is left of our sanity.
Also, we thought a post on a show like You might be a good opportunity to elicit recommendations from our readers as to what they are binge-watching during the “great national confinement” – you know, since opportunities to “Netflix and chill” have grown fewer and further between due to social distancing.
Surely people are watching something other than Tiger King, right?
Incidentally, the surge of coronavirus streaming has Netflix’s stock up thirty percent on the year – pushing the market value of the company near $200 billion. It’s now worth more than Disney, believe it or not.
Anyway … tell us what “you” have been watching over the last few weeks. Better yet, if you’re really bored send us a review of what you’ve been streaming. You certainly couldn’t write a worse one than this …
We would love to hear what our readers have been getting into as our national lockdown hopefully starts moving in the direction of a merciful conclusion.
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