25/06/2024 10:54 AM


Fashion The Revolution

Recommended: I Love That For You on Showtime

Jenifer Lewis as Patricia, Vanessa Bayer as Joanna, and Molly Shannon as Jackie in I Love That For You. (Photo: Nicole Wilder/Showtime)

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I Love That For You
Season 1 | Showtime

Half-hour Comedy (8 episodes) | TV-MA

What’s I Love That For You About?

Joanna Gold — a sheltered, awkward woman who works at a Costco — lands a dream gig as an on-camera presenter for a home shopping network. After a disastrous first day, she’s about to get fired, until she becomes a sensation by pretending her childhood cancer has come back.

Who’s involved?

  • The series is a vehicle for SNL vet Vanessa Bayer, who’s a co-creator and also stars as Joanna. (The story is lightly inspired by her own childhood leukemia.)
  • Molly Shannon (who herself rose to fame on SNL) plays Jackie Stilton, a legendary host at the shopping network who becomes Joanna’s mentor and friend.
  • As network boss Patricia, Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish) curses like a sailor and withers fools with her gaze.
  • Whispering vicious secrets to each other, Matt Rogers (Q-Force) and Ayden Mayeri (The Afterparty) play two of Joanna’s bitchiest co-workers.
  • Michael Showalter, whose recent directing work includes four episodes of The Dropout and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, helms the first two episodes.

Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

To enjoy this show, you have to accept a few ludicrious things up front. Is it really possible that someone as professionally inexperienced and socially tin-eared as Joanna would make it through her audition, let alone get hired to appear on a camera in front of millons of people? This is a woman who so completely misunderstands how people behave that she drinks a bottle of linen spray to prove it’s nontoxic.

But that lunacy is part of what makes the show work. Most of the characters are big, and most of their reactions are bigger. One of Joanna’s rival saleswomen isn’t just dumb: She’s so dumb she thinks she has to remove her tampon before she urinates. The refreshments at a company party aren’t just rationed. Everyone has to sign out their cocktail on a form, and if they don’t take one, they have to write that down, too.

All of which is a hoot to watch because the actors follow the classic rule of playing this stuff like it’s absolutely serious. They invest their shenanigans with emotional stakes, and that lets genuine feelings sneak in among the laughs.

But as talanted as the entire cast is, it’s Molly Shannon who really grounds things. Just like on The Other Two, where she plays a talk show host, she exudes a genuine kindness beneath her shiny, TV-ready persona. When Jackie and Joanna bond in private, her vulnerability is so palpable it yanks the series into new territory.

It’s jarring at first, absorbing this raw emotion in the midst of the jokes, but that contrast is crucial. There’s something dangerous about Jackie’s sincerity, since it means there will be real consequences if Joanna ever reveals her cancer lie. We know Jackie will be genuinely hurt by the deception, and that dark promise gives I Love That for You a tantalizing edge.

Pairs well with

  • The Office (streaming on Peacock), a pioneer of desperately awkward workplace comedy.
  • The Other Two (HBO Max), another great showcase for Molly Shannon’s gifts.
  • How to With John Wilson (streaming on HBO Max), HBO’s “docu-comedy” series whose off-kilter humor leads to profound insights.