Vanessa Bayer builds comedy on the tense topic of cancer in her new Showtime series I Love That For You.
While the former “SNL” star is hardly the first comedian to use tragedy as a launchpad for laughs, it’s always a hit-or-miss proposition — and this show hits more often than not, albeit a bit unevenly.
“I Love That For You” airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. and follows Joanna Gold (Bayer, who also created the show based on her own experience with childhood leukemia), an Ohio woman battling childhood cancer concerned. The adult Joanna, now in her thirties, is in good health but was coddled by her parents and still lives with them while she works at Costco. Embarrassed by the job, especially when it comes up against a more glamorous former classmate, she uses her big smile like armor — and spooks potential love interests when she overstates it. She talks to a date (played by Jason Schwartzman) about consulting him before moving on to a new job, which surprises him since, as he points out, they’ve only been out twice (three times, counting encounters). at Walgreens).
Joanna’s dream since she was a child was to be a presenter for shopping channel SVN (Special Value Network), and when she landed a gig there, she was working with her idol, longtime SVN presenter Jackie (Fellow “SNL” alum Molly Shannon , who could be Bayer’s long-lost sister), heralds a whole new phase of life.
For her part, Jackie is newly divorced, ready to mentor Joanna, and brimming with the manic positivity that is Shannon’s signature. It goes well with Bayer’s aggressive friendliness, which has an undertone of philanthropic desperation.
Joanna uses awkward language that makes her seem nervous about wanting to be liked, e.g. B. When she has her first conversation with Jackie and tells her that she’s excited to “see your face and body and get to know you in person!”
At work, SVN hosts are encouraged to use personal anecdotes to sell their products by talking about their children, book club or husband. Joanna struggles in front of the camera as she doesn’t have much of a private life to draw colorful anecdotes from.
Things get complicated when Joanna nervously announces that her cancer has returned (it’s not). The fibbing gives her a clear identity for her on-screen personality and allows her to feel more successful at SVN. But as with all lies, there is an underlying danger as it is only a matter of time before it is discovered.
“I Love that For You” is charming but also seems to fall short of what it wants to be. It’s part workplace comedy, part melancholy dramedy about a sad woman struggling to get her life out of her rut, and part pitch black comedy (faking cancer is dark) about a woman who tells a ridiculous lie and watches herself developed of control.
All these subgenres have different tones and they don’t always go together. The result sometimes feels like the series is throwing storylines against the wall to see what sticks.
What saves “I Love That For You” are winning performances from Bayer and Shannon. While it’s not always clear what kind of story it’s trying to tell, it’s entertaining.