Sunday, March 5, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Arrangement' - Megan Goes on a Whirlwind Adventure with A-List Actor Kyle West in 'Pilot'

E!'s The Arrangement - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Struggling actress/waitress Megan Morrison gets the opportunity of a lifetime when she auditions for a movie with Hollywood's hottest A-lister of the moment, Kyle West, but ends up getting more than she bargained for when he offers her a contract marriage worth 10 million dollars.

On the surface, it may seem like The Arrangement is simply a fictional version of the story of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and scientology. Those comparisons are apt. Kyle West is an A-list actor who seemingly stars in a couple of a blockbuster action franchises. He's a true believer of The Institute of the Higher Mind, a self-help program that may seem like a crazy cult to outsiders. Meanwhile, Megan isn't a part of that world but is a talented actress as well. Kyle and Megan share an instant connection. And then, a marriage contract is put on the table that makes it all seem like a transaction just to maintain appearances. All of this lines up with the speculation of the real-life story. And yes, all of that may be a jumping off point for this series. Of course, the creative team denies that - though they sort of have to or run the risk of really pissing off the people involved in that story. So, it may be better once The Arrangement becomes its own unique and distinct thing. The energy is fun and it makes for quite a compelling viewing experience. At its heart, it's a Hollywood love story. That's inherently complicated and should be interesting to watch as more details are revealed about these characters. Specificity will be key to this show's success.

This is largely a premise pilot though. It has a lot of plot to get to in order to set up the main premise of the show. Megan is a struggling waitress who gets mocked by her customers at a restaurant. She hasn't really found that breakout role yet. She's still just working occasional episodic gigs. The roles she's getting aren't exactly on great shows either. She repeats the line from a vampire lawyer show which just sounds absolutely ridiculous. All of this contrasts with where Kyle West is at the moment. He's getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has already made it in Hollywood. He's the star of several hit movies. He's won a Golden Globe. He's also had a very public breakup where his fiancée left him at the alter. That establishes the importance of the marriage contract later on and Kyle's need not to fall back on familiar patterns and make the same mistakes. It's in auditioning for Kyle's next movie that Megan meets him. Despite many problems in her personal life, she has a great audition. She pulls from the emotions she's feeling and really impresses him.

That's how this Hollywood love story gets started. It's a pleasant way too. Josh Henderson and Christine Evangelista have solid chemistry. However, Evangelista is probably better at playing an actor than Henderson is. That could become a problem later on when the show is actually on the set of Kyle's movie. Or it could just be a case where Megan is asked to do more acting as an actress auditioning for a role than Kyle is. But the inside showbiz quality of this show quickly takes a backseat to the romance. The movie is important. It's how they meet. But after that chemistry screen test, it becomes all about going on a date and opening up to one another. Does she actually get the part in the movie? It seems inferred but she doesn't actually get an official offer. Instead, the contract she receives is for marriage. And that largely just showcases how different and difficult it is to date as an A-list celebrity. That's a fascinating perspective to explore on this series. Kyle West's problems aren't the same as the regular man. Of course, his life is pretty luxurious as well. He can just take Megan to Mexico for a date. That's impressive. But it also shows the lengths he has to go to in order to get privacy.

Plus, it should be interesting to explore just how deep Kyle's connection to The Institute actually goes. He seems like a true believer. He does a ton of charitable work through the program. He is also best friends with the man who runs it. So, he seems to be the major star at the center of this movement. Terrence and his wife, Deann, need him in order to continue being relevant in this self-help program. They seem good at it with helping others realize their self-worth and strength. Deann is seen helping a struggling actress gain confidence. She also shows a willingness to help her find an agent. That's a connection that could prove meaningful for people just starting out in the business. That makes them open to whatever Terrence and Deann have to say. Moreover, it also seems like everyone is keeping a secret about their past or concealing just how far they are willing to go to maintain the status quo of Kyle's image. Terrence needs someone to take care of Kyle's therapist so that she doesn't go public with everything she knows about him. That's a big tease that there is something shocking to know about him. In his interactions with Megan, he makes it clear that he's not gay. He doesn't need a beard. That is the easiest place to go. And yet, if that's not it, then what could it possibly be? The Institute seems to be controlling his life. But for what purpose? And just how much of it will he reveal to Megan?

Of course, Megan appears to have her problems as well. Terrence checks out her background to vet her for the marriage contract. He sees all of it as a way to control the situation before Kyle makes a mess out of this relationship as well. He discovers that she's an orphan and she once vanished completely for four months. Deann sees that as Megan in mourning following the death of her parent to cancer. Meanwhile, Terrence is more suspicious. Perhaps he's right to be. Megan's lawyer friend seems to have her doubts about this relationship as well. She thinks it could just be the high of rebound sex. Megan could be getting lost in the fantasy of this relationship and not actually falling for Kyle. He may be great. They pull new and exciting things out of each other. It's a great start to a relationship. But it's still much too soon to be talking about marriage. This contract basically gives Kyle control over a ton of Megan's life. Her agent, Leslie, sees it as commonplace amongst the Hollywood elite. Megan is taken aback by the request. She is convinced to sign. And yet, people warn her it could risk exposure of her own secrets. This could change her life for the better. But it also comes with many risks she probably can't control. And yet, she still goes to Venice with Kyle and makes her debut as his girlfriend. So, this relationship has officially begun.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot" was written by Jonathan Abrahams and directed by Ken Olin.
  • After she learns her boyfriend has cheated on her, Megan claims that she just hasn't felt sexy in a long time. And yet, she has no problem once Kyle West enters her life. That's a pretty cheap way to build intimacy and sexual chemistry between the lead couple though. It's a tad too manipulative.
  • Plus, Megan and her friends have a party of sorts with three attractive guys. It seemingly goes well for her friends. But for Megan, she gets drunk and spends the night throwing up. And yet, she still finds a way to pull herself together for the audition and date.
  • So, if Megan is up all night throwing up, would she really wanna eat fish tacos the next afternoon on her date with Kyle West? That seems like a stretch. It's mostly an excuse to get a little more information about his past as a broke actor in Hollywood.
  • Kyle's house is very impressive. But it has its own eccentricities as well. For one, there is a man walking goats around the property in order to trim the grass. And then, Kyle has an assistant who is seemingly with him all the time - even when he's showering.
  • Kyle and his ex-fiancĂ© both have movies debuting at the Venice Film Festival. Everyone is worried that he will cause a big scene if he has to spend any time with her. Perhaps he won't though because he is now completely infatuated with Megan. Of course, being in close proximity to this woman could give Megan some insight into the cracks in Kyle's world.