Tuesday, April 30, 2019

REVIEW: 'Fosse/Verdon' - Bob Fosse Pulls Off an Incredible Awards Feat While Gwen Verdon Strives to Work in 'Glory'

FX's Fosse/Verdon - Episode 1.04 "Glory"

Bob's career takes some huge leaps, while Gwen struggles to overcome personal and professional setbacks.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of FX's Fosse/Verdon.

"Glory" was written by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Jessica Yu

In 1973, Bob Fosse pulled off an awards feat that no one else has managed to do. In the same year, he won an Academy Award for directing Cabaret, two Tonys for directing and choreographing Pippin and three Emmys for directing, choreographing and producing Liza with a Z. This hour highlights those huge professional accomplishments for him. He is rewarded with all of this praise that suddenly sends his career to new heights. He is being celebrated for his genius work amongst all mediums of entertainment. And yet, he still feels like a fraud who doesn't deserve any of this success. To him, it's just as much about the idea of awards being bullshit as being up on the stage accepting them. Of course, the visual is powerful when he has all six trophies on the same desk together. It's an incredibly feat that shows how talented he was and how beloved he was throughout the industry. But he is also succumbing to a pattern in his life where he constantly feels the need to work and to have sex with as many women as possible. He doesn't know how to face rejection even though he fears that it's all that he ever deserves. It's so fantastic to watch the show take the structure of the musical Pippin and apply it to Fosse's life. That musical presents with this jaunty beat and big iconic songs. But it's actually the story of one man's search for meaning and the need to be extraordinary in a world where normalcy seems boring and complacent. That's how Bob has always felt as well. These awards can be a celebration and validation for everything that he has aspired to do in this business. He wanted to be just as famous and beloved as Gene Kelly. People will always remember who he is now. He will have a legacy that extends to this very day. And yet, he still feels that pull to return to the comfort of Gwen's bed or to jump out the window. That's so scary and depressing. It's clear that Bob Fosse suffered from significant psychological issues. It's meaningful that he checks himself into a facility by the conclusion of this hour. He has enough common sense to continue living. He is making that active choice even though he rebuffed the idea that Pippin should conform to normalcy and love in the musical. Fosse wanted to change the ending. Instead, the writers stuck with what they had envisioned and it still led to success for Fosse. And yet, the world is still seemingly putting so much pressure on him. He has the potential to do whatever he wants. That is freeing and toxic as well. He walks around with the confidence that he can get away with anything. It's sickening to see how he punishes women who refuse to sleep with him if their talent doesn't meet his standards. Gwen knows how he operates. She knows what's going on when he sees her pushing one girl too hard. She also sees how inspiring Ann Reinking can be. She doesn't even have to sleep with Bob to stand out. But that too can feel like a rejection. It's the world continuing to tell him that he isn't good enough. So, he keeps working but he does so in a way that condemns and confines Gwen's own life. Her play closes after one night amidst terrible reviews and weak ticket sales. She is excited about the idea of finally doing Chicago. She wants to be back onstage in all her glory. Instead, Bob is so disinterested while her best friend, Joan, is dying. That too presents as a huge wake-up call. It's enough to get Gwen back home to be there for her daughter. That is more important than any kind of recognition for her stunning achievements in entertainment. But the show also articulates how Bob Fosse gaining all of this sudden success and appreciation often came at the expense of Gwen Verdon's own career. In 1973, it had already been 14 years since her last Tony win. That fear is predominate in her own mind. She wants to work but isn't given the same opportunities or understanding that Bob is. That too is very tragic in its own way. However, she is the one forced to face the reality of being an absentee parent instead of Bob because he's still entitled to have his big, bold reactions with the expectation of still being welcomed with open arms no matter what.