Sunday, May 1, 2022

REVIEW: 'I Love That for You' - Joanna's Excitement for Her Dream Job Doesn't Immediately Make Her Good at It in 'GottaHaveIt'

Showtime's I Love That for You - Episode 1.01 "GottaHaveIt"

No longer wanting to be defined by her childhood illness, Joanna gets her dream job as a host on the home shopping channel SVN. But when her first broadcast doesn't go as planned, Joanna makes a bold choice to save her fate at the network.

"GottaHaveIt" was written by Vanessa Bayer & Jeremy Beiler and directed by Michael Showalter

As a child, Joanna had cancer. She survived. She also discovered how she could use people's sympathies in order to get what she wanted. Back then, that simply meant taking an entire cookie cake. She did so at the expense of the nurse who was celebrating her birthday. Joanna's desires were simply more important. It's fascinating to see how her social development was stunted as a result of this illness. She spent years being defined as the girl with cancer. That's the only way people in her community would see her. It didn't create many opportunities for her. She simply had to always be aware that the disease could return and cause more danger. Of course, she has been in remission for twenty years. She has been relatively healthy in that time. She hasn't evolved from who she was when she was in the hospital though. She still idolizes the shopping channel. That peak into commerce and entertainment provided her with all the delights she ever needed. She can form a powerful attachment to a bracelet Jackie sold her years ago. She is more invigorated by Jackie's career than the host may be herself. The two can learn a lot from each other. They see that inspiration because their actions had an impact on people's lives. Patricia is running a business. She needs her hosts to sell products. She is constantly making deals and switching around the schedule. She needs to do whatever is necessary to perform for the products she has on her shelves. It's a very delicate balance. The hosts know in real time how they are performing. Any reason for declining sales is enough to fire them. Joanna lands her dream job. She spends a whole week training with Jackie. She is amazed by production. She has lived out these fantasy relationships for years. She has very little expertise. She is thrown into the deep end. She prepares for one product only for it to be swapped at the last minute. People still set her up for failure. She can't hide her discomfort either. When that's apparent onscreen, it's enough to turn off the product altogether. That's the biggest sin in this business. It doesn't matter how sorry Joanna is. She can come up with a million excuses for why her face reacted poorly. Patricia sees it as an extension of Joanna not knowing what she's selling. She doesn't know who she is. Yes, the various hosts play up a gimmick in order to succeed in this business. So much of that is their own personalities too. Joanna is awkward. That's her basic nature. She is thrilled to have this opportunity. And yet, she embraces the one thing she knows to continue working at SVN even when she wanted to run as far away as possible from being the girl with cancer.

Of course, it's all deception. That's an active choice on Joanna's part. It's also a foolish tease from the creative team that structured this premiere. It's always annoying whenever a premiere leads with the idea the main character could be fired from the job that forms the basic premise of the show. It's a very familiar trope. It's been called out on numerous occasions. Here, it's a way to let the audience into Joanna's desperation. This is all she has ever wanted. It can't be taken away from her by the people who know how the business works the best. Everyone in Patricia's office knows what it takes to succeed in this job. They don't see that with Joanna. Part of it is her being too stuck in the past. She doesn't know how to move beyond the mental obstacles that have long plagued her. Her solution is to create another fanciful lie. She has dreamed about this job and having an epic romance. She plays up her various interactions believing they are better than they actually are. She still lies to her new co-workers in order to get a second chance. She commits to the hustle. It becomes what she sells to her colleagues and to the viewer. The next hours she hosts she talks about having cancer. It's no longer something she dealt with in the past. Now, it's a current illness. That invites so much uncertainty to the proceedings moving forward. It means she has to play up the expectation of having to endure treatment while dealing with the demands of this job. It's already grueling enough to learn how to handle the various details of this workplace. Everyone will now see her as the person with cancer. She is doing her best to survive. That's her story. Patricia is intrigued by that premise. Not everyone will appreciate the deception. Of course, this is still entertainment after all. People make bold pronouncements in the name of selling things. It may all work out in the end for Joanna. It will simply have a different impact behind-the-scenes. She was thrilled during her first meeting to go over the schedule. This is where she wants to belong. She has a close attachment to this channel. It's a reflection of her as a child watching it for hours. And now, those expectations must evolve. They have to mature as part of being an adult. She can still buy into the fantasy. It can't come at the expense of her personal identity. Those are the issues she will be grappling with. The awkwardness is unpleasant at times. The comedy doesn't hit as strongly as the show probably wants. However, a core character arc is immediately apparent that should intrigue enough people to continue visiting this world.