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From Across the Pond: "Love Soup"

How shall I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Longtime readers of this blog are intimately familiar with my love of British television. Those readers with a more than casual interest in British telly know then of my admiration for veteran TV writer David Renwick (Jonathan Creek) and my love for Black Books actress Tamsin Greig. (Yes, Fran Katzenjammer herself.)

Imagine my surprise then when I discovered a new drama that manages to combine writer David Renwick, Tamsin Greig, and the quirkiness of Peep Show, all into one gleefully rich ball of neuroses called, rather appropriately, Love Soup.

What if there was that one true love meant for you out there and you never met them? David Renwick's Love Soup attempts to answer that question by focusing on the story of Alice and Gil, two would-be lovers who are just perfect for one another. The only problem is that they don't know each other yet, each existing in a separate little pocket of space. Alice Chenery (Greig) works in London as a perfume counter manager at a department store, her every day a pointed study in drudgery; Gil Raymond (Lois and Clark's Michael Landes) is a successful American comedy writer who has moved to the countryside in an attempt to settle down. Will these two ever come together and find each other?

While most romantic comedies/dramas would have our leads meeting cute off the bat, Love Soup goes in an entirely different direction. Gil and Alice go about their separate lives, completely unaware that the one true love that most people dream about is actually out there. And, really, they are perfect for one another: they share the same off-kilter sense of humor, make the same Seinfeld-esque observations about life, and get bent out of shape at the same (real or imagined) slights. Strictly speaking, they are an ideal match.

Gil and Alice go about their normal, routine lives, narrating their every thoughts, as they do everything from the mundane (Alice buys toilet paper) to the surreal (a bored Alice agrees to be fixed up with a foot fetishist). Along the way, each winds up caught in romantic/social pitfalls that they are then forced to climb their way out of: while Alice becomes convinced that her thirteen-year-old godson sent her a lewd text message, Gil believes that this eccentric neighbor Irene (Trudie Styler) is using Photoshop to add his face onto photos of her now ex-husband. And that Irene is waving to him while standing naked in her bathroom, a delicate issue that he confronts her about when she pops round to invite him to a dinner party. (Ouch.)

In fact, Gil keeps putting his foot in it with the women in his life. He meets a television producer interested in his project (which she dubs Love Soup) and himself, but then she runs off with a street performer... whom she leaves for her script girl, um, girlfriend with whom she's trying to have a baby. Meanwhile, Alice's romantic life is not much better than Gil's but at least she's got two girlfriends to drink with and talk to. Constantly prodded by her two man-crazy co-workers Cleo (Sheridan Smith) and Milly (Montserrat Lombard) to date, date, date, Alice would much rather stay at home in her lonely flat and solve mysteries like, was the realtor actually using the washer and drier Alice's now-dead parents had bought her as a housewarming present, when she was supposed to be showing the flat? And why do they use those plastic rings on milk bottles when they're actually impossible to open?

It's quite astonishing to see Tamsin Greig in such a toned-down role, especially compared to the flashy, boozy, life-of-the-party Fran she played on Black Books. Here, her entire face is frozen into a mask of self-doubt and she seems to be crumbling inwards upon herself. It's a stunning transformation and a beautifully underplayed performance. Michael Landes' Gil still feels a little stiff to me as everything seems so on the surface with him, but then again he seems to have that genuinely American trademark of self-entitlement. Everything comes so naturally to Gil that he takes it in his stride, but I wish he were just a little more self-aware about his own insecurities and failings. (But isn't that a typically male sin, regardless of nationality?) Trudie Styler (yes, wife to Sting) is remarkable as shrewish Irene, who might just be nursing an obsession with Gil... or who just really, really, really likes to play around with her digital camera.

Ultimately, Love Soup isn't groundbreaking drama or death-defying action, but what viewers will find is a comfortably cozy dramedy about the desire in all of us to find that one person with whom to share our daily frustrations and passions and a witty take on our introspective, me-obsessed age. It is the perfect antidote to a rougher-than-usual day at work and an ideal bedtime snack when you're settling in for the night, whether you're by yourself... or with the love of your life.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Rock Star: Supernova (CBS); Last Comic Standing (NBC; 8-9:30 pm); Blue Collar TV/Blue Collar TV (WB); George Lopez/George Lopez (ABC); House (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS); America's Got Talent (NBC; 9:30-11 pm); One Tree Hill (WB); Primetime (ABC); So You Think You Can Dance (FOX); All of Us/Half and Half (UPN)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Primetime (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

10 pm: Project Runway on Bravo.

Tonight's the first post-Keith episode of my new reality fix, Project Runway. With Keith's pattern-book drama now on the backburner, I hope now we can focus on the important things, like why dark horse Michael isn't getting any love from the judges and why in god's name is the notoriously sketch-phobic Angela still on the show?


Anonymous said…
Hmmm...I saw the comercials for Love Soup when I was watching Life on Mars and wasn't that intrigued. I might just have to check it out!
Melissa said…
Isn't it amazing how Angela suddenly can sketch a mere two weeks after her "I don't sketch" Ms Universe Gown statement?

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