In Which Our Guest Poster Extols HBO’s Provocative New Show

by Bridget Moloney

“OH MY GOD. I am at Eddie’s and we are watching tell me you love me- this show is SO X RATED! I know you mentioned the balls, and yeah, they were there, but we just watched the hand job scene…he comes! on screen! and now a blow job! This show is insane.”

I have a very active email life with friends I made in college. Seriously, what did people do before electronic mail? Especially people who sit at desks in offices. If you believe AMC’s Mad Men they had sex with their bosses and drank at their desks. But we don’t have to because we have Gmail!

Mad Men: Dresses, Drinks, and Desks.

The last couple of weeks, the theme of our correspondence in my college-friend listserv has been Tell Me You Love Me, HBO’s new relationship drama. It has sex in it. Real Sex. HBO loves it some Real Sex. But this kind is different than even its most special Real Sex Xtras. For one, there are no visible tattoos on the ladies of Tell Me You Love Me, which seems to be a prerequisite on G-StringCathouse Divas and .

TMYLM: Depression, Denial, and Bed Death.

Tell Me You Love Me (from henceforth TMYLM) focuses on four couples. Jamie and Hugo are the super unappealing twentysomethings who use sex to avoid dealing with their problems and who, as of episode three, have called of their engagement. Then there are my personal favorites; Carolyn and Palek; the aspirational dysfunctional couple. They may be wildly successful but they can’t get pregnant, which if you’re Carolyn and Palek will destroy your marriage.

The male nurse from Knocked Up and the woman he has so far failed to knock up.

Katie and Dave are in their forties and have two little kids, a great partnership but no sex. And finally there’s May and Arthur: the sexagenarians. SEXagenarians, more like it. May is a therapist who treats all the couples (or at least the female halves) and her retiree-husband is a very attractive older man. They love each other, perform oral sex, and have all kinds of terrific intimacy. However, we’re starting to learn that they’ve had their share of marital strife (obviously).

Ice Cold Caucasian Marital Discomfort Action

So in the universe of Tell Me You Love Me one’s life plays out as follows: Too much sex for the wrong reasons, Sex only for Babies who stubbornly will not be conceived, No Sex because you have babies, SEXagenarians. It’s enough to make a girl thirsty.

I couldn’t help but wonder

“Does anyone else find “tell me you love me” incredibly depressing?” – 9/19/07, 11:15am

We all do. And what’s most interesting: Our reactions to TMYLM are oddly revealing about our own problems:

“ …it’s so up my alley and depressing but J— can never see it bc its about relationships and them not working and I don’t want him seeing it. Oh, and lots of sex. I saw balls for real.” – 9/10/07 8:24pm

“I do think “Tell me you love me” is really depressing but I REALLY like it. My roommates and I were discussing that there are really an infinite amount of things that can ruin your relationship. I mean, everyone worries that you will fall out of love or they will fall out of love or be unfaithful but this show is like, “oh no, that is the tip of the iceberg, allow us to show you the myriad options.” I think I’ll keep watching it though.” –

“I guess tell me you love me just makes me think, “even if you are in a loving relationship, you are doomed to feel lonely and alone for the rest of your life” And I find that a sad realization to come to at 24.” – 9/23/07 7:14pm

“The whole suburban existence is really depressing. – 9/24/07 9:58am

Actually we aren’t all watching it:

“I refuse to watch Tell me you love me bc i just got engaged.” – 9/24/07 12:09

Shall I blow you tonight dear?

So why are we all watching a show that’s really depressing? It’s like playing pretend. You have a chance to see how terribly things can go and maybe even make a mental note here and there about which techniques are particularly painful when arguing with loved ones.

It’s a chance to see a rather realistic view of other people’s fucked up interpersonal business. And these are fairly universal themes. Universal if you are a solvent white person who dates the opposite sex, but in that universe it’s universal! It makes for compelling entertainment.

We Don’t Live Here Anymore: white folks, adultery.

I know people think it’s boring. I know they think the pacing of the scenes is torturous. I know that some people are just not interested in watching couples tear into each other or live in lonely, sexless, marriages. But I am! I am!

I think the dialogue is pitch perfect, I think that Dr. May (the sexy old therapist) is an even better cable TV therapist than Dr. Melfi was; and I think the sex is fun to watch because it’s sex! I was so pissed when it was implied I liked the show because it was “porn for women”. I don’t even know where to start with that, sigh. Porn is porn for women. I know that women are theoretically less visually stimulated than men, but women watch pornography.

Mark Ruffalo and Meg Ryan in In The Cut

Sometimes we don’t watch the same porn as men do, but there are plenty of pornographic outlets for women: literary, cinematic, electronic. We don’t need to stoop to relationship drama if we need a sex aid. The only thing about TMYLM that I, as a woman, take special pleasure in, is that my sisters on the show are more complex than any of their Network TV counterparts. Man, I cannot abide Grey’s Anatomy. It wasn’t always like that but Meredith Grey has left me no choice.

I’m pleased to report that in my informal polling I found many dudes who’re watching TMYLM, gay and straight dudes and straight women and lesbians. (Seriously, I know a lot of interesting people.) Cynthia Mort, Tell Me You Love Me’s creator and Executive Producer was the Supervising Producer of Roseanne in its final season. I think that’s worth noting.

I know that everyone on TMYLM seems to have plenty of money (although I’m worried for the sexless couple, financial troubles seem to loom on the horizon) and they’re physically attractive and it’s a single camera show. But both Roseanne and TMYLM are provocative TV and I’m not just talking about testicles.

Y Tu Mama Tambien


Thin Line Between Love And Hate – The Persuaders: mp3

She’s Your Lover Now – Bob Dylan: mp3

I Want Your Love – Kelis: mp3

Love Sick (live Dylan cover) – The White Stripes: mp3

I’m Not In Love (10cc cover) – Red Red Meat: mp3

Bridget Moloney is a writer and actress in New York. Because I’m writing this bio for her and the season premiere is tonight I’ll feel free to drop that she was on an episode of our fave show 30 Rock last season (“Episode 10, The Baby Show“) playing the makeup girl whose baby Liz Lemon stole accidentally.


We were sort of concerned you’d be drowned within our sea.

We went to see Emily Haines.

We saluted Camille Paglia.

13 thoughts on “In Which Our Guest Poster Extols HBO’s Provocative New Show

  1. I never thought a show entirely about gratuitous sex scenes could be boring until I saw TMYLM. I guess that is the price I must pay for not having a vagina or being gay

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