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Fosse/Verdon

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Fosse/Verdon TV Poster Image
Strong performances boost unfocused retro-showbiz drama.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show raises questions about the nature of competition, creativity, and collaboration and how these things are complicated when those who are working together are also romantically involved.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gwen Verdon is a talented, compelling woman embroiled in a creative working relationship with mercurial choreographer and director Bob Fosse-- with whom she also shares a complicated and fraught emotional life.

Violence

Mainly just verbal references: Characters threaten violence against others, and themselves. A character makes repeated mentions of a desire to take his own lif: by swallowing prescription pills, by walking in front of a bus, by slitting his own throat. A wife mentions having "thrown a frozen veal chop" at her husband's head.

Sex

Characters share passionate kisses and engage in simulated sex, but no real nudity. Fosse has a group of prostitutes brought onto a film set to serve as extras. A man is unfaithful to his wife, he's seen in bed with the other woman.

Language

"Damn," "hell,", "s--t," "f--k."

Consumerism

A few alcohol and prescription drug brands are mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Near-constant smoking from a few characters, including Bob Fosse. Cocktail parties galore, lots of alcohol is imbibed. Prescription drugs are seen, including Seconal -- a type of barbiturate -- which Fosse and Verdon's daughter takes to school as a rebellious act.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fosse/Verdon is a drama series from Hamilton creator Lin-Manual Miranda, Dear Evan Hansen author Steven Levenson, and Hamilton director Thomas Kail. The series depicts the tumultuous working and personal relationship of legendary director/choreographer Bob Fosse (played by Academy Award-winner Sam Rockwell), and his wife and frequent collaborator Gwen Verdon (four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, returning to TV for the first time since Dawson's Creek), typically thought of as the one of the greatest dancers in the history of Broadway. This being a retro showbiz story, viewers can expect plenty of cocktail party and bar scenes featuring booze-swilling and pill-popping; Fosse is a frequent womanizer and prone to verbal outbursts about "swallowing a bottle of Seconal (barbiturates)," and the like, he is also rarely seen without a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Strong language includes "f--k" and "s--t," references to homosexuality and prostitution.

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What's the story?

FOSSE/VERDON is an eight-episode biographical series examining the professional and personal life of famed choreographer/director Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his third wife, Tony-winning Broadway star Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) -- a highly collaborative partnership which led to the creation of some of the most acclaimed Broadway and movie musicals of all time (including Cabaret and All That Jazz). The show hops through various time periods in the couple's relationship, from their euphoric early days having an affair while working together on Damn Yankees, to the embittered later years, which saw the couple battle-scarred after years of womanizing and substance abuse. A strong cast of supporting players is on hand playing some familiar pop culture figures, including Evan Handler (American Crime Story, Sex and the City) as producer/director Hal Prince, Nate Corddry (Mom) as playwright Neil Simon, and Aya Cash (You're the Worst) as Simon's wife Joan, a former Martha Graham dancer and close friend of Verdon.

Is it any good?

True story or no, this isn't the first time we've watched a mercurial, booze-addled man ascend to great professional heights thanks in large part to his long-suffering, largely uncredited wife. Fosse/Verdon doesn't make either player out to be an absolute angel or a villain -- the two met and embarked on a relationship, after all, while both were in committed relationships (in Fosse's case, during his second marriage). Fosse is depicted as a troubled workhorse with a penchant for showing off who, despite achieving great success, was still haunted by childhood trauma and his failure to become the next Fred Astaire. Meanwhile, though early episodes stress Verdon's own formidable talent and magnetism (and her uncanny ability to "speak Bob," a skill that made her invaluable on his film sets), too often she is relegated to going through the usual domestic dramas until she finally tires of enabling his bad behavior. The performances by Rockwell and especially Williams are fantastic -- they're utterly believable both as performers and as partners -- but the era-jumping the show utilizes can be a bit dizzying, making it a challenge to stay invested in the timeline. Still, theater junkies will likely swoon over Fosse/Verdon, while more casual fans may not find the series salacious or sensational enough to maintain their interest.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the kind of impact that fame and success -- or lack thereof -- can have on a relationship. Is it fair that Verdon is so integral to Fosse's success, yet doesn't receive any professional credit for it? Do you think this had more to do with the time period, gender issues, or both? Do you think women in show business have made strides in this department since Verdon and Fosse's heyday?

  • What do you think motivates Bob Fosse's self-destructive decisions? How does Fosse/Verdon portray his womanizing and abuse issues? Are there consequences to these behaviors?

TV details

For kids who love history

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