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Parents' Guide to

The Premise

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Language, nudity, mature themes in Novak's clever anthology.

TV Hulu Drama 2021
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Like a comic riff on Black Mirror, this arresting if imperfect anthology series sets itself the task of building each episode with a fresh cast and director, organized around a singular big idea. But what separates The Premise from similar anthology shows that generally lean sci-fi/horror is the wry comic tone creator-writer B.J. Novak brings to the proceedings: He's trying to make you think, yes, but he's also trying to make you laugh. Not that it always comes off seamlessly; in fact, one of the downsides of The Premise is the uneven tone.

The first episode, "Social Justice Sex Tape," seems at first that it might be a kind of drama or mystery: A private citizen's private sex tape sheds light on a crime police say happened. Main character Ayo Edebiri seems like a crusading lawyer type, and we're set up to think the conflict is between her railroaded client and corrupt brutal cops. Instead, as Ben Platt shows up as the ultra-woke sex tape owner, we realize that the conflict is really his: Is he a woke enough ally to allow himself to be humiliated in open court for the chance at freeing an innocent man? There's plenty of comic juice generated by Platt's nebbishy line readings in response to jurors and lawyers mocking his sexual performance; Tracee Ellis Ross' facial expression as she views the entire sex tape is a scream in and of itself. But the tone bounces from satirical to absurd to dramatic a bit confusingly and viewers may be left wondering exactly what reaction creators are attempting to elicit. No matter: Novak's writing is as sharp and eccentric as it was on The Office, and that show's fervent fans will, and should, show up to check out what he's up to these days.

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