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Wednesday, May 25th, 2022  

I Love That For You

Showtime, April 29, 2022

Apr 29, 2022 Photography by Showtime Web Exclusive
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Vanessa Bayer’s seven years of awkward character sketches on Saturday Night Live misfire in the Emmy-nominated actor’s first series, I Love That for You. In the half-hour comedy, co-created and co-written with Jeremy Beiler, Bayer plays cringe-y Joanna Gold who perpetually hides behind her irritating smile. While Joanna was battling childhood cancer, a real-life experience Bayer shares with the character, she developed an obsession with the home shopping channel, Special Value Network SVN, and its figurehead host, Jackie Stilton (Molly Shannon). Now an adult, Joanna lives at home with overprotective parents, works as a sample-pusher at Costco alongside her father, and is socially clueless to a humiliating degree.

Joanna auditions at an open call for a new SVN host. An expert in this area, she sells a number two pencil to shadowed, faceless representatives from the channel and nails it. Her strangeness, and the falsehood that her cancer has returned, is twisted into a persona at the channel.

The SVN hosts are as exaggerated as reality show characters. There’s Beth Ann (Ayden Mayeri) with her extreme, to the level of botched, appearance and her cattiness, selling “momfluencer.” There’s Perry (Johnno Wilson) a Southern gentleman who ropes his mother into his show to help sell his “Southern family boy” schtick. Then there’s Jackie who is still the queen of SVN after 30 years. She sells “every woman” and uses “jack” to make up words for anything that is going on related to her, for example, “Jackaversary.”

As characterful as the on-air personalities are, the crew of SVN are the real draw of I Love That for You. Network boss Patricia, portrayed by Jenifer Lewis at her best in her patented ball-busting style is ruthless and hilarious. Giving Lewis a run for funny is her (“I’m not an”) assistant Darcy Leeds (Matt Rogers) whose mean boy attitude and venom-filled dialogue is priceless. And when he’s paired with gal pal Beth Ann, the viciousness is turned up to the max, as is the funny factor, a little bit of a throwback to Ugly Betty’s Amanda and Marc.

Getting to see the behind-the-scenes, as it were, of a shopping network, albeit fictionalized, is more entertaining than you would think it would be. Training Joanna on responding to directives in her earpiece without reacting visually or verbally, rolling with the flow and changing her patter smoothly, is a steep learning curve. Those are probably the best moments of Bayer’s character. The remaining scenes with her are the duds of I Love That for You.

Instead of being the center of comedy of I Love That for You, Bayer’s Joanna is the set-up for the other actors’ genuinely funny performances. Even her drab storyline is more of a backdrop for the other characters’ more engaging and conflict-flecked subplots.

I Love That for You has all the markers of a classic workplace sitcom: enthusiastic but inexperienced new hire, wacky but well-meaning mentor, over-the-top boss who is hiding their sensitive side, back-biting and competitive co-workers, slow-burning office romance, it’s all there. It feels a little predictable, but the extreme personas of the overdrawn characters keep you locked in. (www.showtime.com/i-love-that-for-you)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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