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on June 25, 2008
I love HBO shows so when I found this on sale for $19.99 I grabbed it. I wouldn't recommend paying more than about $30 for it - if I'd paid more I would have been very disappointed. I haven't had an experience with a show like this before - by the second episode I thought it was one of the best TV shows I'd ever seen, up there with "Six Feet Under". It was fascinating to see a very realistic view of four different relationships, shown very realistically, even including very real sex scenes. That somehow made the couples even more human. By about the seventh episode I got tired of the characters' slow, meandering everyday lives, and the whining. I started thinking the sex scenes were just interfering with the progress of the story, and I realized, it's difficult to maintain interest in very realistic lives when you're living one yourself every day. I guess I learned I enjoy more drama and excitement in a TV show than I realized.
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on September 22, 2008
(NOTE: SOME SPOILERS BELOW--TREAD LIGHTLY!)

I have to admit that, as a clinician myself, I'll watch most anything that has a mental health angle in it. Typically, they never get the therapy (or the therapist) done right, at least for more than a fleeting moment. This show is no exception. The premise is interesting: several couples is a mid-size metropolis are seeing the same shrink, and we see them both during therapy and in their 'real' lives. The shrink, too, has her own life outside the office, and we (the audience) are a busy fly on many walls as we follow them all around each episode. We hear the outlines of their problems in therapy, and we go deeper when we are with them outside, comparing the two evolving versions & seeing where the truth comes up a little short, and where they are copping out. In one sense, we are used to this device as it was used religiously (and very effectively) in the Sopranos. So we see a bit of the sociopathy of everyday life, to coin a phrase; or, maybe just an honest look at the flaws of human characters.

You can see where this mid-western novella is going to go--it's a small town and their paths are going to cross, eventually, and realize they are all therapy sibs. But, we only got a hint of that by the end of season one. Too bad--I thought there were going to be some pyrotechnics when all those fuses started to catch.....but....oh well! I guess the producers were pretty confident about getting a second go round.

Along the way, we flies are witness to the most raw, naturalistic sex scenes that I have ever seen on TV/cable. That is not to say it is sexy stuff--it is pretty unpolished & non-stylized. You see all the anatomy, somewhat obliquely and in natural low light conditions, but nothing is left to the imagination. The only thing I was wondering was, are those prosthetic phalli or the real thing? And the sex scenes tend to drag on, and there is no pretense here to make the trysts hot, sexy, kinky--they are just pretty run of the mill, daily grind kind of stuff. Some highlights you ask? Well, we get to see the husband in the sexless marriage treat himself to some solo satisfaction--and boy was I sorry I watched that scene! And, for the geriatric set--there is included a pretty raw scene with Jane Alexander and her husband getting it on in a recliner. There was one reviewer who said how great she looked in this scene--well, I would say that with her clothes on she is indeed a classy, elegant grand dame. But, nude and vigorously humping? Please, this was not sexy and not entertaining. Good commercial for Viagara, but that is about it. In fact, whenever there is a sex scene one feels as if it is very private and this is the time to go fix a sandwich or shut off the sprinklers, rather than do so at the commercial. It is a rather interesting artistic achievement, to say the least.

Here is the BIG problem with this show, as I see it: none of the characters are likeable. None. Not one. Their stories are somewhat interesting, but you cannot develop a liking for any of the people. Most of them are professional class, and they are all whiners, wimps, phonies, narcissists, sex-addicts, or anhedonic icebergs. Or some combination of the above. They are SO bland and/or neurotic that you don't want to spend an hour a week with them, not a one of them. Oh, and don't you be looking for any persons of color in this show--unless you count different hair colors as evidence of diversity. It's all Oscar Meyer on Wonder Bread with mayo on a paper plate. A plain, white paper plate.... There is no diversity among the characters, between the character, or within the characters. Imagine 'All in the Family' and every character is an insipid, vacuous version of Archie Bunker. Guys like us we had it made....

Even in the Sopranos, you could develop a liking for those greedy psychopathic killers and their various sycophantic partners--THAT was part of the incredible achievement of that show. To make you forget that these Jersey guys with the SUVs who are wolfing down franks at a bbq are stone-cold killers, and they are just regular folks with mortgages, PTA meetings, mid-life crises, etc. And--you identify just a little with the lure of the larceny and of getting away with it....But here? You wouldn't want to share a cup of joe with any of these people. This to me is the main crisis, as a viewer.

Another main weakness, ironically, is the whole therapy device. I thought Jane Alexander was earnest in the anchoring central role as the therapist, but she was stuck with some of the lamest therapist dialogue yet concocted for a TV show. And, we are dropping in at the moment when her big book is being released, so we are led to believe she is really some kind of expert, but I found her verbal interventions wordy, trite, unrealistic, patronizing, and untherapeutic. But, she was earnest and sincere, for what that is worth: the cases move along more or less disastrously for each of the couples. Nice work! This tendency to romantic decline includes Jane's own marriage, imperiled by the mid-season revelation of a past affair, which threatens to resume when her ex-lover just happens to turn up in this ever-shrinking cesspool of a town.

So, while I stuck it out for the entire season, I was ready to bail about a third of the way through, but my gal and I were committed to seeing it through. Probably the most interesting aspect was that the producers attached about 5-6 minutes onto the end of each episode that featured real life couples who were watching and commenting on the show's progress and how it sort-of mirrored their own struggles. Now, these people WERE very likeable and interesting, more so than the actual cast. That was another problem with the show, as far as I was concerned. And, similarly, the show did spark good discussions between my partner and I. So, in the end, it was a case of life imitating life that was imitating art that bore no resemblance at all to life, at least any life you would want to be living.

Well, I guess maybe see it for yourself and decide, but if you are not into it by the 3rd show, it ain't getting any better!
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HALL OF FAMEon November 13, 2007
Much hyped and sensitively written HBO series analyzing the marital and other problems of three couples, plus their therapist's own back story in what most people would consider late, late middle age. You'll be surprised to see the vigor with which Jane Alexander puts into her fervent love scenes with David Selby (yes, from DARK SHADOWS). Alexander has never struck me as being much of a softcore type, but here she looks great and she puts everything she has into it, a risky move for the former head of the NEA which might get her into trouble with her former constituency, but I think the risky work she does here gives her more credibility, and flows neatly into the scenes she has with her clients. In a way it will remind you of Lorraine Bracco treating Tony in THE SOPRANOS and cynical minds will assume that TELL ME YOU LOVE ME is like Dr. Melfi on ecstasy, but give the show a chance, it definitely has its own rhythm, and you won't pick up on it right away if you're used to the rough and tumble rapidfire cutting of most US made hourlongs.

Here the pace is positively molasses, Ingmar Bergman style, long, long scenes of domestic life interspersed with some pretty amazing bedroom scenes (what they call "random play" on Facebook). You won't believe you're watching this on TV. But it's all mixed in with hours and hours of nothing at all, in which it's up to the actors to convince us that there are real people behind those insertions and releases. Some of the actors are better than others, though none is really horrible. At first I wondered, how did they talk these actors into having such realistic sex scenes? Did they recruit them from porn movies? But I recognized some of them from other legitimate work and I guess the answer is, they went for the gusto of it. Dave and Katie are pushing forty, they've stopped making love and just live for their children and homelife, always repaving the patio et cetera. Their little girl has started having her period even though she's ten. Ally Walker plays Katie, the dissatisfied wife who wonders where all the romance went in her marriage, while Sherry Stringfield from ER plays Rita, her no nonsense pal. La Stringfield still acts as though she were the undisputed star of the show (in fact of the entire entertainment world), but she is pared back to the point where you can actually believe it. Tim DeKay is the husband who prefers to bring himself off under the covers rather than face another go round with his wife. It's bleak and miserable.

Adam Scott and Sonya Walger play a somewhat younger couple, Pawlik and Carolyn. They make love by the clock so that Carolyn can fulfill her dream of getting pregnant. But petulant Pawlik doesn't like being made to perform at gunpoint, so he starts balking and expressing his deep dislike of his wife. She's quite a piece of work and the script does little to soften her up. More power to the actress who plays her because this is a tough part to play.

Finally there is Jaime, a young sous chef at a trendy restaurant, torn between two good looking guys, incapable of being faithful to either. It was really this girl who plays her whom I thought initially wasn't as much an actress as an inflatable doll with a helium voice. Poor Jaime can't keep her clothes on for twenty minutes at a time. One of the boys in her life is played by former LOST star Ian Somerhalder, the other by some other dude. One is called Nick, the other Hugo. I can't remember now who is who, but stand back folks because, as it turns out, Michelle Borth as Jaime is the one who really wins your heart by the end of the season's run. I began to see why she was the way she was, and credit Miss Borth for a sensitive unfolding of real depth.

The show is slow, no doubt about it, and goes to some painful places. Will the unabashed focus on sexuality make it an audience winner? Hard to say, but it was well worth trying out! Give it a chance, you might learn something! I did, about Ian Somerhalder...
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VINE VOICEon November 26, 2007
Earlier this year, HBO offered yet another ground breaking series - this one revolving around marital strife and therapy. Opting for realism, the stories are interspersed with intensive therapy sessions, some of the most realistic and explicit intimate scenes ever presented on television, and the daily routine of couples in three stages of relationships (four if you count therapist May played by Jane Alexander and her husband of 43 years, played by David Selby).

David and Katie (Tim DeKay and Ally Walker from "Profiler") have been married 12 years and have grown so far apart that they are not longer intimate. Katie wants therapy to repair their distance while David just wants to skate by and pretend everything is okay. Palek and Carolyn (Adam Scott and Sonya Walger) are yuppies who have everything they could ever want except for a baby (though Palek wonders if he even wants that). Jamie and Hugo (Michelle Borth and Luke Ferrell Kirby) are an engaged couple who break up early on due to Jamie's trust issues with Hugo's fidelity. But soon another man enters her life (Ian Somerhalder, the brother from "Lost" who loved his sister a little too much), forcing Jamie to face the truth about her own past.

Extras include reactions to story lines by real life couples (which really don't add much), as well as behind the scenes and the usual making of shorts. It's a heavy series and oftentimes depressing; there is nothing light to the storylines, in fact viewers will wonder if any therapist can save some of these crumbling relationships.
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on February 9, 2015
I had high hopes about this series, and stuck with it for as long as I could. Unfortunately with the exception of the therapist (played by Jane Alexander), all of the characters were completely unlikable. The one strength HBO has in almost all of their series (from the charming and lighthearted comedy "Dream On" to the violent and edgy "Game of Thrones") is their character development. Regardless if the viewers love the character (Martin Tupper) or despise the character (King Joffey) we are invested in the arc of the character. We as viewers continue to view the characters to see what direction they will take us and give us the necessary reaction to ask "what are they going to do next"?

With "Tell Me You Love Me" the characters are not only unlikable, but exhausting, uninteresting and flat. To listen to their tiring minutia about the conflicts they encounter regarding their sex lives makes you want to tell every single one the couples to simply break up and inject a new love interest in their life, for no other reason than to introduce us to new and hopefully more interesting characters. I will admit the sex is quite hot, and somewhat realistic, the way people (who actually WANT to have sex with one another) do have sex. Unfortunately you have the sexual engagement, then they start to talk again, and it all goes downhill from there.

The most interesting parts of the series was with the therapist, and I was hoping the show would go further with that dynamic (and develop more engaging dialogue by the characters). In fact I can see that portion of the show being a prelude to the fantastic HBO series "In Treatment". I hated almost everyone in that series, but man was I invested in the patients and their sessions. "Tell Me You Love Me" never took me to that place where I said "can you believe he/she/they said that?" I had some hope for the younger couple given that at that age you're figuring things out about love, life and relationships in between their multiple sex sessions. They even went as far as to break up and explore relationships with other people. But once again they open their mouths with trite dialogue, and once again I lose interest. The creators of the show seem to lost in knowing where to go beyond "let's screw" followed by "you don't understand." It became emotionally taxing for the viewer to see this endless cycle of conflict with no meaningful progress, let alone resolution.

I guess the one thing that did maintain my interest was as unlikable as the characters were, I enjoyed seeing how much they argue over and over again about the same relationship issues ("why doesn't he want to f*** me any more", "his negativity is preventing us from conceiving", "you are interested in other women") where I'm hoping one or more of them will either have a full-blown meltdown, an emotional explosion or engage in such reckless behavior to the point where the meltdown or explosion will occur. I know that's cynical and mean-spirited to wish on the characters. But at least that will make them interesting. And I guess that is what I was hoping for in "Tell Me You Love Me," and why I stuck with it: to have that unexpected "holy sh*t" reaction I've been used to in an HBO series. The show was ambitious, but certainly didn't live up to my expectations. Purchase or stream it if and when you feel the price is right.
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on June 17, 2016
Pretty good show. Had me hooked till the end. As a clinician I had to laugh. This feels like it was written by someone who went through theray and fantasized about what their therapists life was like. The characters were very believable and the story lines realistic. I didn't appreciate the sex sences but went past them and I don't think I missed out. I would recommend this show, just know tge first few episodes have a lot of raw sex which feels a bit more like a soft core porn rather than what it should be, a look at one writer's thoughts on marriage counseling.
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on May 24, 2015
What a delightful cast and such wonderful acting!
Why do some reviewers complain about the "slow pace" and boredom? My suspicion is that those viewers have no interest in the ordinary lives of ordinary people. And this film is a study of such lives.
The credits reveal that WOMEN were pretty much in charge of this entire production. So... kudos to those ladies!
Jane Alexander as the therapist was excellent.
Michelle Borth and Sonya Walger were both absolutely GORGEOUS, and so very sexy!! They were also effective as actresses. Ms. Walger had the more demanding role and was awesome.
About the sex scenes--if they all were simulated, it was done with more finesse than I have ever seen in mainstream films. Many of them looked totally real to me. Even my wife appreciated that touch of honesty.
Europeans would rave about such a film.
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on August 26, 2011
I bought this about a year back and watched episodes 1-9 in a marathon. I got about 20 minutes into the final 10th episode, and knowing it was going to be over for good, I could not complete it, because I didn't want it to be over. I recently just did.

Tell Me You Love Me revolves around three couples, Jamie and Hugo (Borth and Kirby), Katie and David (Walker and DeKay) and Carolyn and Palek (Walger and Scott), each with their own problems concerning intimacy in their relationships. They seek the help of therapist May Foster, who herself has relationship issues with her partner Arthur (Selby). [from Wiki]

The amount of true, honest character studies in this show is immense. Mind you I'm 21, and am a Psychology Major who has taken 12 Psych related courses over about 3 semesters, including a dirty but enlightening Human Sexuality course in 2009.

This is where careers were started for many of today's more popular stars. Go on back to filming in 2007-2008 and no one had probably heard of the following people:

Michelle Borth as Jaime, currently portraying Dr. Rebecca Gordon on ABC's "Combat Hospital."
Tim DeKay did some fine work as David, the frustrated dad; currently known as Peter Burke on USA's "White Collar."
Adam Scott as Palek, currently known for his role as Ben on NBC's "Parks and Rec."
Sonya Walger as Carolyn, also known for Penny from ABC's "Lost." Boy, was I lost at that ending. Who wasn't?
Ally Walker as Katie, best known earlier as the cute detective on "Profiler" in the mid 1990s. Currently in Lifetime series "The Protector." I knew I recognized her face elsewhere!

et al.

The show caused people to be "up in arms" about the very real depiction of sex. For those who think it was real; you're sadly mistaken. The Actor's Union does not; and will not allow for actual sex (i.e. penetration, adult "actress" style) on camera. It was simulated very well and filmed with a touch of brilliant lighting and camera work to make you think they were having sex. Michelle Borth was the most featured here, and she has said: "Yeah, we can't do it for real. It's simulated."

My guess is they were wearing certain things to protect themselves and the "believe it at face value" minds, like a "patch" over that area and maybe a "sock" over his.

With that said, Dr. Cynthia Mort (creator, executive producer, writer, etc) as a future doctor myself (a few years away), I really don't see why they canceled your brilliant, honest, and true show. It firmly stands as the pinnacle of truth for any couple in any relationship. Like some, I would've loved a second season.
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on June 26, 2016
I found the stories of each couple pretty honest and well acted. I found the therapy sessions themselves not well fleshed out; I've been in couples therapy and had friends who were, too. The sessions portrayed were pretty mild compared to what mostly happens.
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on June 26, 2016
I always see Zach Braff's name and think it is going to be good. The film is good, but ever film of his that I have seen someone dies. This is a tragic comedy. This film wants to leave you uplifted, but it kind of just leaves you sad.
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