You Me Her
Watch on Audience Network
You Me Her, which just wrapped its fourth season on the Audience Network, is billed as “the first polyromantic comedy.” For many, this might provoke a couple of questions. First, what is “Audience Network”? Second, what is “polyromantic”? Is that like, Big Love?
I hadn’t heard of Audience Network either, but turns out it’s a creation of AT&T, which owns DirecTV and the UVerse cable service. AT&T makes You Me Her available on all of its platforms, giving the show a reach of 24.5 million households. (By contrast, EPIX, which gets a lot more publicity, only reaches about 15 million homes.)
So, by that measure anyway, it’s a major streaming show. Now, onto this “first polyromantic comedy” business. Is this series really staking out new territory here? And is that reason enough to watch?
In You Me Her, a married couple in their late 30s get involved with a college student in her early 20s. You may believe polyamorous relationships are as natural as the monogamous kind, but there’s nothing smooth about the way these three come together. There’s a lot of awkwardness, nervous stammering, and excessive apologizing — in other words, it’s like a lot of millennial comedies out there.
Love triangles aren’t exactly new to television either. The difference in You Me Her is that instead of one person choosing between the other two, all three choose each other.
This bright, emotionally intelligent sex comedy comes from novelist and TV producer John Scott Shepherd. I loved Shepherd's 2004 family drama The Days for its sparkling dialogue and ingenious storytelling, but that was in the bad old days before streaming; ABC gave the show just six episodes in a lousy time slot before pulling the plug.
With You Me Her, Shepherd knew he was getting at least ten episodes, and more if he did his job right, which he clearly did. Before the conclusion of Season 4, AT&T committed to a fifth and final season of the show, which will air in 2020. After all, when you think of a threesome, you think of something that lasts five years, right?
No, of course you don’t. We’ve been culturally conditioned to think of the ménage-a-trois as a moment in time: a one-night stand, a porno scene, a tryst. You Me Her feels almost like a reaction to that, from the complicated way the three adults work out their arrangement, to the very un-sexy scenes that pass for lovemaking.
As the show opens, Jack (Greg Poehler) and Emma (Rachel Blanchard) are facing the camera, telling a therapist about their marriage. They profess to be happily married. They’re in their late 30s, no kids, with challenging careers — Jack teaches at a private academy in Portland, where they live, and Emma is an architect.
Somehow in all of this, the sex went away. The therapist offers some off-camera advice, but instead, Jack is going to listen to his idiot brother, who suggests calling a high-class escort service. And that’s where Izzy enters the picture.
Played by Priscilla Faia, Izzy is using sex to pay her college tuition, but things take an unexpected turn on her first date with Jack, and then something even more unexpected happens: Jack goes home and confesses what he did. Once Emma calms down, she calls Izzy. Over the next few episodes, through an endless string of negotiations, and by smoking a lot of weed, they finally consummate their new relationship. And it’s hilarious.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call You Me Her feminist, but it’s striking that the two people who get the most out of this relationship in Season 1 are the women. Emma really, really digs Izzy, and this is what gives the arrangement its initial fuel, much to the obvious disquietude of Jack.
“Kinda feel like I’m dangling my marriage out of a ten-story window,” Emma tells a friend. “But at the same time, I’m more into him than ever.” Jack seems to feel the same way. Watching his wife fall for a woman makes him jealous — and that, he realizes, turns him on.
The comedy in this show draws on the fact that each person in this threesome is needy, but they’re not really sure what they need. This isn’t something to resolve in the bedroom but in the kitchen, the living room, out getting coffee. Bedroom exploits aren't the focus here. But solid comedic dialogue and the occasional bit of well-executed farce? You Me Her has that in spades.
A solid supporting cast gives the three leads the sounding boards and breathing space they need to keep this show from devolving into ... well, Big Love. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Izzy’s college roommate Nina (Melanie Papalia) and sometime boyfriend Andy (Jarod Joseph), who find themselves slowly and unexpectedly drawn into Izzy’s new world.
Alas, those of you hoping for You Me Her to pop up on Netflix might be waiting a long time. AT&T retains its original programs for its video platforms. The only reason I was able to watch Season 1 is that an Airbnb I stayed at had DirecTV. However, you can watch the first two episodes for free on the Audience Network website, and if you have an AT&T Unlimited phone plan, you may have access to Audience Network's Watch TV already. As for Season 1, it wrapped up so nicely that I'm ready to start right in on Season 2, just as soon I figure out how to watch it.
Aaron Barnhart has written about television since 1994, including 15 years as TV critic for the Kansas City Star.