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TV TATTLE

Amazon's With Love stands out this holiday season amid an "abundance of assembly-line bonbons"

  • Creator Gloria Calderón Kellett, "who plays a minor character here, offers a rich premise: a multigenerational, LGBTQ-inclusive, multiethnic Latinx family gathering together on various holidays over the course of nearly a year, starting with Nochebuena, or Christmas Eve," says Inkoo Kang. "It’s not only a feel-good show that actually feels good, but also a welcome reminder, at the end of another exhausting 12 months, that there are possibilities and celebrations to come in the new year." Kang adds that Kellett offers "far from original scenarios, but they’re presented with such verve, wit and warmth that all those other times you’ve seen these situations play out fade away. It’s all-too-easy to get invested in these characters’ plights: the brave face that Lily puts on despite her heartbreak, until holding up the mask becomes too strenuous; Jorge’s fears that his father’s distance indicates a disapproval of Henry, whose bisexuality becomes a talking point at the party. One of the hardest things a TV show can pull off is to make a viewer laugh out loud when they’re watching something alone. I lost track of how many times I guffawed during the first two episodes, which also made me tear up quite a bit. The ultra-sincere spirit of One Day at a Time feels alive and well in With Love, which isn’t quite as polished as that earlier show, but recalls it in its skillful and occasionally surprising swerves between humor and poignancy (as well as in its slight preachiness)."

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    • With Love is like a super-sized Love Actually, if Love Actually weren’t so cagey about how its characters are connected: "With shows as with desserts, though, there’s such a thing as sugar overload — it all depends on your tolerance for sweetness," says Daniel Fienberg. "Myself, I found that consuming an episode or two of With Love could be pure pleasure, but that gorging all five left me feeling simultaneously overstuffed and hungry for more substance. With Love‘s most winning quality is Calderón Kellett’s ability to sell a big-hearted and tight-knit family dynamic, as previously demonstrated in One Day at a Time." He adds: "With Love‘s fixation on a specific image of true love can steamroll everything else in its path — including, at times, the characters themselves. We know Santiago (Rome Flynn) is a cynic who doesn’t believe in love because he keeps spouting generic dialogue claiming he is. Beyond that, With Love doesn’t bother engaging with his stance in any serious way. It’s just a quality assigned to him so he and hopeless romantic Lily can have something to spar about...On the other hand, seen in another light, With Love‘s lack of any real complications might be part of its charm."
    • With Love shines bright in some narratives and falls disappointingly flat in others: "When With Love is at its best.... it’s usually when focusing on its two queerer couples," says Caroline Framke. "Jorge Jr. and Lily’s cousin Sol (Isis King) is a genderqueer oncologist whose flirtation with their coworker (Todd Grinnell) quickly blossoms into the real thing. King and Grinnell have the most instant, natural romantic chemistry of anyone on the show, and watching their characters navigate a relationship that gets to be serious, loving, and unfailingly considerate makes for a welcome exception in the TV world of overwhelmingly tragic trans characters. As for Jorge Jr. and Henry, they’re already serious enough by the time we meet them to be spending Christmas together; by the time we leave them, they’ve become true partners. They’re different enough from each other to be interesting, but not so far apart on values for them to feel fundamentally incompatible. That does not, however, hold true for Lily and Santiago, who are ostensibly meant to make up the show’s most compelling will-they, won’t-they couple. The way With Love portrays their relationship is so strange as to become downright confusing. It takes almost three of the five episodes for them to have a meaningful conversation, and when they do, it’s a knockdown argument about how differently they see the world, popping the bubble of their sexual tension in ugly fashion. And while the general conceit of checking in on everyone during major holidays mostly works, as far as Lily and Santiago are concerned, it doesn’t help that the show quite literally fast forwards through all their happy milestones — meaning that we basically only get to see them when their relationship is on the rocks. Opposites can attract, but these opposites are so far apart that it’s genuinely hard to root for them when they inevitably get together."
    • With Love's scripts understand the intricacies of relationships and explicate them beautifully: "Case in point: Lily fails to recognize her own inability to compromise," says Kristein Lopez. "From the start, we see her as a young woman terrified of losing a man she loves, yet never seeing her own part in why her relationships have failed. In just five episodes, the amount of growth written for the character, coupled with Toubia’s performance, helps the audience see that slight progression before the season ends. With Love isn’t about grand revelations, but the small milestones that lead to long-term success. With Love could also be considered a serious growth opportunity for Calderón Kellett. Unlike One Day At a Time, which utilized an existing series, Calderón Kellett is building on the entire history of family TV storytelling. The situations here aren’t new, but they feel different in Calderón Kellett’s hands. With Love is a vibrant and engaging original on par with some of the best network content out there — deliciously captivating and hard to stop watching."
    • Emeraude Toubia is happy to see With Love breaking barriers: "I'm just so glad that With Love is really breaking barriers and showing this beautiful romantic comedy that revolves around general and timeless topics," says the actress, who portrays lead Lily Diaz. "And that is something that Gloria (Calderón Kellett) pulled off so beautifully..It's just so exciting!"
    • Trans actress Isis King hopes to broaden the conversation about pronouns and representation
    • With Love creator Gloria Calderón Kellett recalled her "Mexican Nancy Meyers" request: In designing the show's kitchen, Kellett had one crucial instruction for the show’s production team. “I said: ‘Mexican Nancy Meyers. That’s what I want this kitchen to look like,’” says Kellett. “And boy, they delivered. That was a beautiful Nancy Meyers Mexican kitchen. Woo! They delivered.” Kellett wants the show to expand the definition of who gets to experience love on screen and be a part of those classic rom-com tropes. “All of those things are things that we’ve seen many times, but never with Latinos, and never with us at the holidays, with so many identities and so intergenerational," she says. "So it was really so awesome to get to make stuff that now gets to exist. We didn’t have it before, and now, hopefully, it’ll be a part of the societal canon.”
    • Kellett conceived of With Love as an optimistic response to One Day at a Time's cancelation: “It was so joyful to write it and then so joyful to get to make it,” she says. “I’m hoping that that feeling of joy and kindness and thriving and all that yumminess just makes people feel like, ‘Oh, this is the warm hug I need right now.’”
    • Kellett began thinking of what would happen on a show set years later than One Day at a Time: “What does it look like when everybody’s fine with the gay kids?" she asks. "Now the evolution is bringing somebody home, having them confronted with what it really looks like to hold somebody’s hand and kiss them, and they’re the same sex. What is that conversation? When you get over all this stuff, the love is what’s left."
    • Kellett had initially planned to make 10 episodes, but in order to get the series out in time for the Christmas: “I would love to make several seasons. “Tell Amazon! I love this family. I want to see where they evolve. I want to see who ends up together. I want to see all of it, and I have ideas for all of it.”
    • Kellett made With Love using the inspiration of four romcom classics: The Philadelphia Story, Elf, Love Actually and When Harry Met Sally...

    TOPICS: With Love, Amazon Prime Video, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Christmas, Holiday Programming




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