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Recommended: Tell Me Lies on Hulu

You meets Normal People in a tour de force of coming-of-age storytelling.
  • Grace Van Patten and Jackson White in Tell Me Lies (Photo: Hulu)
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    Tell Me Lies | Hulu
    Hour-long drama (10 Episodes) | TV-MA

    What's Tell Me Lies About?

    When Lucy and Stephen meet at Baird College, they embark on a campus romance that quickly becomes an addictive, toxic spiral. Over the course of eight years, their relationship permanently alters their lives, as well as the lives of everyone around them.

    Who's involved?

    • Grace Van Patten (Nine Perfect Strangers) plays Lucy Albright, a college freshman eager to escape a difficult environment at home. Lucy is often described as "cold" by others, but she throws herself head-first into her relationship with Stephen.
    • Jackson White (Mrs. Fletcher) plays Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman who uses his charm to get whatever he wants. Stephen has a tumultuous relationship with his mother and, consciously or not, he brings that toxicity into his romantic relationships.
    • Catherine Missal plays Lucy’s best friend Bree, who's on scholarship at Baird.
    • Sonia Mena (The Deuce) plays Pippa, Lucy’s party-loving friend who learns a devastating secret that could tear the group apart.
    • Alicia Crowder (The Society) plays Diana, Stephen’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. Much to Lucy’s dismay, Diana is incredibly kind, devotes herself to charitable causes, and excels in academics.
    • Spencer House (Teenage Bounty Hunters) plays Wrigley, Stephen’s best friend and Baird football star. Wrigley is always down to party, but his academic struggles and a campus death leave him shaken.
    • Branden Cook plays Evan, a trust fund kid who finds Stephen’s romantic dealings both shameful and mildly entertaining.
    • Benjamin Wadsworth (Deadly Class) plays Drew, Wrigley’s younger brother. Drew is also a freshman at Baird, but he begins to separate himself from the group after tragedy strikes.
    • Actress Emma Roberts executive produces the series with her Belletrist Productions co-founder Karah Preiss. Meaghan Oppenheimer also serves as executive producer and showrunner.
    • Tell Me Lies author Carola Lovering is a consulting producer on the series.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    There are plenty of young adult dramas on the market, but few line up the pieces as well as Hulu’s adaptation of Carola Lovering’s novel, which puts a darker spin on the college romance. Though it’s positioned as a will they/won’t they love story, Lucy and Stephen’s relationship is hardly aspirational — rather than take the time to discover herself, Lucy forms her identity around Stephen, and her college experience becomes defined by their tumultuous affair. For his part, Stephen manipulates and gaslights Lucy, behavior he learned from his mother.

    Tell Me Lies never glorifies their toxic relationship — in fact, in the show's 2015 timeline, which serves as a framework for the college-aged flashbacks, Lucy’s friends are openly critical of “the whole Stephen rabbit hole” — but electric performances from Grace Van Patten and Jackson White render this push-and-pull entirely understandable. White has no problem sparking with other cast members, including Alicia Crowder, but together, he and Van Patten are magnetic, and their intoxicating chemistry will take viewers right back to their first (and in this case, worst) love.

    And then there are those sex scenes. Tell Me Lies features lengthy, graphic depictions of sex, but there’s no leering gaze or gratuitous nudity, à la Euphoria. Here, sex scenes offer new insight into the characters and provide a window into their vulnerabilities, particularly Lucy, who allows herself to be free with Stephen in a way she doesn’t with anyone else. As with real young adults, these moments of connection, good and bad, teach the students what they want and how they wish to be perceived by the world around them, factors that come into play as the story unfolds across eight years.

    Lucy and Stephen’s story forms the backbone of Tell Me Lies, but showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer takes care to ensure that the supporting players also get their due. Interwoven with the romantic drama is a campus tragedy that raises the stakes for these privileged, primarily white characters. This storyline gives Spencer House and Sonia Mena something to chew on, and it creates a tension that looms over both timelines, linking the college and post-grad stories beyond their messy central relationship.

    Pairs well with

    • You (Netflix), which dramatizes a similarly toxic relationship, albeit one with more murder.
    • Normal People, Hulu's steamy adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel about two young adults who fall in and out of love over many years. (Read our review.)
    • Neighbors (for rent/purchase on Amazon), Seth Rogen and Zac Efron's 2014 comedy that also understands the narrative value and all-around importance of a themed party.

  • Tell Me Lies
    Three episodes premiere on Hulu September 7, 2022. New episodes Wednesdays through October 26.
    Created by: Meaghan Oppenheimer. Based on the book by Carola Lovering.
    Starring: Grace Van Patten, Jackson White, Catherine Missal, Sonia Mena, Alicia Crowder, Spencer House, Branden Cook, and Benjamin Wadsworth.
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    TOPICS: Tell Me Lies, Hulu, Alicia Crowder, Benjamin Wadsworth, Branden Cook, Catherine Missal, Grace Van Patten, Jackson White, Meaghan Oppenheimer, Sonia Mena, Spencer House