TV review: On The Verge might be great

Ell, Anne, Yasmin and Justine in On The Verge
Billy Foley

On The Verge, Netflix

On The Verge could be classic television or just another highly ambitious drama which missed the mark.

Two episodes in and I can't quiet decide.

It sets up as a group of four friends reaching their mid-forties and assessing the lives.

Justine (played by Julie Delpy who also wrote the series and directed the first episode) is a French immigrant who runs a successful restaurant and is writing a philosophical book about cooking, but is dominated by her husband. She acquiesces to his whims on bringing their only son up speaking French, not allowing him sweets and doing all the school runs.

Yasmin is a political analyst who is trying to get back into the workforce after taking time off to bring up her son, lacks confidence and questions the purpose of her life and whether her husband loves her.

Ell, who has three children from different partners, is working as a special-needs teacher “because no one else will give me a job,” has no money and is without a secure relationship.

Thus far, we know the least about Anne (Elizabeth Shue), except that she designs children's clothes, takes drugs with her partner/husband and doesn't mind telling an embarrassing story at dinner. We also seem to be building up to a row about her son wearing some of the girls' clothes Anne has created.

On The Verge is clearly inspired by Woody Allen (particularly Delph's own character) which is a good thing only if the writing is up to it.

To be fair, there are some very good lines.

There's concern and confusion among the friends after Ell has a sexual encounter with an old friend who gives her a blank cheque afterwards.

Justine, who works with Jerry, thinks it's outrageous that he would pay for sex although the viewer is aware that Jerry gets caught unawares and always intended to give Ell some money to help her out.

Ell is less perturbed and asks her friends at dinner: “It's blank cheque, how much in your opinion is the proper amount?”

At bit later, it looks like she's going to be fired after she gets caught trying to sell “tie-dyed t-shirts made by disabled kids” on the streets of Los Angeles.

When Justine's husband invites his oldest friend over for dinner it sets up as a classic Allen farce.

At the last minute he warns Justine, who has planned an Italian meal, that George's wife had an affair with an Italian man and the sight of that country's food leaves him nauseous.

As ever accepting of her husband's supercilious demands, Justine decides to convert her Italian meal to a French Corsican extravaganza.

Unfortunately, the rest of the friends and their partners arrive with Italian wine, music and phrases as Justine desperately tries to cover up the obvious and her husband fumes.

Inevitably, super sensitive George decides that the night is an effort to embarrass him and storms out, but not before a major row with his wife.

Lots of these scenes, including the explosive row, are in French which is a brave move for a drama series aimed at a mass audience.

So, we have four women On The Verge, interesting writing, promising characters and a Woody Allen inspired style.

It should be a good fit, but thus far it's not quite working.

Then again, look back at some of the early episodes of our favourite comedy shows and it's clear they needed some time to mature.

Decide for yourselves. Twelve episodes of On The Verge are available now and it's worth a look.

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