‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is touch­ing, but shal­low

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY BILL GOODYKOONT­Z

With apolo­gies to Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez — so many apolo­gies — a show called “Love in the Time of Corona” seemed in­evitable.

Too soon?

Judg­ing by the ev­i­dence of the four-episode lim­ited dra­maseries (air­ing Satur­day and Sun­day on Freeform, then on Hulu), the an­swer is yes.

Per­haps the most in­trigu­ing thing about it is how it was shot — with re­mote cam­eras, in the homes of the ac­tors. The scripted se­ries, which stars real-life cou­ples like Les­lie Odom Jr. (“Hamil­ton”) and Ni­co­lette Robin­son quar­an­tin­ing to­gether, man­ages to shoe­horn in al­most ev­ery facet of how the COVID-19 pan­demic has af­fected our lives, in glossy soap-opera fash­ion.

But it only touches on them. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep, as they say, too of­ten laps­ing into cliche or giv­ing the feel­ing it’s check­ing off boxes in­spired by the lat­est head­lines (Job loss! Bad dis­tanc­ing de­ci­sions! Drive-by cel­e­bra­tions!) to be as ef­fec­tive as it could be.

The se­ries looks at the lives of four groups of peo­ple, each af­fected in their own way by the pan­demic. Os­car (Tommy Dorf­man) is a gay man liv­ing with his best friend Elle (Rainey Qual­ley), a straight woman; Dorf­man is mar­ried in real life but he and Qual­ley are friends and have been quar­an­tin­ing to­gether.

James (Odom) and Sade (Robin­son), fi­nally to­gether af­ter work-in­duced time apart, won­der whether hav­ing an­other baby would be a wise de­ci­sion dur­ing the pan­demic; so­cial-jus­tice con­cerns also come up dur­ing the some­times con­tentious dis­cus­sions.

Paul (Gil Bel­lows) and Sarah (Rya Kihlst­edt) are quar­an­tin­ing with their daugh­ter So­phie (Ava Bel­lows), home from col­lege. So­phie leans on them for emo­tional sup­port, but all is not as smooth as it seems be­low the sur­face. (They’re also a real-life fam­ily.)

Fi­nally, Nanda (L. Scott Cald­well) — James’ mother — is shel­ter­ing at home alone, while her hus­band (Char­lie Robin­son) is in a nurs­ing home. They have vir­tual din­ners ev­ery night, but he’s begin­ning to lose touch with what’s go­ing on around him.

Cald­well is out­stand­ing, the best thing about the se­ries. She cap­tures the heart­break of bad news pil­ing onto bad news in the mid­dle of bad news, and the dif­fi­culty of main­tain­ing some sense of nor­malcy in her life and that of her fam­ily. It’s hard work and it shows — Cald­well lets it show.

When James learns of the death of Ah­maud Ar­bery, a Black man chased, shot and killed by white men in Ge­or­gia, it in­forms his de­sire to have an­other child. (And let’s face it, Odom is just a mag­netic ac­tor.) And with­out giv­ing any­thing away, the last scene is so sweet (al­though it doesn’t tie things to­gether as well as it might) that much is for­given.

But there aren’t enough mo­ments like that in the four episodes. “Pleas­ant enough” is about the most you can say for the show. And that’s not really enough. Our own COVID-touched lives tog­gle be­tween bore­dom and high drama in the midst of all this. If a movie or a TV show is go­ing to de­pict life in the pan­demic, it’s go­ing to have to be more in­ter­est­ing than ours. Too of­ten, “Love in the Time of Corona” just isn’t.

Ni­co­lette Robin­son and Les­lie Odom Jr., a real-life cou­ple quar­an­tin­ing to­gether, play the same on “Love in the Time of Corona.” FREEFORM

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