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In Praise of "High Fidelity"

Before you read this, I have to confess something.

I'm not a big fan of the original High Fidelity.

In general, I'm not a huge fan of any movie about a straight guy being a screw-up and treating woman poorly, but like, it's cool, because he loves the Rolling Stones.

The fact that somehow this one particular work of pop culture has existed as a book, movie, and musical is kind of bewildering to me, but I do like Nick Hornby, even though he's the King of Manbabies Behaving Badly, so I was willing to check out the new television iteration of it on Hulu starring Zoë Kravitz.

And guess what?

It's fantastic.

Now, here's the thing.

It's not fantastic--right away.

I know you hear that all the time when someone recommends a television show to you, and normally, I resist watching anything that takes awhile to get going, but I promise that in this case, especially at this time, High Fidelity is the show worth investing in.

For one thing, ever since Sex and the City premiered, people have been trying to copy it and failing.  Girls failed to be a better version of Sex and the City for nearly its entire run.  Even Sex and the City sometimes failed at being Sex and the City, which is why I've always been too terrified to go back and do a rewatch.

But rejoice, because we now have the Sex and the City/Young/Dating/New-York-escapism-but-where-New-York-actually-looks-like-New-York we had given up wishing for, and it's the new High Fidelity.

I know, right?  2020.

Here's why it works and why it works so well--

Zoë Kravitz.

Let's get that one out of the way first.

Apparently, she was WASTED on Big Little Lies, because she is doing SO MUCH MORE on this show and doing it so well.  She's playing the female version of John Cusack (still named Rob), but instead of just doing a simple flip-switch, the creators of the show--Sarah Kucserka and Veronica West--have decided to make Rob bisexual, and that's just one of the really smart choices they make.

Another smart choice is not letting the show rest completely on Kravitz.  Da'Vine Joy Randolph turns in another star-making turn (her not getting an Oscar nomination for My Name is Dolemite was a sin) as the new version of the Jack Black character, and honestly, Jack Black who?  She is glorious in this role.  David H. Holmes as Rob's other employee and best friend Simon is so good he gets his own episode and normally I would hate devoting an entire episode to a secondary character only one season in, but it just shows how confident the showrunners are in what they have, and what they have is the ability to go far beyond the source material for this show and cover so much more ground.  Simon's episode is one of the best bits of television I've ever seen that deals with gay men and relationships.  You could watch it right now without watching any other part of the show, but trust me, watch the whole show.

Even Jake Lacy is good in this, and he's one of those actors I always feel like Hollywood is trying to shove down my throat.

Everyone is good and the writing is impeccable.  As I said, it does sputter a bit here and there, but once it gets to the--chef's kiss--Parker Posey episode, you know they have hit their stride, and from that point on, it's home-run after home-run leading to the season finale, which had me sitting there thanking the pop culture gods for this gift of a show.

It's just serious enough to make you feel satisfied unlike so much junk food tv that even I admit to watching too much of lately (tigers, so many tigers), and funny--and more importantly fun--enough to let you watch it even when you've had a bad day.  It's sexy and goofy and smart in all the right amounts, and we haven't even talked about Kingsley Ben-Adir as Mac, who should be a movie star as soon as we're all out of this quarantine.

Every actor you've liked in anything in the past year is on this show.

But it all works because of Zoë Kravitz.

Because yes, she is a screw-up as much as her male original was, but without giving you flashbacks or some other kind of pandering explanation for why she's a screw-up, the show actually dares to suggest that she that way?

And it doesn't ask you to forgive her.

But it does ask you to believe in her and her ability to do better...eventually.

And you do.

She should win all the awards for this role, and after she does, please give me ten more seasons of this show, because good television makes you want to grow old with the characters, and that's all I want to do with the employees of the last real record store on earth.

I can't wait to enjoy it unabashedly when there isn't so much else on my mind, but for now, it's the television equivalent of listening to a really good album.

By the time it's over, all you want to do is listen to it again.


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