Trauma with your comedy

Ramon Bayer-Boatwright, played by Daniel Zovatto, rides a bike down Portland streets in “Here and Now.”

Have you seen the new HBO series, “Here and Now”? Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter play the Mom and Dad of a multiracial family living in the Trump Era. The show is set in Portland, which makes it extra interesting. Writing about the show in The New Yorker, television critic Emily Nussbaum wrote, “The homes are rich-hippie real-estate porn,” and noted that the sexual chemistry between two of the characters is worth the price of admission. She also said, “But depth requires digging. ‘Here and Now’ clearly wants to be part of the Resistance. So far, it’s more the sort of thing that makes people mutter, ‘This is why he won.’”

Politics aside, Alan Ball, the showrunner, creator of “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” is known for his trauma-comedy style of storytelling. There’s more trauma than comedy here as the characters struggle with what it means to feel alive and not become alien vampires. Other reviewers have commented how unlikeable the characters are, but that’s like saying you can’t the sight of yourself in the mirror.

“Here and Now” is at heart a family drama. The family is complicated. Three of the children, now adults, were adopted from countries hurt by U.S. policies. Ashley, who works in fashion, was born in Liberia; she’s married to a white Republican and they have a bi-racial kid. Duc, a “motivational architect” is a currently celibate sex addict. Duc was born to a prostitute mother in Vietnam. His brain is riddled with images of his mother working on her back. Ramon, a video designer, is an orphan from the Columbian drug wars. Tim Robbins’ character is a moody, broody philosopher; Holly Hunter is a former therapist who now runs a nonprofit. The couple also have one child born of their combined loins, Kristin, a precocious and snarky teenager whose best friend is a gender-fluid Muslim boy whose dad just happens to be Ramon’s therapist.

Tim Robbins’ character is burdened. He hasn’t published anything meaningful in years, his professional stature at the college where he

teaches is much diminished. While he obviously cares about his wife, nonetheless he’s been dipping into their joint checking account to

finance his relationship with a hooker. Holly Hunter’s character is in full-blown career crises, not to mention she’s about to fall into bed with a guy she knew decades ago when they were both students atBerkeley. My favorite character is Ramon’s psychiatrist, played by the excellent Peter Macdissi, a Lebanese actor who is the real life partner of Alan Ball. Portraying the most messed-up shrink ever, he’s accused by his wife of being a pothead.

Call me shallow, but the detail I’m most obsessed with is Holly Hunter’s au natural face. I snooped around on-line to find before and after pictures of her with fillers and Botox; she appears to have quit both when she signed on to do “Here and Now.” Her upper lip and chin area are positively wrinkled. I love the way she’s chosen to play a desirable, educated, beautifully dressed, sophisticated woman of a certain age in Portland. Her beat-up face on this show is not a face you’re likely to see on an affluent 60-year-old woman in New York or Los Angeles. That’s thrilling.

Equally thrilling are the show’s locations. The gorgeous house Holly and Tim live is in Laurelhurst. “I’ve been in that house,” one of my Gearhart friends bragged. You see the Burnside Bridge and the Pearl and gentrified stretches of North Mississippi. You see homeless encampments. The only off note about the show and its Portland location is that it’s never raining.

What’s up with that?


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