‘I Love That For You’ Is the Best TV Show to Catch Up on This Summer

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Showtime
Showtime

Joanna Gold (Vanessa Bayer) always dreamed of being on TV: specifically, on the home shopping network SVN. After nailing an audition, she gets her dream job at the network, working alongside her idol, Jackie Stilton (Molly Shannon). After botching a segment on air, the ruthless company CEO Patricia Cochran (Jennifer Lewis) swiftly fires her. In a desperate plea to keep her job, Joanna reveals that she has cancer, which shifts her fortunes and turns her into one of the network’s leading stars. Only problem? Joanna doesn’t have cancer. Welcome to the fantastic world of Showtime’s I Love That For You.

With a myriad of new shows getting released each and every week, there’s never been so much great television, but it's also never been more challenging to actually watch it all. I Love That For You, created by Bayer and Jeremy Beiler, aired its terrific season finale a couple of weeks back, and hardly anybody has been talking about it.

That’s a great shame, because I Love That For You is one of the brightest and boldest shows of 2022. It’s an ingenious comedy that does something amazing, giving us not one, not two, but three of the best performances on TV this year. With the season wrapped and ready for your viewing pleasure and summer in full swing, there’s no better time to make the show top priority for your next tv binge-fest.

At the center of Joanna’s lie is a sliver of truth. She did have leukemia… when she was a child, and she hasn’t been sick for 20 years. Though lying about cancer is pretty high on the list of things universally considered despicable, Bayer still manages to make Joanna endearing. Bayer, an SNL veteran, exudes an undeniable keenness and passion for home shopping as Joanna that allows her to feel loveable as she gets further and further into her deception.

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Watching Joanna embroil herself further into a lie is like watching a cat-and-mouse chase, where Joanna is both the cat and mouse. Seeing her weaponize her lie is exciting, in a sense that is, obviously, morally complicated for viewers, and it’s such a creative way of adding serious dramatic stakes to a workplace comedy. The hammer is bound to fall eventually—and it does. Pulling off a climax as stressful and as harrowing as that for a character you’ve been rooting for over a horrible lie is complicated, to say the least. It makes it all the more impressive that, when it happens, I Love That For You pulls it off with impressive clarity, humor, and pathos.

Bayer’s trademark is awkward comedic stylings, but her performance is so incredibly controlled. In the pilot, just watch Joanna react to Jackie talking about her life. The way her eyes light up with genuine surprise and her mouth jitters with excitement tells you everything about how intensely she worships her idol. Bayer has total command over her physicality, while Joanna so often has no control over her own, constantly going a step too far, never knowing when to stop. It’s a fascinating dichotomy.

Of course, there is no Joanna without Jackie. Jackie Stilton has been on SVN for 30 years (one episode finds the crew celebrating her aptly named Jackiversary) and is the biggest star on the network with a legion of fans, her Jackalopes. She becomes a mentor to Joanna, and despite an initial hesitancy, she softens and the two become dear friends. They become an integral part of each other's lives, with only one looming threat: There’s nothing Jackie hates more on this earth than a liar.

Jackie is a bona fide star. Her television persona is that of an approachable woman who has it all, but behind the scenes she is beginning to crack.

Her long-term marriage is kaput, and she’s struggling with her position at work under her boss and longtime friend Patricia. Her internal crisis is perfectly exemplified by Shannon in a scene where Jackie is trying to order a McFlurry at McDonald’s, but she just wants the M&M’s without the ice cream. It feels like a full-circle moment for Shannon, who shows off some of the great physical comedy she delivered in her SNL days, but also manages to make Jackie’s intense frustrations and emotions in the heated moment hysterical. Nobody can make a breakdown feel both authentic and deeply funny like Molly Shannon.

While both Joanna and Jackie craft their television personas to feel down-to-earth and approachable, Patricia is anything but. She possesses a searing, relentless intensity that Lewis never allows to feel one-note. As the CEO of SVN, her employees are pretty terrified of her, but they also revere her.

Her fashion reflects her character beautifully: Patricia is always immaculately put together, with an entire wardrobe of divine outfits, sticking a middle finger up to corporate power suits. Watching her sit in her beautifully designed office, accented with a gorgeous glass bowl filled with Rolos is wondrous, and she feels exactly like the kind of person you love to loathe, but simultaneously long to be. If that wasn’t elite enough, after her sexcapades, her butler arrives to show them out with an extravagant gift basket. To put it simply, you could never.

It would be easy for Patricia to simply be a wealthy, powerful bitch, but that’s not something that I Love That For You is interested in. It’s a show fascinated by complicated, messy, and hilarious women, and that extends all the way up to SVN’s leader.

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In the season, Patricia has a cancer scare that forces her to reassess her priorities, which allows Lewis to do some wonderful dramatic acting. Thankfully, the revelation doesn’t cause a drastic character shift—some sort of crisis of conscience or pledge to lead a more wholesome life—a trap that a lesser show would fall for. Patricia is incredibly sure of who she is, and nothing will change that. But it does allow her to soften at the edges, if only a little. Lewis’ natural charisma and sharp wit make her a perfect match for the character, and she gets a monologue in the season finale that’s absolutely flawless, sparkling with power, ferocity, and surprising vulnerability, all in the name of pursuing the almighty dollar.

Television has an obsession with the idea of a strong female lead, which regularly comes to fruition as the “Girlboss,” a character who works to find success on their own terms. I Love That For You takes the idea of a gal who can have it all and makes it a great deal more complex, and more interesting.

Joanna, Jackie, and Patricia are so much more than a simple type: they’re messy people that cause problems, make errors, and process the effects of their actions. Just like in life, there are no easy answers or solutions for this trio. They’re some of the most startlingly realistic characters on television and are fleshed out with endless little details and three of the best performances I’ve ever seen. To top it all off, they’re extremely funny too!

If you’re missing a hilarious and unique show with some of the best performances television has to offer, look no further than I Love That For You.

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