Episode 1: GottaHaveIt -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2: Faux Florals -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3: #JoannaStong -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4: Impeccable She Casuals -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5: Daddy’s Lil’ Cookies -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6: Crystal Buddiez -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7: Point Of No Returns -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8: Shop Cancer’s Ass -| Review Score – 3.5/5
I Love That For You charts the career journey of cancer survivor Joanna Gold (Vanessa Bayer) who manages to get her dream job as a host with the fictional home shopping channel SVN. Unfortunately, her means of getting the job are less than honest. After messing up her audition and interview, she plays the sympathy card and announces to her interviewers that her childhood cancer has returned. It hasn’t – this is an outright lie (and a morally dubious one) – but her ruse works and she is given the opportunity that she has always wanted.
As Joanna has been an avid viewer of the shopping channel since she was a child, she is more than able to carry out her new position. Her first few days on the job aren’t particularly easy, however, as she constantly makes a fool of herself because of her nerves and eagerness to please, and some of her co-workers are less than welcoming. Still, Joanna isn’t about to be knocked off her new perch by her insecurities and hostile colleagues (especially the vain and two-faced Beth Ann), and she quickly dazzles viewers with her special brand of charm.
Joanna is fortunate to have Jackie Stilton (Molly Shannon) on her side, the veteran shopping channel host who inspired Joanna to seek out a career with SVN in the first place. Jackie acts as a mentor to the potential home shopping star when she first arrives at the studio, although we later learn that, despite Jackie’s high position and celebrity status, her life is just as messy and complicated as that of the optimistic young woman who she takes under her wing.
On the surface, this new comedy series (airing on Paramount+ in the UK and Showtime in the US) isn’t particularly appealing. A TV show centred around a home shopping network doesn’t scream out ‘comedy gold,’ and neither does the rather uncomfortable premise of a young woman lying about a cancer diagnosis to get the job she always dreamed of. The show has the potential to become more challenging for viewers when Patricia (Jennifer Lewis), Joanna’s boss, asks her to use her cancer story on air to pull viewers’ heartstrings and drive sales to the network.
But while the show might appear to be a tough sell to audiences (a little like the products that are demonstrated by the channel hosts), it’s actually far funnier and far more heartfelt than I imagined it would be. This is largely thanks to the talents of SNL standout Bayer, the star and co-creator of this show, as she delivers an achingly funny and emotionally real performance as Joanna, the woman who is far more decent than her deception would suggest.
As the endearingly awkward shopping channel newbie, Beyer cements her status as a top-notch comedienne, as adept at physical comedy as she is at delivering lines that are embarrassingly amusing and cringe-worthy. You may remember her as Officer Debbie Fogle on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Mia in Single Parents, but they were only guest characters, whereas here she is deservedly given the starring role. I hope she gets to take centre stage more often as she is never less-than-funny thanks to her hilariously expressive face and goofy persona.
The character of Joanna is likeable and sympathetic and easy to root for, despite the ugliness of the central lie. Even when Joanna’s ruse is discovered in the later episodes of this first season, we want her to win and keep her job as she is far nicer than the majority of her colleagues, especially Beth Ann (Ayden Mayeri) and Darcy Leeds (Matt Rogers) who are the equivalent of the bitchy colleagues you probably have in your workplace.
While Beyer is arguably the biggest star of the show, the whole cast must be credited for their performances as not one of them puts a foot wrong. Molly Shannon is reliably brilliant as always as the veteran host with a serious hoarding problem, and so too is Jennifer Lewis as Joanna’s badass boss who might be hard as nails on the outside but who is very vulnerable within, as we realize when she is forced to face up to a cancer diagnosis of her own.
The show is ostensibly about Joanna’s burgeoning career as a presenter but it also acts as a satire on corporate greed and shopping channel consumerism. It’s not hard to imagine the real-life channels that SVN is based on using similar tactics to win the hearts and wallets of their many viewers. If you have ever called into one of these networks to buy something you probably didn’t really need, you will have an understanding of the marketing power that exists behind the faces of the ever-smiling TV presenters.
I Love That For You is loosely based on Vanessa Bayer’s life. She survived leukaemia as a child and was an avid viewer of QVC. It’s thanks to her experiences that the show feels authentic, both in the character of Joanna who doesn’t want to be defined by her illness but who falls into the trap of using it for her own needs anyway, and in the portrayal of the shopping channel which has the look and feel of QVC, Ideal Home, and the many other channels that viewers regularly tune into.
At the time of writing, there is no news of a second season but if ever a show needed one, it’s this. More time with the comedic talents of Bayer and Shannon (and the rest of the accomplished cast) would not be time wasted, as I Love That For You is one of the funniest American shows I have seen for a very long time. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger too, with Joanna, Molly, and Patricia all facing up to their futures outside of SVN, so it would be a massive shame if we weren’t given the opportunity to follow their journeys outside of Season 1.
If you haven’t caught up with this show yet, now is the time to do so. It raises a lot of laughs, despite the awkward premise, and is the perfect antidote to the glut of other TV shows (especially real-life shopping programmes) that do little to inspire or make us think about the complexities of our own lives and motivations.
Verdict - 7.5/10