You think the picture up above is vulgar? It is. Is it just a coincidence? No, it’s not. Is it me saying Love is a Four-Letter Word is vulgar? Sort of. On the page, it’s not. But I fear it might become once it is shot and promoted. When I looked for pictures of the cast, all I could find for the women but also for the leading man (Rockmund Dunbar) was shirtless or almost naked ones. One thing for sure: it’s gonna be hot! But hot doesn’t mean good. Can they act? Another worrying thing: two of the leading women come from… The Real Husbands of Hollywood. No, it’s not a spin-off from the reality TV series The Real Housewives of… It is a parody of it, but with men and targeted at a black audience, for the network BET. Maybe it’s just me being contemptuous but I think it sends the wrong message. If you want to create a classy and profound show, you don’t hire middling actors you will have a hard time taking seriously. Look at Empire! I wouldn’t say it’s classy and profound, but it is… something. But they have Taraji P. Henson & Terrence Howard as leads! And they definitely can act. It makes the whole difference!
Love is a Four-Letter Word may be this kind of project that a network put so much effort to polish that it doesn’t end up the way it was supposed to, in the creator’s mind at least. For example, the lead couple was originally conceived as caucasian. Now they are black. It’s all okay, but it feels opportunistic. It was officially announced like this: “Race, sexuality and gender roles collide when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test“. But in fact what they meant was: “Brown hot married couples are about to cheat!“. It’s a modern soap that forgot to be funny -or only at its expense- but didn’t forget to be steamy. We are about to feel guilty liking it. I won’t insist on the sex scenes any longer but there are plenty, with black men & women, interracial stuff too and icing on the cake: girl on girl action! They have all sort of modern problems of course. One couple -Mr is a white man, Mrs is a black woman- is about to have another child and they need a sperm donor but they can’t agree on the color. The donor’s color I mean, not the sperm’s color. It’s an interesting question I guess. About cultural transmission, feeling part of a community. One that has already been dealt with in Parenthood indeed. NBC, you remember Parenthood? Other subjects are: penis sizes and… well, I think I only remember this one. But there are others.
In a way, Love is a Four-Letter Word feels like this type of shows we don’t have anymore on TV and which I am fond of when they’re sharply written: the relationship/marriage/family dramedies. It goes from Thirtysomething, the first one, to Significant Others, Once & Again, What About Brian… It’s a little bit this and a little bit of The Game, Single Ladies… It’s all about chemistry and appealing characters. They have a nice base. We’ll see how it turns out. We can expect chemistry from Cynthia McWilliams & Rockmund Dunbar: they already played a couple in Prison Break a few years ago. The classy thing is every act starts with one the character giving a quick speech in front of a camera in a homemade video. It’s never very deep but it does the trick and gives you an idea of what’s about to come. I haven’t talked about the title of the show yet but it’s the giant elephant in the room: It is SO ridiculous! Is it gonna change? I don’t think so. If I understand correctly, every episode title will start like: “True love is…” and this something will constist of a 4 letter-word. Like “beast” in the pilot. Except it’s a 5 letter-word. Well then, I don’t get the title. Good luck writers if the show last for more than one season! Love is many things but…
Love is a Four-Letter Word may be the closest thing to Empire any network has to offer as of now. It is very different in many ways but NBC certainly has something to play with here. But they should not expect the same ratings. I feel like they will have to make a choice between this and The Curse of The Fuentes Women, though they would have made a great pair!