I know all about a threesome: Me, my cat Rita and a nice bottle of dry sherry. I sing old Perry Como tunes (”Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket/Never let it fade away”), Rita purrs and everything is grand. Turns out other people have different ideas. They call it polyamorous romance.
Trigonometry (streams from Friday on CBC gem) is all about this polyamorous thing. Lest you think this new BBC drama is lurid, rest assured it isn’t. It moves at a glacial pace while painting a rich picture of three thirtysomethings living together in contemporary London. It ain’t no swinger’s delight or exposé, this series.
Created by playwright Duncan Macmillan and TV writer/actor Effie Woods, the series is, if anything, overly cautious about creating the core amorousness in the dynamic. It takes a while before the true nature of the three-people romance is fully established. It begins with Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira) and Kieran (Gary Carr), a couple who are hot for each other but having a tricky time. Kieran is a paramedic and usually working at night. Gemma is a bit lonely for him and stressed about a café she’s opening on the street where they live. Financially stretched, they decide to take in a lodger.
Along comes Ray (Ariane Labed), a French woman with English parents, at the age of 30, whom the viewer already knows is a synchronized swimmer who has suffered a career-ending injury. Ray is in a state of flux, angry now that she devoted her life to the swimming pool and the sport instead of living a full life. As she moves out of her parents’ home, her dad reminds her, “You’re an Olympian, you met the Queen.” But she doesn’t care. She’s a bit naive about life and wants new experiences fast.
When Gemma and Kieran bring her into their home, there’s a very slow-burning sense that both people in the couple are galvanized by Ray, for different reasons. When she accompanies them to a night out at a club, the locals ask her bluntly if she’s in a threesome with her landlords, because there’s just something about the way they look at her. She isn’t, yet.
The series (it’s also on HBO Max in the United States) is interesting and nuanced but not immediately thrilling. At first it seems that Ray is by far the most compelling character. She actually has an inner life, plus surface charm. Gemma and Kieran seem less substantial, always in a twitchy state of bickering vaguely and lusting after each other. Eventually, Ray is the cement that binds them, but more in an emotional than lustful sense. It’s all sweetly done and fascinating in the way it handles contemporary hipster urban life. What happens is less about carnality than it is about a couple who catch a falling star, put it in their pocket and find the joy of having a pocketful of starlight. Recommended but with reservations.
Also airing this weekend
Cottagers and Indians (Saturday, CBC, 8 p.m. on CBC Docs POV) is a fine and provocative look, by playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor, at an explosive issue causing conflict between people of Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario and local cottage-country residents. Hayden Taylor’s pal James Whetung and others have been cultivating wild rice on the Trent-Severn Waterway. The wild rice grows and grows and spreads, and the cottage owners can’t use their boats where it grows. It’s a bitter us-versus-them battle. Whetung is unapologetic, says he feeds Indigenous grandmothers, has water scientists who support him and has tourists come and gain knowledge of Indigenous culture by helping harvest and prepare the wild rice. The other side say he’s planting farms in public water and ruining their enjoyment of homes they’ve saved to buy or build themselves.
The documentary, done in an easygoing, chatty style, goes to the heart of a cultural conflict. There are scenes at public meetings that turn ugly. One woman in favour of planting the wild rice uses the term “white supremacy” to describe the other side in the debate. This is unacceptable to those who are trying to bring reason to the situation. Hayden then starts on a cross-Canada tour to illuminate various water-related conflicts. It’s one illuminating documentary that handily explains the causes of deep anger and resentment.
And She Could Be Next (Sunday, PBS, 10 p.m. on POV) could be called a sort-of sequel to Netflix’s Knock Down the House, which followed four women who were challenging incumbent Democrats in the primaries ahead of the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. In two parts (continuing next week) it was filmed between 2018 and 2019 and chronicles a group of women of colour as they run for office on the local, state and national level. They range from the young and fiercely ambitious, such as Bushra Amiwala, an undergraduate student attempting to become a Cook County (Illinois) commissioner, to the more familiar Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of Georgia and is reportedly on the short list to be Joe Biden’s running mate. There are good, powerful stories here and it’s all a welcome change, and far more educational than all the punditry on all-news cable channels.
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