TV review: ‘Full Circle’ on DirecTV is hard to digest
Film director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends & Neighbors”) brings his furiously dour worldview to television Wednesday with “Full Circle,” a new series on DirecTV in the hopes its unusual construct will distract viewers from its tiresome men behaving badly themes.
Each of the 10 half-hour episodes features two characters interacting over dinner in the same sleek and modern restaurant. As in Arthur Schnitzler’s play “La Ronde,” each character appears in two consecutive episodes, so “Tim and Bridgette” is followed by “Bridgette and Stanley,” which, in turn, is followed by “Stanley and Jace,” and so on.
But where “La Ronde” used the interlocking device to explore the different permutations of sexual love and how it crisscrossed social borders, “Full Circle” seems more intent on showcasing male anger and self-entitled posturing. Or so it seems from the five episodes made available for review, two of which are available to DirecTV customers online already.
In the first, Minka Kelly’s Bridgette is saying goodbye to her young lover Tim (Tom Felton), a British student who has been staying with her family, which consists of husband Stanley and his two young daughters for whom Bridgette used to nanny. Tim wants her to leave with him, for reasons that seem more about his anger against Stanley than his love for her; there are several brutal revelations, much snapping at the waiter and a lot of unnecessary table slamming.
In Episode 2, Bridgette attempts to break up with her husband (Julian McMahon), who enters an hour late complaining about not getting his usual table. Stanley is a smartphone-addicted, waitress-groping, physically and emotionally abusive jerk, the kind of guy who imperiously snaps his fingers when he wants the check. (There is a lot of male finger-snapping and server abuse in “Full Circle.”)
By turns apoplectic and menacing, Stanley is less in need of dessert (each episode is broken into appetizer, main course and dessert) than he is of having a restraining order taken out against him; a half-hour in his presence is more than enough.
Yet he is a model of restraint compared to his next dinner partner, Jace (David Boreanaz). A profane and wildly homophobic comic, Jace has apparently made some public comments that led to the beating of a young gay man; Stanley is there to help him do damage control. This time, it’s Stanley who flinches as Jace voices his many offensive opinions, about gays, about women, about the restaurant staff and Stanley.
Buried in the profanity and general misogyny may lurk a morality tale about tolerance — in the next episode Jace meets the sister of the young man in question — but honestly, who cares?
The turn and turn again structure is definitely appealing, albeit a bit self-conscious. The cast is terrific and LaBute knows his way around dialogue, favoring the quick quip and jackhammer cadence made famous by David Mamet.
But watching guys hand-feed their inner cavemen from the table — another episode involves a man going nine rounds with the piano player while (mendaciously) assuring his wife he isn’t cheating — is not nearly as much fun as LaBute seems to think it is. The women are left to either call the men out, shift nervously in their seats or burst into tears.
With no one to root for and no real story to follow, there’s also no compelling reason, beyond the sheer trick of the thing, to follow this full circle even halfway.
Where: DirecTV 101
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
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