Your mileage will vary, but if you’re into bizarre comedy that descends into outright horror, Sally4Ever does that better than any show in recent memory.
I should be up front here and say that I’m probably not the target demographic for a show in which a bald man noisily masturbates in the mirror while howling like a wounded animal. Then again, is anyone? I suppose they must be, and Sally4Ever, HBO’s new cringe comedy, seems designed to cater to that bizarre demographic better than perhaps any show in recent memory.
The brainchild of creator, writer, and star Julia Davis, who also created the British version of HBO’s other on-going comedy show Camping, which I despise, Sally4Ever is just as much about horrible people doing increasingly abhorrent things. The advantage it has is in not possessing any of that sickening self-pity that suggests you’re supposed to feel sorry for its cast; except, of course, its titular protagonist, Sally (Catherine Shepherd), a long-suffering marketing executive married to a man who is quite clearly demented.
The conceit of the series, churned through rapidly in the premiere, is that Sally breaks off her long-term relationship with her fiancé, David (Alex Macqueen), and strikes up an exciting new love affair with Emma (Davis). This is a bit like hopping out of the frying pan and into a slightly more exciting but nonetheless still too-hot fire. David might be a borderline-psychopathic sexual deviant, but Emma is just as much a needy, emotional parasite, and neither of the two characters seems to be positive influences on Sally, who is the closest thing the show has to an ordinary human being.
And even then that’s pushing it. And that’s really the selling point of Sally4Ever; while it begins as quite a legitimately funny examination of unhappiness and the pursuit of fulfilment, it very quickly morphs into a showcase of utter mania, culminating in a bizarre and explicit sex scene that’s juxtaposed with scenes of David furiously applying lotion to his head, flossing his teeth, and vigorously setting about his bollocks with a hair dryer. And I promise I’m not making any of that up.
The phrase “not for everyone” has never been as appropriate as it is in regards to Sally4Ever. The show almost completely defies explanation and classification; it’s as much a comedy as it is an outright horror, and its brazen commitment to weirdness at the expense of everything else will be as annoying for some people as it will oddly satisfying and invigorating for others. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I always admire a show’s refusal to give a s**t, but at the same time I could have lived my entire life without seeing Alex Macqueen simulate masturbation. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.