“The Graduates” introduces a light, breezy new show that is perfect pandemic viewing thanks to its easy tone and considerable chemistry.
This recap of Bridge and Tunnel season 1, episode 1, “The Graduates”, contains spoilers.
Edward Burns’s Bridge and Tunnel, now streaming on Epix, is pretty much a perfect show for a global pandemic. For one thing, it’s set in the Long Island and Manhattan of 1980, decades before the need for face coverings and social distancing, so we don’t have to endure awkward reminders of the world outside our windows. Following six college graduates – the premiere is fittingly titled “The Graduates” – it’s a light, funny, sometimes sexy, usually silly little knockabout thing that is perfectly enjoyable for what it is.
Bridge and Tunnel episode 1, then, is mostly about introducing the core cast, primarily Jimmy (Sam Vartholomeos) and Jill (Caitlin Stasey), who have sort of rekindled an ill-advised previous relationship that fizzled out when they both realized that their lives were heading in different directions. Jimmy is planning on being a National Geographic photographer in far-flung Alaska, and Jill is adamant that once he leaves there will be nothing between them. The problem is they’re still in love and Jimmy is willing to put that before everything, which everyone from his friends to his parents is understandably worried about.
Speaking of friends, both Jimmy and Jill have two best buds: Stacey (Isabella Farrell) and Tammy (Gigi Zumbado) round out the girls, while Mikey (Jan Luis Castellanos) and Pags (Brian Muller) make up the boys. There’s some obligatory complication and sexual tension here, especially once the group all get together. Mikey and Stacey had an old fling that they immediately resume, despite Stacey being in an ostensibly serious relationship, and Pags has his eyes on Tammy, despite the fact she has a crush on Mikey, which Stacey isn’t happy about. Let’s just say it’s complicated.
There’s an inevitability to “The Graduates” that comes from the way these characters insist on saying things that we all know they’re going to do the opposite of. Jimmy and Jill exemplify this best – since we meet them while they’re having sex, we never for a moment buy into the idea that they’ll hold off on complicating their relationship for both of their sakes. This is obviously intentional, and it adds a tinge of brewing disaster to an otherwise light experience.
That lightness is the key, really. Bridge and Tunnel isn’t stylistically ambitious or trying to be risqué or challenging like, say, Euphoria. It coasts on considerable chemistry and the relatable setup of six old friends getting back together, with the inevitability of their drifting apart again due to circumstances working to build some dramatic stakes. But one of the biggest questions is, for instance, whether Pags got into law school or not. It’s hardly the end of the world.
As I said at the top, for easy pandemic viewing this is perfect. It’s a grounded little show with a welcome throwback ‘80s aesthetic – and the accents! – and an obvious fondness for simple, relatable pleasures, particularly the ones you used to enjoy and grew out of. Far from being a lamentation about getting older, it’s a wistful reminder of how fun it was to be young, and how much you learned while you were. It’s hard to take issue with that.