2018’s Love, Simon was a fairly cute romantic comedy with the twist being that Simon (Nick Robinson) didn’t lust after women but men, and someone was threatening to out him. Directed by Greg Berlanti of trying to write at least 500 superhero CW shows by the time he’s fifty, he’s only got two years to go but given his work rate I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed this, and as rom-coms go it was pretty fun stuff, hitting the notes you’d expect it to but doing it in a mostly smart, mostly realistic manner.
Now they’ve spun the idea out in to a ten part tv series, with Berlanti absent and the movie’s writers Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger onboard as showrunners. It features new student Victor (Michael Cimino) joining the school and struggling with his sexuality too, but he has a big moan right at the beginning of the episode, messaging Simon to say “Screw you for having the world’s most perfect accepting parents, the world’s most supportive friends, for some us it’s not that easy” which seems a bit rude given that he’s only heard Simon’s story and doesn’t actually know anything about him.
Cut back to twenty four hours earlier and we get Victor’s back story as it turns out his family have left Texas due to his Dad’s new job, Victor’s sister is pissed off because it meant leaving her boyfriend behind, and his parents are argumentative sorts. In a rather clumsy fashion his neighbour Felix (Anthony Turpel) insists on being Victor’s new best friend, and then at school he meets a newly promoted Ms Albright (Natasha Rothwell) who explains Tony Hale’s absence as being due to the fact that he’s in quarantine after being mauled by a monkey, and as with the film she’s one of the only characters with a playful sense of humour.
Soon the rest of the main leads are introduced including Lake (Bebe Wood) and Mia (Rachel Hilson) who quickly become friendly with Victor, who chastises himself when he fails to take the chance to be honest and come out to them as gay and mildly flirts instead. Then we get to meet the series’ romantic lust object, an obviously gay guy called Benji (George Sear) who talks about shoes a lot, but hey, despite that we’re still supposed to think he’s fascinating and all kinds of wonderful just because he’s handsome.
Though this initially seems something of an idyllic high school life for Victor with everyone wanting to be his pal the moment they meet him, he soon witnesses some mild homophobic banter in the locker room, and one character, Andrew (Mason Gooding), doesn’t automatically like Victor, mainly because he’s better at basketball than him. There’s a brief bit of tension between them too which will presumably be developed further as the series goes on, and that also applies to the rather shitty “Creek Secrets” website which is still a thing despite being often horribly toxic.
Then we’re back at the beginning of the episode as twenty four hours have apparently passed, with more of Victor’s bitter message about how lucky Simon is (though how he got his phone number is never explained), and after Victor heads off to the Winter Carnival (ie the same bland fun fair that featured at the end of the movie), Simon replies to Victor’s message, with Nick Robinson reprising the role in voice only form, and Simon says lots of nice things as he’s a decent sort who doesn’t just reply “Who the fuck is this?” like 99% of humanity would.
Right at the end Victor stroppily says that “My story is nothing like yours” as the series wants to make it clear that this isn’t going to be a retread of the film spread over ten episodes, and maybe that will be the case but there’s nothing here that suggests it’s actually going to be a better tale. Victor certainly isn’t as funny or as interesting as Simon was in the film, and the characters seem fairly bland too, it was pleasing to see Ms Albright again but there’s no one as embarrassingly naff as Tony Hale’s Vice President, while it seems that Victor’s parents are going to be annoying rather than endearing.
Hopefully his only briefly seen new friends will supply some element of humour, Felix at least has potential and maybe Mia and Lake will brighten up proceedings too. But this opening episode certainly seems to be doubling down on the traditional elements of teen coming of age stories, it’s of course great that a mainstream rom-com (albeit one on a cable channel) is telling a story about a gay teen, but I just wish it was as fun as the film was. As it’s the pilot and it has a lot to do with introducing the new characters I’ll be charitable and suggest that it will become more amusing and more original over time, but if that doesn’t happen within the next episode or two I doubt it’ll be worth a series worth sticking with.