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'Sally4Ever' Reminds Us That Life is Complicated – And Funny
November 11, 2018  | By David Hinckley
There are passages in HBO’s new comedy Sally4Ever where you wish you could text someone in the production office to be assured it’s okay to laugh.

Sally4Ever, which premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET, joins a crowded field of new shows in which the lines between drama and comedy have been largely obliterated.  

Let’s hasten to say there’s plenty that’s funny in Sally4Ever. The humor is just wrapped inside a story whose premise is serious and at times downright sad.

The humor starts with David (Alex Macqueen, right), the middle-aged fellow Sally (Catherine Shepherd, top) has been dating for ten years.

It’s clear Sally finds him excruciatingly dull. It’s less clear why it took her a decade to own that realization.

We viewers are treated to a lovely string of vignettes, way too familiar to Sally, that make it clear how thoroughly David has embraced his inner dull.

We see him setting up in the living room to give himself an elaborate foot massage, complete with blow dryer. We see him flossing. We see him doing needlepoint. You know that when we’re not looking, he sorts out his socks drawer.

He sings in an acapella quartet, which could be kind of cool if the songs weren’t straight out of a sixth-grade school pageant.

David is earnest and faithful and reliable. And while he sleeps with an anti-snoring mask that looks like something from Game of Thrones, he’s funny primarily because in many ways he’s theoretically normal. More than a few nervous male viewers may look at David and think “OMG, am I him?” because they also floss.

Fortunately, their concern is probably unfounded. David elevates dull to an art form, which makes it doubly ominous when Sally finally agrees to get engaged just because it’s the only way to stop his very sad whining and whimpering.

No one except David thinks they will really get married, though, because even though Catherine genuinely likes him, she would jump into the bathtub with his electric blow dryer before she’d spend the rest of her life with him.

Enter Emma, played by Julia Davis (left, with Shepherd), who also wrote and directed Sally4Ever.

Emma catches Sally’s eye by random chance on the London underground, and maybe-by-chance invites her to a wild late-night party. Sally, whose professional life is also filled with dull people doing mundane tasks at a marketing agency, slips out and attends.

A life-changing experience ensues, fueled by a considerable amount of alcohol. The next morning Sally feels a twinge of buyer’s remorse, but not enough to keep her from seeing Emma again.

It’s important to note that while we have a pretty good fix on Sally’s life by now, Emma remains a ghost. We know neither her origin nor her destination. All we know is that she will figure heavily in Sally’s immediate future, and while there are multiple potential bad endings here, they all must be weighed against the certainty of how it would end if Sally married David.

There is, you may have realized by now, a familiar poignant story in progress here. We’re looking at two middle-aged people concerned that life may pass them by, or may have already started to pass them by. They feel increasing pressure to avert this troubling fate, even as their options seem to be narrowing and those available seem imperfect. What, then, to do?

The serious scenes in Sally4Ever, which, by the way, is definitely for grownups, are played seriously. There are no winks in the scenes of intense emotion.

In the end, we have this: Like many other shows in the new wave of dramadies, Sally4Ever suggests that some of life’s happiest, saddest or most painful moments can live side by side with moments of humor or even absurdity.

It happens in life. No reason it can’t happen on TV, too.

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