Polyamory: Married And Dating can’t decide whether or not it’s a show exploring the trials and tribulations of an alternative lifestyle or a show that wants to show a lot of naked people on one bed. It seems likely that it will settle somewhere in the middle, rather than further develop a real point of view, which is disappointing, because this could be a potentially interesting topic. Cable networks err on the side of nudity, especially late at night, and I don’t fault them for that, but in this case, it doesn’t make for especially good television.
Obviously, part of the show’s appeal is that these polyamorous people are having sex right on the screen in front of you, but it would be nice if the direction focused a little less on the “kinky” aspects of their lives and more on their interpersonal relationships. For example, it’s surprising to see genuine jealousy and discomfort from some of the members of these families, despite their established lifestyles. It demonstrates how much genuine emotional work must be required in order to maintain a polyamorous lifestyle.
Much of this episode was spent establishing the characters and the conflicts for the upcoming episode, so it was lighter on the drama that could potentially bring out more of the humanity of these people. The series première introduces two families: Anthony, Lindsey, and Vanessa, who are in a polyamorous triad, and Kamala, Michael, Jen, and Tahl, who are in a quartet of sorts. Kamala and Michael are married to each other, as are Jen and Tahl, and the two couples date each other. Each family has their own rules and processes for navigating their relationship, which is very reasonable, but also results in occasionally hilarious things being said — such as: “The Triad is strong.”
That line aside, though, this episode did not showcase much of the show’s potential for interesting dialogue. For example, Anthony and Vanessa confront Lindsey about a boyfriend she has at college, and they take the opportunity to solemnly intone the Triad’s rules over dinner. One is that the other members of the Triad are allowed to veto any relationship of their partners, and so Vanessa asks Lindsey to break it off. Lindsey acquiesces, but she’s not happy about it. Then they all leave the dishes on the table to go have sex upstairs, cutting off any more potentially interesting conversation for now. Clearly, this is an issue that is going to come up in the future, but lest we forget, sex is the primary focus of this show.
The Quartet, though, is Polyamory's hook. Though the Triad is interesting, the stakes are lower for the partners. They all have relatively independent lives away from each other. The Quartet, on the other hand, is investing a lot more in this lifestyle. In this episode, Kamala and Michael ask Jen and Tahl to move in with them. They have the space, and want to take their relationship to the next level, which they feel will be more of a community. Tahl is eager, but Jen doesn’t feel ready. She’s concerned that she’ll lose Tahl; a very relatable emotion, even if it’s expressed as she’s being cuddled with on a bed with three other adults. Tahl expresses some irritation with Jen in his interview — he’s eager to go farther with his polyamorous lifestyle, but Jen’s rules hold him back. Jen is more hesitant about this lifestyle, it seems, and requires more attention from Kamala and Tahl in particular to validate her. Despite her reservations, Jen decides to go for it, so she and Tahl move into Kamala and Michael’s house.
Also, Kamala and Michael have a son, Devin, who is three years old. He knows Jen and Tahl, and likes them (apparently), but obviously, the four of them living together with a child is going to create some interesting situations. In one of this episode’s most interesting scenes, the Quartet gets together to have sex the night Jen and Tahl move in. They have a night off from childcare and it’s their first night together in the house. And it’s kind of romantic, but also, interestingly, a little fraught. Jen looks uncomfortable, like things are moving way too fast for her. But then Kamala stops and asks, “What do you need?” reaching out to Jen from underneath, well, Jen’s husband. Despite the overtly pornographic content, it is a surprisingly tender moment. It speaks to what Polyamory could be, maybe, if it wants to be. But right now, it’s a muddled show, confusing the reality-show vibe with soft-core pornography.