Neil LaBute operates at such a lacerating, brusque level as to be an acquired taste, as his movies and plays (“In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends & Neighbors”) would attest. Yet his first foray into TV, “Full Circle,” a half-hour series premiering on DirecTV’s Audience Network, shrewdly taps into those talents, and employs a tightly constructed format sure to attract big-name actors, who can flit in for what amount to limited engagements. Granted, performers might love it more than a lot of viewers do, but the show’s “La Ronde”-style story should appeal to a discerning premium-TV-caliber audience.
The 10-episode format is relatively simple: Each takes place in the same restaurant, where two characters have dinner. One of them then appears in the next half-hour, having dinner with someone else, as the stories intersect (two will air each week) and build toward what DirecTV describes as “an explosive conclusion.”
How explosive can’t be determined from the four chapters previewed, but they do offer a snippet of LaBute’s penchant for profane, blistering dialogue and provocative Hollywood-centric situations, from a young woman (Minka Kelly) being unfaithful to her high-powered entertainment attorney husband (Julian McMahon), who in turn dines with his comedian client (David Boreanaz), whose gay-baiting material and ill-thought-out tweets have been associated with contributing to the death of a teenage boy. And so on.
Working with topnotch directors, LaBute (who wrote all the episodes) loosely divides the episodes by appetizer, main course and dessert, while incorporating restaurant employees into the ongoing scenario.
The result self-consciously approximates the feel of a stage play — a trifle theatrical and showy, admittedly, but nevertheless oddly addictive as you wait to see how one story will bleed into the next.
The format, moreover, is nicely tailored to LaBute’s fondness for long, shock-filled monologues and explorations of cruelty, with words cutting as deeply as any weapon — or, in the case of an anniversary dinner featuring Billy Campbell and Kate Walsh, provoking extreme discomfort.
DirecTV has been shrewd about using original acquisitions in an attempt to fortify its bond with subscribers, albeit with a hit-and-miss track record (“Hit & Miss,” by the way, being one of its best offerings).
“Full Circle” wouldn’t work in a lot of TV venues, but in this context, it’s a touch of Broadway in the comfort of your living room, complete with front-row-seat close-ups — LaBute’s twisted version of dinner, and a show.