×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Doll & Em’

With:

Emily Mortimer, Dolly Wells, Jonathan Cake

The Brits do seem to love lampooning Hollywood, even if most of the shows, from Ricky Gervais’ showbiz-centric series to Showtime’s “Episodes,” mostly revel in familiar stereotypes. While no stranger to that tendency, what mildly sets “Doll & Em” apart is the female friendship at its core, which grows more interesting once the episodes start getting past the improbability of the premise, and the women’s stunning naivete that transforming their relationship from bosom buddies to employer-assistant won’t have negative consequences. Despite receiving the kiss-off treatment scheduling-wise, there are worthwhile moments here for those who take the full six-episode trip.

HBO clearly doesn’t harbor much faith its audience will buy that ticket, which might explain why it’s dispensing with “Doll” via back-to-back episodes over three successive Wednesdays. And while co-star Emily Mortimer still has her gig on “The Newsroom,” and some Hollywood celebs like Susan Sarandon and Chloe Sevigny drop by, one suspects the ratings for “Doll & Em” will make “Enlightened” look like “The Voice.”

Written by stars Mortimer and Dolly Wells with director Azazel Jacobs, the series features Mortimer’s Em as a successful British actress working on a Hollywood movie when she gets a teary-eyed call from childhood chum Dolly, who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Since it’s all dealt with in an opening-credit musical montage, we don’t get to actually hear the part where Em suggests that Doll come to L.A. to work as her assistant, or where Doll foolishly takes her up on the idea.

What ensues, naturally, is decidedly awkward, with Em insisting Doll is really her friend, not her employee, to anyone who’ll listen, but still subjecting her to menial tasks. Doll, meanwhile, hangs out with other assistants and experiences indignities at the hands of Hollywood types like Sarandon, who in one of those self-spoofing cameos enlists Doll to watch her kid. (Doll makes the mistake, in one of the funniest moments, of referring to the actress’ son as her grandson.)

Much of the serialized plot deals with the making of the movie within the show (please don’t call it a female version of “The Godfather,” as everyone seems intent on doing). Yet while Em struggles with the role and the double-talking director (Aaron Himelstein), Doll finds herself distracted by one of the producers (the dreamy Jonathan Cake), before her path takes an unexpected, mostly unconvincing turn.

Get past the particulars, and “Doll & Em” does contain insights about the evolving nature of friendships, especially when two people’s lives go in different directions. In that respect, there’s an underlying class distinction that probably plays more comfortably in the U.K., the palm trees and hot tubs notwithstanding.

Mortimer and Wells are both fine, juggling dramatic moments with more farcical ones, but this is still a fairly slight project even by HBO’s less-exacting standards. And after her adventures in the equivalent of Oz, the slightly shell-shocked Doll would probably agree with a line associated with another Em: There’s no place like home.

TV Review: 'Doll & Em'

(Series; HBO, Wed. March 19, 10 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Los Angeles by King Bee Prods. in association with Revolution Films for Sky.

Crew:

Executive producers, Andrew Eaton, Lucy Lumsden; producer, Alessandro Nivola; director, Azazel Jacobs; writers, Emily Mortimer, Dolly Wells, Jacobs; camera, Tobias Datum; editor, Darrin Navarro; music, Mandy Hoffman. 25 MIN.

Cast:

Emily Mortimer, Dolly Wells, Jonathan Cake

More TV

  • Arrow -- "Elseworlds, Part 2" --

    'Elseworlds, Part 2' Recap: Batwoman's 'Arrowverse' Story Begins

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Elseworlds, Part 2” the second part of the 2018 “Arrowverse” crossover, which aired Dec. 10. “Arrow’s” leg of the “Elseworlds” crossover had a little more to think about than “The Flash’s,” mainly because it served as the first introduction to Ruby Rose’s Batwoman. For [...]

  • Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats

    Michael Uslan's U2K Becomes Asia-Hollywood Formats Pipeline (EXCLUSIVE)

    Michael and David Uslan, the father and son producing team with credits that include “The Dark Knight” and “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch” have struck a cluster of deals that makes them a two-way conduit for TV formats between Hollywood and Asia. U2K, a company that includes the Uslans and Jon Karas (“Believe in [...]

  • Court TV Brand to Resurface as

    Court TV Brand to Resurface as New Channel From Scripps Co.

    Court TV is back in session. The cable TV channel that once carried gavel-to-gavel live coverage of high-profile trials will be revived by a new owner, nearly a dozen years after it was shuttered by Turner Broadcasting. Katz Networks, a division of E.W. Scripps Co., plans to revive Court TV as a new channel designed [...]

  • Gina Rodriguez Carmen Sandiego

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's Carmen Sandiego Series With Gina Rodriguez Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced a premiere date for its upcoming Carmen Sandiego series and Stars released the premiere date for its original comedy series “Now Apocalypse.” DATES More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Lifetime will debut a new Gretchen Carlson documentary Jan. [...]

  • Craig Hunegs WB

    Craig Hunegs to Exit Warner Bros. TV Group and Digital Networks (EXCLUSIVE)

    After nearly 25 years in the Warner Bros. family, Craig Hunegs is exiting his post as head of business for Warner Bros. TV Group and president of the studio’s digital networks wing. Hunegs said he has been discussing his exit with Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara for the past several months. At a time of [...]

  • 'Walking Dead' Profits Dispute Heading to

    'Walking Dead' Profits Dispute Heading to Trial

    The long-running legal battle between Frank Darabont and AMC over profits from “The Walking Dead” will run a bit longer, as a judge ruled Monday that the case must go to trial. Darabont and CAA sued the network back in 2013, arguing he was deprived of $280 million in profit participation because AMC did not [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content