One of the hardest and most crucial parts of writing a love story is making sure it has ample chemistry, maybe by finding actors who naturally spark, playing with classic rom-com tropes, or weaving in irresistible banter. You don’t necessarily need to have all three to be successful, but some combination thereof is crucial. “Cherish the Day,” a new OWN series from multi-hyphenate Ava DuVernay, ostensibly has all the pieces to make a satisfying romance, and an intriguing structural premise, but nonetheless has trouble gelling altogether.
The series follows a single couple — Evan (Alano Miller) and Gently (Xosha Roquemore) — throughout the ups and downs of their relationship. (Should the show be picked up for another season, it would continue anthology style by telling the story of another couple entirely.) Each episode follows a single day of their lives; the eight-episode season spans five years total. That every chapter has a specific purpose, marking a noteworthy new moment of their lives, is a smart way to keep “Cherish the Day” focused. And not for nothing, the series lovingly spotlights a Black couple in a way that few other would, or could. The lush directing and constant simmering soundtrack works hard to keep the romance swelling, even when the material itself can’t quite sell it.
Because the show doesn’t make a convincing case in its first episode for why Gently and Evan are good for each other, which should be the driving factor for a show all about why these two people in particular work together. Miller and Roquemore are charismatic actors (and Roquemore in particular shines here), but they have trouble finding a natural groove with each other through stilted conversations that unnaturally wind from small talk to weighty reveals and back again. Many scenes feel like checkmarks rather than true emotional beats.
“Cherish the Day” is at its best, though, when Gently and Evan clash over their starkly different upbringings. (After their first date, Gently calls Evan “Stanford” for his alma mater, and Evan calls her “Carson,” for the Los Angeles neighborhood she’s from, much to his snobby mother’s horror.) Evan’s initial instinct to condescend to Gently, and her immediate response of throwing up her defensive emotional walls, has them working through socioeconomic disparities in a way that so much other TV still has trouble with. The very real ways that class markers inform how people think, feel, interact are relatively underrepresented. Shading out both their worlds, especially those of Gently’s father (Michael Beach) and the legendary elder actress she cares for (none other than the legendary actress Cicely Tyson), makes “Cherish the Day” feel more distinct than its love story.
“Cherish the Day” premieres February 11 on OWN.