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Too Close to Home S1,Eps 1 and 2: Dangerously Close and Alabama Recap & Review

"Dangerously Close"

Anna and Mr. President

Anna and Mr. President

Some people might say that TLC’s first time fully scripted drama called “Too Close to Home” is also Too Close to National Election but that couldn’t be right.  The show isn’t about former President Bill Clinton’s White House affair with Monica Lewinsky, in spite of what some early fans of the show are saying on Twitter.  Still, you have to give producer/director Tyler Perry props for bravery for having this show debut while Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are battling it out for who truly represents the women of America.

Too Close to Home is not another tedious show about ‘isms’ , however. It’s about a young woman intern who works in the social department of the White House.  She’s Anna Belle Hayes, small town girl from Happy, Alabama, pretending to be the daughter of wealthy parents  from ‘the Hamptons’ who happen now to be vacationing on the Greek islands.

Anna has to fictionalize her background to her chic associates because  she’s embarrassed about who she really is. Happy, Alabama is a mobile home park where Anna’s sisters struggle with poverty, drug addiction, and malfunctioning moral compasses. How else, other than by lying about her background, can she keep up with the politically hip and privileged Beltway hoi-polloi who gather at O’Mally’s tavern to redress the happenings of their days?   The profound responsibilities of this White House crew include  arranging important presidential photo-ops with people whose names the president doesn’t even know.

Anna’s been disgraced when it leaks out she was the woman with the president when he nearly died of a heart attack. The press is hounding her and she’s sought refuge in the apartment of a man she met in a bar where Washingtonian political types gather. That man is ‘John,’ played with oily smoothness by Christian Ochoa.

John finally reveals he is a reporter for the Washington Sun. He’s summoned his boss to see if they can get an exclusive with Anna but she is horrified at the notion. The Washington Sun boss lady is a real kick. She mimics Barbara Walters with voice, vocal inflections and posturing. It’s funny even if you don’t know who Barbara Walters is.

"Alabama"

Some people might say that TLC’s first time fully scripted drama called “Too Close to Home” is also Too Close to National Election but that couldn’t be right.  The show isn’t about former President Bill Clinton’s White House affair with Monica Lewinsky, in spite of what some early fans of the show are saying on Twitter.  Still, you have to give producer/director Tyler Perry props for bravery for having this show debut while Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are battling it out for who truly represents the women of America.

Too Close to Home is not another tedious show about ‘isms’ , however. It’s about a young woman intern who works in the social department of the White House.  She’s Anna Belle Hayes, small town girl from Happy, Alabama, pretending to be the daughter of wealthy parents  from ‘the Hamptons’ who happen now to be vacationing on the Greek islands.

Anna has to fictionalize her background to her chic associates because  she’s embarrassed about who she really is. Happy, Alabama is a mobile home park where Anna’s sisters struggle with poverty, drug addiction, and malfunctioning moral compasses.

How else, other than by lying about her background, can she keep up with the politically hip and privileged Beltway hoi-polloi who gather at O’Mally’s tavern to redress the happenings of their days?   The profound responsibilities of this White House crew include  arranging important presidential photo-ops with people whose names the president doesn’t even know.

It all has to look good, that’s the point, and it’s Anna’s job to make sure it does. There’s the president, his sophisticated wife played by Heather Locklear, the Social Secretary, and Agent Larry, the Secret Service agent attached as President Thomas’ personal body guard.

Okay, so the conflict kicks off when Anna screws up and fails to tell the president the name of a young soldier he’s honoring.  President Thomas is angry at being embarrassed. Anna’s bruiting that about in the after-work bar with her friends Dax, Victor, and Valerie and it’s all a chuckle until she’s back at home and gets a mystery phone call from the creep she’s having an affair with. You know he’s creepy because he sounds rich and powerful and has her followed every where she goes.

We soon get a glimpse into what her trailer park home life must have been like when good ole boy trucker J.B. shows up to hit Anna up for some money. J.B. is her sister’s sometime boyfriend. Fact is that Anna doesn’t have any money. She lucked into the job and has a sugar daddy lover who pays for her $4,000 a month D.C. apartment. We find out later who that is.

But J.B. is a back road into that other life, the one that Anna really comes from. Her sister Bonnie (Kelly Sullivan) lives in a trailer park where she takes care of her nephews and nieces because their own mother is a drug addict. She also takes care of her dying mother who lives two trailers down under conditions which make the children gag.

Bonnie’s a waitress, short of money to pay the trailer rent.  There are nice mobile home parks and then there are ones like the one where Bonnie lives – junky, no privacy, full of hooptys, plastic lawn chairs, and garden hoses.

But Bonnie’s a gem – beautiful, vulnerable, and yet tough with an inner moral fiber that won’t quit. Her hair is stringy and beaten down with the heat but even without makeup, she’s smart, pretty and sexy in a way that women are who do not call attention to themselves.

But Bonnie’s  saddled with loser trucker J.B., a chronic whiner who hits the road when things get tough. Not that no one else noticed her.  Coming to pay the rent is Brody, a long-haired and well-muscled Southern man who probably has the Allman Brothers Band on his cell phone. Background music here is a twangy steel guitar which adds appreciable atmosphere.  Brody is reserved, cool, and perhaps a bit sweet on Bonnie though you wouldn’t know it from his stoic brooding manner.

Some of Brody’s Twitter followers have wished he’d keep his shirt off as he appears in one scene. He does look like one of those shirtless Lotharios on the cover of a women’s romance pulp fiction novel. But in real life, Brody is a complete acting newcomer. He attracted the world’s attention through  an Instagram how-to-make-a-man-bun video which attracted 2.1 million hits.  Perhaps he can act or perhaps he’s well directed and perhaps it’s a bit of both but Brock O’Hurn is well suited to the role.

We’re not kept long in suspense about who Anna’s mystery lover is.  After a private scolding by the for her job lapses, the clothing goes flying off as President Clinton – oops, I mean President Thomas assumes the position with Monica (oops, I mean Anna) on and under an oval office desk.

It so happens that, right at that moment, the president’s wife is looking for him. She does know where he is but she’s held off from seeing her husband by the president’s Secret Service bodyguard who blocks access to him. Unwilling to be thwarted, First Lady Heather Locklear waits on a bench outside the door until the crisis happens. It’s all quite a stitch until the president, as accustomed to extra-curricular activities as he is, suffers a heart attack and Anna come bursting outside to the angry arms of the president’s wife.

In the telling it sounds like slapstick perhaps, but it’s not. The First Lady delivers a blistering torrent of invective, telling the little trailer-trash-born slut exactly who she is. It’s a one-way conversation with a flamethrower:

“… How long have you been ****ing him?”

When Anna responds that she and the president are ‘just friends,’ the First Lady opens fire with both barrels (does a flamethrower have two barrels?).

“Friends?  He’s the president. You’re a lying bit of trailer park trash. You can’t be friends with the president – that’s laughable.”

And when Anna has her head down in shame: “Is that a tear, dear?” And more, but see for yourself. Certainly, some watchers will appreciate the First Lady’s unintentional historical reference to Anna being ‘down on your knees’ before the president. Others may not.

Nonetheless, it’s worth the price of a ticket just for that performance in a two-hour episode where all the acting is engaging, the story line is well-conceived, and the direction keeps things moving. The upshot of the whole thing, and what the show’s future episodes will be predicated on, will be that the revenge seeking president’s wife is out to destroy Anna and send her back to Happy, Alabama, and the swamp of rural decay that awaits her.

 

 

 

Bonnie and Brody fighting over the rent.

Bonnie and Brody fighting over the rent.

The President's wife telling Anna she's going to ruin her reputation by reporting her to the press.

The President's wife telling Anna she's going to ruin her reputation by reporting her to the press.

The President's wife telling the security to collect Anna's belongings.

The President's wife telling the security to collect Anna's belongings.

Brody's dad having a nightmare

Brody's dad having a nightmare

J.B having a meltdown after seeing someone being killed right in front of him.

J.B having a meltdown after seeing someone being killed right in front of him.

Anna's ex friends who want nothing to do with her now-Dax, victor, and Valarie

Anna's ex friends who want nothing to do with her now-Dax, victor, and Valarie

Meet the main characters: Shelby, Brody, Bonnie, J.B, and Anna

Meet the main characters: Shelby, Brody, Bonnie, J.B, and Anna

Meet the cast: Valarie, Dax, Victor, Anna, Brody, J.B., Bonnie, and Shelby

Meet the cast: Valarie, Dax, Victor, Anna, Brody, J.B., Bonnie, and Shelby