Synopsis: On the surface, the Bayer-Boatwrights of Portland, Ore. are the model of a progressive, multiracial family. Greg is a respected philosophy professor and author; his wife, Audrey, is a former therapist turned conflict-resolution consultant for middle and high schools. Greg and Audrey have three adopted children, Ashley, Duc and Ramon, and a biological daughter, Kristen. But as Audrey prepares for Greg’s 60th birthday party, deep cracks begin to appear in the domestic façade, threatening to upend their very way of life, and they are eventually forced to take Ramon to Dr. Farid Shokrani, a Muslim psychiatrist with demons of his own.
The first few seconds of Alan Ball’s Here And Now plays like a horror movie, which is surprising. This is supposed to be a show about a multi-racial, multi-layered family. Yet, its sparks of “strange creepiness” is meant to show that beneath every bright connection, even familial, lies darker demons.
The drama of Here and Now surrounds the incredibly sweet and noble Ramon (played by Daniel Zovatto) as he begins to lose himself in strange hallucinations that seem too important/ psychically impactful to be deemed “schizophrenic”. Here and Now is unexpectedly spiritual, and nosedives to a truth I had not realized until this very show; you can deny religion, but you cannot deny you are a spirit. What you believe molds who you are, but the fact that “you are” is undeniable.
Ideologies, cultural differences, and the true meaning of “diversity” are all confronted in Here And Now. They can be displayed in Ramon’s “hallucinations”, and his growing “porous mind” connection with Dr. Farid Shokrani (played for his raw pain by Peter Macdiss). Through flashbacks of the Iranian Revolution and the FARC, you see how these two men, of different worlds and ages, are interconnected by the same thing: the use of violence to obliterate difference. For Here And Now, there are no such things as coincidence because every character shows there is no such thing as normal or weird: just human. Yet, it truly wants to show how fanaticism over our differences depletes self-worth, but isolation is not a countering answer.
The Bayer-Boatwrights truly are a BATCH of characters learning how to succeed and fail in connecting to their humanity. They are funny, smart, bold, and slightly depressed. Tim Robbins’ Greg Boatwrights is painfully sad that his “philosophies” on life meant nothing to this world beyond what they materially gave him as an “acclaimed mind”. Raymond Lee as his adopted son, Duc, and Jerrika Hinton as his adopted daughter, Ashley, are a dynamic duo dealing with hidden “party” personas. Then, there is Kristen (played charmingly by Sosie Bacon) who is hilarious and youthful with her attempts to “stay woke”, but also self-deprecating and slightly insensitive when it comes to her being “non-ethnic”. As the only “white” and biological child of her family, she feels to “plain” to be cool, which, despite being a “liberal” character, supports a deluded insecurity of the Alt-Right; white has been made boring. Yet, as she tries to be helpful of other races, sexualities, and genders, you begin to understand why, at times, minorities ostracize whites that want to be supportive.
As POC’s, we are protective of our cultures because history has either disappeared or commodified them, but, to us, they are integral to how we safe-guarded our humanity though horrific, communal traumas. As seen in Here and Now, we can culturally alienate “others”, more privileged, from out traditions because they do not share our histrical tragedies. It is hard to accept that we, POC’s, need white people or women need men to achieve equality, the poor need the rich for their economic solutions, and the LGBT need heterosexual acceptance to fully thrive in this world. It is understandable to feel that the ones who systemically hurt you should not have a say in how or whether you can rise and heal. Still, you cannot fully free yourself without making your chains known others, and Here And Now teaches this lesson both spiritually and socially.
The “Empathy Initiative” is not only the program of Holly Hunter’s Audrey Bayer-Boatwright, but also the aim of the show. I LOVE Holly Hunter, and the first four episodes do not highlight ENOUGH this powerhouse of a woman. Yet, the show does well to build enough intrigue to make you stay, and watch what it wishes to be. Is it a paranormal thriller? Is it a family drama? Heck, it could even be a historical piece! The show jumps through genres, which I admire, especially because you know its center. Here And Now want to explore how individuals personally choose joy, in contrast, to how they choose outrage upon others.
Here And Now’s “unclarity” as to what “genre” it is could take you aback, if you let it. Yet, the stories/ hearts of these characters is enough to anchor you to explore and wait what is to come. I only saw four episodes, but I am EXCITED to see more. You want to know what is happening to Ramon. You want to see Kirsten and Duc grow up. You want to see if Audrey and Greg or Ashley and Malcolm (played by Joe Williamson) will fortify their love. Thus, do not let your eagerness to know where this show is going block you from observing how powerful it is. For More Information on Here And Now Click Here. It comes on Sundays at 8 on HBO. WATCH IT!