You Me Her, a charming little television program that bills itself as “TV’s first polyromantic comedy,” returned to the elusive Audience Network last night for its third season, promising further explorations into questions like “is three a crowd or the secret to true happiness?” and “how do we hold onto the ‘me’ in ‘You Me Her’? Although its tone is more conventional than the subject matter suggests,You Me Her is a winning, feel-good series with eminently lovable characters and a smart indie rom-com feel that tackles issues rarely explored on television and, relevant to your interests right here in this space, has two bisexual female protagonists.
We’ve not talked to you about You Me Her before, which’s strange and unlike us but also kinda like us ’cause it’s hard to find! It’s been released on Netflix in Canada and abroad, but not the U.S.. Stateside, your only access to You Me Her is through its network, Audience, which’s available exclusively to Direct TV and AT & T U-verse Subscribers. DirectTV Now’s free trials and cheap monthly plans aren’t too pricey, though, and you’ll also get access to Audience Network’s original show Mr. Mercedes, which features Breeda Wool as a lesbian techie and also stars Mary Louise Parker, Holland Taylor and Kelly Lynch. But listen, we’re all here now and they sent me screeners and we’re gonna talk about it.
The backstory goes like this: Jack (Greg Poehler, sister of Amy) and Emma (Rachel Blanchard) are a middle-class couple who live in what they refer to as “the suburbs of Portland”1 (a very odd choice for a show in which literally everybody is scandalized by polyamory) (I’d venture to suggest that You Me Her would’ve been better set in literally any American city EXCEPT Portland) and are trying to get pregnant but also rarely have sex. Following his terrible brother’s advice, Jack hires an escort to re-invigorate his sexual spark — Izzy, a spunky, scattered grad student. They hit it off, kiss a little, he feels guilty, and immediately tells Emma about it. Emma responds gamely by booking her own appointment with Izzy, during which she receives an admirable under-the-table foot job and sparks fly all over the place. Emma reveals to Jack that she saw Izzy and by the way, she’s actually been with women before and in fact dated multiple women but for some reason this never came up throughout nine years of marriage in, I must remind you, PORTLAND. Although “sex worker falling for a client” is my least favorite sex worker trope (for its very real-world ramifications of clients expecting sex workers to fall in love with them), I forgive it here, mostly ’cause it involves a girl but also ’cause there’s so much excitement around Izzy’s frenzied feelings for Emma and Jack that I didn’t have the time to care.
Season One sees Jack and Emma struggling with their growing genuine feelings for Izzy and Izzy’s feelings for them both. In Season Two, they make an official public stab at thrupledom, but eventually Jack starts feeling squeezed out, begins to fear that Emma’s actually a lesbian and, as they start considering surrogacy, Emma starts wondering if she really wants kids or if that was mostly Jack’s thing.
Season Two ended with the trio at a crossroads: Emma had been offered a prestigious architecture job in Seattle that improbably came with access to a private jet, and in the last episode’s final moments, we see Emma boarding the improbable private jet while Izzy and Jack sit on a random bench, gushing over Izzy’s genuine desire to have children.
A few months have passed before Season Three rings its opening bell. Between then and now, Izzy and Jack have settled into semi-blissful coupledom, divorce papers are in the works, and Emma is semi-blissfully sipping champagne on a Seattle rooftop with her power lesbian girlfriend Kylie. But previews suggest the love story is far from over for Direct TV’s favorite throuple, and Season Three will see them drawn back to the tangled web they’ve woven.
I was torn by the premiere’s series of events — I’m always delighted by a lesbian couple, of course, but still shipping hard for Emma and Izzy in whatever context that transpires. Furthermore, preview clips featuring a reference to “Seattle’s top five power lesbians” has ignited a deep, primal joy within me that the atmosphere could never hope to contain. But Jack’s assertion that Emma “realized she was gay” was puzzling, too, considering everything that happened before and also the Season Three trailer being 50% Jack/Emma/Izzy being a throuple, but I’ll reserve further puzzlement until we see how it all shakes out. The series copy asks:
Will Emma return to her “lesbian dream life” in Seattle, leaving suddenly heteronormative couple Jack and Izzy to start a family without her? Or will they realize being together was complicated but being apart is unbearable?
You Me Her‘s creator, John Scott Shepherd, was apparently inspired to make this show by “Sugar On Top,” a Playboy article about a Sugar Daddy / Sugar Mommy couple who had a regular thing going with a college student they’d met on Seeking Arrangements dot com. He “wanted to look at the ways extramarital sex could benefit a relationship, rather than harm it.” It’s a refreshing angle and an authentic one, too — having been in that situation many times myself and seen friends do it, bringing in a third partner or seeking out other lovers on your own can have a surprisingly invigorating impact on sex with your primary partner, and that dynamic is rarely portrayed on television. Seeing Jack and Emma react to each other’s initial liaisons with Izzy without completely losing their shit and leaving the relationship was refreshing.
There’s a lot I love — a lot to love — about You Me Her. Emma and Izzy are incredibly hot together and they’re together a lot — with Jack and without Jack. It’s witty and clever with a surprisingly magnetic (if annoyingly to me personally heteronormative) ensemble of friends and neighbors. It maintains conflict and drama without succumbing to the lure of cliche. I love the premise, in and of itself, and that a television show with an otherwise entirely mainstream aesthetic is telling the story of a non-traditional, poly relationship involving two queer women. As a person who once upon a time dated an established opposite-sex couple and kept it mostly a secret as it was happening, it’s always interesting to see these complicated emotional negotiations played out onscreen, which I’ve really only seen before on reality shows. But at times it did feel like the team had been informed about certain poly concepts and wanted to employ them but said employment often betrayed a lack of genuine understanding of the concepts themselves.
You Me Her is adept at the nuts and bolts of good television, but sometimes the characters within it, while emotionally authentic, can feel undercooked. Although… maybe I’m just talking about Jack. Every lesbian or bisexual woman I’ve talked to about You Me Her shares the same primary complaint with it, and although we all fear a bias towards women on TV in general could influence our opinion, here it is: Jack fails to impress as an interesting, funny, unique or captivating partner — certainly not the kind of guy a woman as irresistible as Izzy could fall for as quickly as she does (read: immediately). He also is a sucker for bad advice and doesn’t seem to have anything in common with Izzy or Emma besides enjoying sexual intercourse. I kept wondering how on earth this guy landed himself two girlfriends?! Admittedly I quit the series once before due to my overwhelming underwhelming feelings about Jack, but then I grew as a person and returned with a more intentionally objective attitude.
When assessing fictional romantic relationships for authenticity I often impose a When Harry Met Sally Test of my own divination: could Izzy or Emma write a speech for Jack akin to the one Harry gives Sally at the end of the film? My friends, I do not think they could, at least not using information the audience is privy to. In my lesbian defense, I could definitely write WHMS speech for Kevin, one-third of my favorite ever thruple, Shameless’s Kevin/Svetlana/Vanessa!
You Me Her’s production team is mostly female, and the first season was anchored by out lesbian Co-EP/Director Nisha Ganatra, who also Directed/Produced Transparent and Better Things as well as the lesbian film Chutney Popcorn. As Natalie noted in the comments of a BOYT before she became an Autostraddle Staff writer, “[Ganatra]’s deft direction creates a level of intimacy that’s almost palpable.” Subsequent seasons have brought on another female director, Sara St. Onge, a Canadian with a few indie films under her belt, as director. It’s unclear, though, if anybody poly or LGBTQ is presently involved with the production, or you know, anybody who’s spent any time in Portland outside of shooting there (although most of the show is shot in Toronto). (I mean literally at one point Jack, a straight cis white man, calls himself “the first person in this town to do something new” ’cause he hired an escort. IN PORTLAND!!!!) (PORTLAND!?!!) It’d be interesting to see how the show could grow with more input from the communities it represents or having the characters come into contact with AHEM Portland’s THRIVING queer and/or poly community. This trailer, though, is promising:
I’m honestly stoked for Season Three and will absolutely be watching — even though the previews give a lot away, the path between here and there is unpredictable, and for a story like this one, there are few tropes we can use to fill in the blanks.
In conclusion, Priscilla Faia is so adorable I can’t stand it and I’m excited for her to make out with Emma again:
1 Jack and Emma refer to their neighborhood as Hawthorne and appear to live on the corner of 22nd and Market, which’s Southeast Portland, not the suburbs. Also, it’s chock-full of queers, hipsters, hippies, and poly folks!
Dear Audience: Would watch, would not work that damn hard to be able to watch, please sign the deal with Netflix U.S.
I really like this show. Jack is definitely the weakest part, but I’ve seen much worse male love interests so I feel I can put up with him. I’m not poly so I can’t speak to how well the throuple is portrayed, but it’s a really good rom-com. Also Emma and Izzy are very hot together…
Yeah Jack is a giant whiny insecure baby and am literally baffled by how he could get either of these two women let alone both!I quit the show a couple of times cause just couldn’t buy his character then decided just to fast forward through his scenes and it was much better!
I had super mixed feelings all through the first season and still not entirely sure if i think their depiction of bisexuality is ok Season 3 sounds better though? Idk I was also keen to see what autostraddle thought so delighted to see this article!
Now in its third season ? Really. While One Day at a Time languishes in limbo. Feh.
Jack bothered the heck out of me too, so much that I also stopped watching. I figured the poly thing was a gimmick to get us to watch a show about a whiny white boy trying to con us that he’s really an alpha, but ! It never occurred to me to just fast-forward through his scenes ! Is that doable ? I’ll have to try. (fwiw, I’m in Canader eh so I don’t have to make any special effort to see it)
If I remember correctly it was renewed after the first season for two seasons with a defined end point. I caught it near the end of the first season on HBO and have literally never seen it on Netflix.
According to wikipedia, “Seasons one and two are available on Netflix exclusively outside of the United States and Canada.”
“whiny white boy” why do you feed the need to say white?
I just realized that the best thing about this show… is this review and getting to read about Riese’s wild and woolly past.
well to be 100% honest i exited that triad partially b/c i did not feel the guy in it deserved two girlfriends either JUST LIKE JACK. one day i’ll finish my essay about it and you can all know how it ended.
Wow ! That will be awesome.
i loved Priscilla Faia SO MUCH on Rookie Blue (objectively, not a great show, but filled with charming and lovely women). She just might be worth the effort of tracking down this goddamn show.
I am glad to read that it’s not just me: other people hate Jack. I tried really really hard not to because I didn’t want to be the obnoxious lesbian shouting “LEAVE HIM! HE IS USELESS.” at the two bisexual women. But he. is. useless. Yet somehow he not only gets these two women but has a third thirsting after him at one point??? I mean, of COURSE Jack is afraid Emma is a lesbian. Not because he’s convinced she doesn’t like men, but because he knows, deep down, that nearly any queer woman is more interesting than he is.
The women still make it worth it and we can hope that there’ll be a season 4 plot twist where some interesting dude takes Jack’s place and guides the throuple into the Portland queer scene.
I am glad that you repeatedly called out the show’s inability to recognise Portland as the gayest place in the world! Why did they not pick literally anywhere else!!
Re: Jack, I did not hate him, I just assumed he was a male fantasy projection. I was trying to think of what the male version of a Mary Sue is, and then I remembered it’s just every lead male character in everything ever! For this reason, it did surprise me that the production team is predominantly female.
Overall, I think I enjoy the series for showing adults not having their shit together and the high frequency of attractive girl-on-girl interaction.
I also really enjoyed the scene where they tried to get the neighbour’s daughter to photoshop Izzy and Jack’s sister together and it looked ridiculous and they were scathing about it.
Love this show! Priscilla Faia has chemistry with EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE in this show. Izzie and Emma are so convincing as two women in love I can’t believe they’ve not run away together.
TBH I hated this season’s premiere… I’m really not convinced she’d want to play house with Jack while Emma is gone :(
While I agree Jack is the weakest part of the show, I think part of that is the desire not to make him the typical alpha male you see. He isn’t bullied by Emma, but she wears the trousers in their relationship – for example: he wants children, she’s not sure, they’re mid-to-late thirties and no kids, no real sign of kids either. Likewise, he’s bullied by his really obnoxious brother and takes really dumb advice. Ok, the first time that hooks him up with Izzy, then Emma hooks up with Izzy and all the story is set in motion but the actual advice is straight-up alpha male crap and totally not in Jack’s mindset. Which is kind of cool to see in a male character.
Why might both Emma and Izzy fall for him? He’s kind, considerate and listens to them. He pays attention to them and their needs and feelings. He’s not perfect, in season 2 he has long moments of being a real douche but as someone who is the friend to members of a foursome and a triad (I hate thruple but that’s what they use in the show) I’ve been there when both the men and the women from one or the other have come along with almost identical moaning to what we see Jack saying about feeling excluded and so on, so while it’s not pretty I felt as someone who has seen it up close, it was pretty reasonable even while it was unattractive.
I’m waiting for s3 to drop on Netflix here in the UK. Last year it dropped weekly I think, but it’s not doing that this year sadly. I guess I’ll have to wait 10 weeks for the end of the season. But thanks for finally waking up to it Autostraddle!
I tried hard to like this show, but the portrayal of polyamory felt awful and stereotypical to me. A lot of lacking communication and consent and iffy dynamics, which I’m fully aware happen irl but which, like those irl, so often felt like they were excused in part because of traditional/gendered ideas about relationships. I struggled and gave up several times.
This Canadian is perusing their Netflix but No Dice
I’m super hesitant to give this show a shot – especially considering how awful poly and bisexual relationships have already been portrayed in other shows. That being said, Riese could write a review for skydriving naked into a pile of sharks balancing bees and I would still give it a try. Because it’s here on Auto Straddle, so that means it’s worth doing.
I totally forgot about this show and I’m glad AS updated me about it. I remember really loving Emma and Izzy and also not understanding what was so great about Jack, and could mostly get through his parts because he wasn’t nearly as insufferable as 99% of the men characters I see in media, but also because I was mostly constructing Emma/Izzy fanfic in my head whenever a scene with him came on. I didn’t know they broke up/were renewed? I remember the end of the first season in them all deciding to give this thing a shot and that’s kinda where I wanted to end it for myself cause I love happy endings (or happy possibilities endings)! But like, Riese, I’ve grown and now I am prepared to go into this (as soon as I find a place to watch it)
also i am ready at aNY TIME to be izzy’s boo, that’s not related to the show at all but i thought i should mention it
IMO jack has as much character development as the other mains. They progressed quickly to get the audience interested.
I cant get over how ostracizing the neighbors and friends in Portland are. Its portland in 2016-2018!
What nobody mentions is Jack and Izzy are both supposed to be counselors or becoming counselors how are they both so terrible at being more mindful of the others emotions/ knowing not to exclude 1/3 of the trouple, etc. As a counselor I know we all dont always practice what we preach but hot damn just try to acknowledge that you know that others have emotions to consider.
I know episodes are quick but i wish they had shown Jack/Emma/Izzy researching what polyamory and troupling was and all the terms they just started pulling out randomly.
I agree with everything.
I don’t hate Jack, but I just find him super boring? I appreciate that they didn’t want to make him a complete douche, but believing that Izzy would fall for him in literally two seconds was really hard.
Also, Emma and Izzy are super hot together, yes.
Just popping in to say that this show is shot entirely in Vancouver, not Toronto!
I agree with everyone else about the flaws of this show, but I still watch it.
One of the things I like about it is that it shows monogamous and hetero relationships as having problems that are the same or worse than the problems of the “throuple.” That alone is a powerful statement to be made, when the stereotype is that poly relationships are more trouble, more complicated, more full of minefields and dysfunctions.
I personally find it annoying that they show exactly zero basis for the attraction between Emma, Jack, and Izzy, though, outside of the sexual charge. I was okay with it for the initial hook up. But now they’ve lived together, planned to have a child together, and totally up-ended their lives, and for that I need to see more than what they’ve shown me.
They have not really spent any time at all getting to know each other. They don’t seem to share interests. Except for Jack wanting a baby they never talk about what they want to do in their lives, or even what they ARE DOING in their lives. Emma applied for and took a job in another city without even telling anyone. It’s just really hard for me to buy into the idea that they’re a serious, committed group, or meant to be together, except that they keep telling us that they are.
Izzy moved in with them after all of 3 seconds, and they never talked about what their expectations were. Maybe I’m the weirdo, but even as a teenager and 20-something I knew that was reckless and way too fast, and I was pretty reckless and fast back in the day.
It seems like the writers of the show are trying to take the stigma out of the concept of being poly, which is a good message to send anyone with a monogamy superiority complex, but it doesn’t really go past that and try to sell the relationship beyond “they have hot sex together and it just works.” Stories about 2-person relationships usually try to at least show a little more than that about why the partners are compatible, what they like about each other, etc.
But, like I said, I still watch it. That’s how much the representation matters, even if it’s flawed.
I do love the relationship between Izzy and her former roommate/current friend. And really all of the 3 have friends outside the “throuple” and I like those relationships, because you can see them talk about things and challenge each other and have fun together.
Why don’t the 3 partners have that level of interaction with each other, since they are capable of it with outside parties?
I would never consider having a child with someone I just met, nor would I move in with them or change my entire life around in the first 2 weeks. So it’s really hard for me to buy into that part of the plot. But I guess the show figures it has a limited amount of time to get wherever it is they’re headed, and they decided hot sex and repeatedly having to convince themselves and others that there being 3 of them in the relationship is OK and real, made all the story they wanted to tell.
Regarding surrogacy, I found a Ukrainian law translated into English. I advise anyone interested to read it. https://www.mother-surrogate.com/pdf/surrogate_motherhood_law.pdf