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Primetime Picks… 7/19/20

Jul 19 Posted by in Features | Comments

Today the New Zealand comedy Life is Easy makes its premiere on the free virtual cable network Revry. I have always been a fan of Freaky Friday-style body-swap comedies, so when I received an email offering the chance to check out this series, I jumped at the opportunity.

Jamie-Li (Chye-Ling Huang, AFK, Find Me a Māori Bride), and Curtis (Cole Jenkins, Shortland Street, Westside) first met at school in Auckland, NZ in 2006, on their shared birthday. She was a straight Chinese-Kiwi girl, and him a closeted gay white boy she caught peeping into the boys’ locker room. However JL instinctively posed as his girlfriend as some guys walked buy, in order to protect Curtis from any embarrassment or detection, and the pair quickly became BFFs. It’s now many years later, and they are still best friends, preparing to celebrate their 25th birthday together.

Jamie-Li never met her father, the man responsible for her Chinese half. While this isn’t something she dwells on, it may explain her daddy issues. She frequents Tinder, constantly looking for her next one-night-stand or. Meanwhile, Curtis is in a somewhat more healthy relationship, living with boyfriend Harry (Kayne Ngātokowhā Peters, AFK), though he still likes to party. Curtis comes from a wealthy family, and has an annoying 30-year-old brother Paul (Ben Van Lier, American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story), who still lives with their parents. Curtis has an easy job selling overpriced furniture to rich white ladies. His gay boss looks at Curtis like a piece of meat and doesn’t expect him to do any actual work. Jamie-Li, on the other hand, has a tough, demanding boss at her job as a PA for a company that produces ads.

In the premiere, Jamie-Li and Curtis are having a 25th birthday bash when JL’s latest Tinder date reads their ominous horoscope. When they wake up from their alcohol- and drug- fueled celebration the next morning, the two BFF’s discover that they’ve switched bodies. When they determine they won’t be switching back for at least a week, the two decide to have some fun in their new bodies. In the process, they learn about the sexual and biological differences of the opposite sex, some secrets that one another have been hiding about their lives, and overhear some of the things their family and friends say about them when they think they aren’t around. The two also experience first-hand some of the social inequalities and biases that the other one must deal with on a daily basis.

The first season is comprised of eight 13-16 minutes episodes that play out more like a movie when watched back-to-back, though episodes will initially air weekly on the Revry live channel. Each episode does have its own mini arc, usually ending with a bit of a cliffhanger (or in the case of the season finale, a big one). The two leads are a lot of fun, and the season has some hilarious moments and situations as these two friends pretend to be one another, especially as JL and Curtis explore their new bodies for the first time. Actress Chye-Ling Huang does this great subtle thing after Curtis has taken over JL’s body, where her walk changes to have her legs more spread like a man’s typical gate.

The series isn’t shy when it comes to sex—while there is no actual nudity, the scenes are done in such a campy, over-the-top, and in your face way that adds to the comedic value. At the same time, the series also has a lot of heart. While Both Curtis and JL constantly put on these happy faces all the time, the swap has allowed them to get to know both one another and themselves a lot better. It also gives them the courage to finally face some of the fears and issues they’ve been keeping bottled up. Curtis and JL also use their time in each other’s bodies to explore new types of relationships they never could have otherwise.

The writers have done a nice job of weaving in some social commentary as well, but in a nice, subtle way that doesn’t feel preachy. For example, while JL is in Curtis’ body, she’s excited to be able to walk home at night, in the dark, because “now she has a penis”—though at the same time she also learns that not everything in perfect for Curtis either. And in another scene, Curtis experiences what women have to go through when a strange, creepy man walks up to him as JL, leaning in, assuming she needs help getting her car started. The series also tackles some other issues such as Curtis’ bigoted boss who only looks at rich white women as valuable customers, and treats Curtis’ hard-working co-worker Anna (Marianne Infante, Tales of Nai Nai) as a second-class citizen, even though she is the one who does all the work. And Jami-Li’s boss marginalizes the opinions of her minority co-workers, and ignores concerns about cultural appropriation. There are also a couple storylines around JL confronting her identity as a half-Chinese woman.

Revry is the first LGBTQ+ virtual cable TV network, with free live TV channels and on-demand viewing available on many platforms, including Roku, Samsung TV, Xfinity X1, and TiVo+. Life is Easy will make its live world premiere on Revry’s live TV channels tonight at 8pm & 11pm (EST) tonight. The entire 8-episode season is also available for binging on demand. For more info, head to revry.tv

Tonight, I’ll also be watching/recording The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, Cannonball, NOS4A2, Worst Cooks in America, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Black Monday, and Outcry.