Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: June 16, 2019 (HBO)
Nielsen ratings information: 0.577 million viewers, 0.17 rating with Adults 18-49, 0.12 rating with Adults 18-34, 0.23 rating with Adults 25-54, 0.30 rating with Adults 50+
In case of wanting to get out of the Disney Channel bubble, break glass and star in an HBO drama full of drugs, sex, booze, language and nudity, and suddenly everybody who thought highly of you while following your short career on a Disney television network will wonder what the heck went wrong. Maybe you’re just a good actor to sell the dark drama while also selling the family sitcom stuff, but if you’re able to do that, prepare for Emmys and Golden Globes, because that stuff is going to be thrown at you over the next few years. It’s what I imagine is about to happen to Zendaya, who just got out of the Disney bubble, started starring in comic book movies, and decided to showcase her acting chops, just in case people were still saying that she is just a Disney princess and she’s not their Mary Jane Watson. But here I am, in awe and respect of this woman, who has just gotten out of the Disney bubble, co-stars in some of my favorite comic book movies with one of my favorite superheroes in it, and is now in the center of a television drama I decided to pick up because of its rave reviews, the fear of some adults about the current teenage generation, the fact that it has been renewed for a second season, and some of its cast members. Obviously Zendaya, but I would also love to see what Maude Apatow is going to do in this show, since I still have that image of her from THIS IS 40 in my mind, where her mind gets blown by LOST instead of guys on drugs and booze. In addition, Storm Reid and Hunter Schafer are two faces to watch on this show — the former because I believe she could be a star pretty soon, and the latter because of her appearance on LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS while promoting this show. This program got a whole lot more sympathetic because of Schafer’s talk with Meyers
I don’t even know what to say about this opening hour of EUPHORIA. It’s like THIRTEEN, but with a ton more characters who all have problems of their own. It’s like THE BASKETBALL DIARIES, but not particularly focused on the drug addictions of the teenage characters. It’s like CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, but instead of graduation the teenagers celebrate the fact that they have enough money and no parents around to throw parties for the hell of it and they don’t let themselves stop living life to the fullest by the host of the party who screams at everyone to not go upstairs and party there. I don’t even know in which kind of direction EUPHORIA will go in the long run. Is it going to be the redemption-kinda storyline for Rue, who becomes less dependent on drugs while becoming friends with Jules, or is this show going to be the ultimate portrayal of a messed-up teenage generation of the twenty-first century, who have grown up under the banner of the war on terrorism (there is a reason it was said that Rue was born three days after 9/11), and this is just the first episode during which Rue and Jules become friends towards their path of destruction and death? Rue is the omnipotent narrator of this show, which either means it’s a stylistic choice or she narrates her and her friends’ life experiences from the afterlife (I prefer the former), which would advance the theory that Rue is on her way to death and that the show won’t be having a happy end. The same can be said about Jules, who probably didn’t even mind the hardcore sex with “Dominant Daddy,” simply because it’s one of the other times she feels something, besides cutting herself (and hardcore sex may be the most safe option, as long as you don’t come across a serial killer, an abuser or a rapist). There is a beautiful friendship on the horizon for the two, but I have no idea if it’s really going to be beautiful or if it’s going to be HBO. I am still waiting for a television show from the network that gives me happy characters and delightful scenes, but then I guess it wouldn’t be HBO then and I can simply watch a Disney Channel family sitcom instead.
Like Seth Meyers while he had Hunter Schafer on his show, I am seriously worried about today’s teenage generation. They seem to be defining their lives by party, alcohol, drugs and sex only, which begs the question what went wrong. Who knows, maybe it is the fact that they have been living under the War on Terror banner for all of their lives, maybe it’s a sign of depression having existed ever since the attacks and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which not only messed up the soldiers, but also everyone who followed the politics of that time on news television. If you grow up under more than eight years of Orange Hitler Donald Trump’s presidency, then I could understand why Rue and Jules would go nuts on drugs, but that would mean their parents and how they perceived the world after 9/11 also had an affect on how the teens grew up. Did we all get lost in the death and war of our generation and fucked up our youth in the process? Is there a way back from that or have we lost all hope and besides the world dying of fire, floods and storms (and corrupt Nazi government leaders left and right on both sides of the Atlantic ocean), it will also get more troublesome because kids never knew how to grow up properly?
It’s pretty evident that EUPHORIA wants to deliver shock imagery every once in a while, but not without making sure there are at least a few solid and potentially nice characters in the mix you can root for, before being plastered with all the dark drama of the narrative. Jules and Rue seem like good-enough girls to persuade each other to become better and healthier, while Kat and McKay were secondary characters who felt and talked like they at least had some sense left in their minds. But then there is Nate, who very much reminded me of Bryce from 13 REASONS WHY, and it’s not a secret that the Netflix drama and this particular HBO show could be siblings (let’s just hope EUPHORIA doesn’t take the quality path 13 REASONS WHY took). The thing with Nate is, he could be the male lead of the show, and turning the lead into an asshole character who does not care about anything that happens around him and rather wants to be threatening and one of the cool guys is really not helpful in establishing a character pool who you can root for, or at least hope that they will see the saving grace and go for their Lord Jesus Christ, just so they can star in a Disney Channel sitcom again. But here comes back the uncertainty about EUPHORIA’s story and its future: Are we going to follow the characters into darkness, which could mean Nate is slowly turning into the bad boy of the show, or is he just the male version of the troubled female characters and he has an equal chance of getting that redemption arc than Rue and Jules may steer toward?
EUPHORIA is still a teenage drama at its core, like all the others that have enriched television over the years. The focus on Cassie and McKay’s relationship shows it, as well as Kat’s work towards losing her virginity (so, did she do it with the white kid only or were the twins also involved?). Maddie could also be considered one of the central characters, although her decision to show to Nate that she doesn’t care about his breaking up with her proves that she cares very much, which is essentially a trope of the weekly primetime teenage soap opera. But because this is HBO, there is a good chance that the characters won’t just be dealing with words and arguments with parents and their romantic interests, but instead with a whole lot of darkness and danger in their lives, which is why I hope having the kids get into booze and drugs and sex isn’t just gonna be a cheap way for the show to commence character development. You can do more than that on this show, but considering the way this episode was scripted and how it was focusing on the shock value of things (most notably Jules’s X-rated meeting with who turned out to be Nate’s father, just to make things extra weird), chances are the show will continue to push for that narrative, which means I am going to watch a show with characters who are alien to me. I was too anxious and shy during my teen years to ever consider having had these kind of friends, and I am very much out of the world EUPHORIA wants to establish, which means I will have no idea what the kids are talking about (okay, maybe when it comes to porn, I do know what they are talking about) and I will have a few problems connecting with the characters. Which is why it probably helps that some of them are being portrayed by people whom I actually know from other stuff.
Still, watching an eight-episode HBO version of what could easily become Christiane F.’s story could be a hard nut to crack. I would love to see Christiane F.’s story be adapted into a television show, or at least a show inspired by her story, but I also know that it would be one of the hardest shows to watch. You think a Christmas Eve triple feature event consisting of ANTICHRIST, MARTYRS and IRREVERSIBLE, which I did in 2009 is hard? Try watching a Christiane F.-inspired story for eight hours or more.