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TV Series Review

We here at Plugged In take a dim view of extramarital sex. Sex is a gift to be shared between a man and a woman, we believe. To engage in that gift outside of marriage is to squander and cheapen it.

Oh, and let's not forget that you might lose your job, become the center of a national scandal and be forced to return to your not-so-happy hometown of Happy, Ala.

Well, OK, so maybe that last bit is on the edge of possibility. But Anna, a character in Tyler Perry's new TLC show Too Close to Home, will tell you it can happen.

Monica Who?

Anna was promising intern working in the White House when she fell for her boss, a.k.a. the Leader of the Free World. Apparently too young for the name "Monica Lewinsky" to mean much, Anna embarked on a torrid love affair, having sex with POTUS every time the Oval Office door shut. Sure, the guy was a little possessive, what with him forcing Secret Service agents to follow her all the time. Still, she thought the whole illicit affair was great—right up until the moment the president had a heart attack during the act. On the president's desk. While the First Lady was waiting outside.

Yeah, a bit awkward, that.

The subsequent national scandal sent Anna running back to her hometown of Happy. And while she's not exactly (ahem) happy about it, at least it's a place of refuge, right?

No such luck. The environment there is as convoluted and dangerous as a county fair on the Gaza strip. Consider Anna's longsuffering sister, Bonnie. She's raising about 27 kids (well, at least four), some of which are her own. But one, Mac, is the progeny of Bonnie's other ne'er-do-well sister, Shelby, who loves drugs (really any will do, as long as they're illegal) and will do almost anything to get them. Bonnie was hanging out with a guy named J.B. until she caught him and Shelby in a compromising position. (No one had a heart attack, thankfully.) Now Bonnie finds herself attracted to Brody, Bonnie's sorta landlord and Anna's sorta former beau.

Add in Anna's filthy hoarding mother, Brody's Alzheimer's-addled father and—back in D.C.—a still really angry First Lady who's determined to destroy Anna piece by piece (literally, if she can get a Presidential pardon for it), and you've got a home in Alabama that's anything but sweet.

Oh, and the show itself ain't all that nice, either.

Too Close For Comfort (at Any Distance)

Too Close to Home, a creation from the ever-prolific storytelling mind of Tyler Perry, is the first scripted show TLC has ever aired. Maybe the cable network should've just skipped right on to the second, because this one is terrible.

Admittedly, it doesn't look like it's even trying to be good. This is soapy, sensationalistic filler—an series for those who like their television shows simple and trashy. This is to prestige TV what I would be to Olympic-caliber gymnastics: Not in the same league. Anna's decisions are laughably bad, and yet the show seems to want us to root for her. The dialogue is flat. The acting is wooden.

But that's just the beginning of this show's problems. While some of the characters do seem to have faith and a belief in God—a rarity, admittedly, on any prime-time show—those references to religion and spirituality are often bulldozed by the show's unabashedly salacious content.

It stays clear of overt nudity and strong profanities—f- and s-words—are quietly censored. Still, there's more disrobing here than in an Old Navy dressing room, more uncomfortable gyrations than on the teacup ride in Disneyland. The sex and drugs we see would make back stage at a 1990s Guns N' Roses concert look like a quiet afternoon at Grandma's.

Tyler Perry's work has sometimes been docked for paper-thin plots and its cardboard characters, but I've often appreciated (if not loved) his movies. He understands the role that faith can in the lives of everyday people. He understands that temptation and sin can wreak havoc on those same lives.

But in Too Close to Home, Perry leans too much on that sin and temptation as his storytelling hook—using it less as a teaching tool and more as a ratings lever. It's pointless and gratuitous, in keeping with the show itself. TLC's initials once stood for The Learning Channel. But if anything, its first scripted show teaches us to stay far, far away.

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Episode Reviews

Too Close to Home: Aug. 22, 2016 "Dangerously Close, Alabama"



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Danielle Savre as Anna; Kelly Sullivan as Bonnie; Brock O'Hurn as Brody; Brad Benedict as J.B.; Tucker Meek as Jax; Britt George as Tony; Patricia French as Lilly; Alpha Trivette as Dr. Allen; Trisha Rae Stahl as Jolene; Brooke Anne Smith as Shelby; Curran Walters as Mac; Heather Locklear as the First Lady; Matt Battaglia as the President






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On Video

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Paul Asay

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