If we were to compare HBO to a gastronomic experience, it would be a prestigious restaurant with years of experience to its name, delighting the most exquisite palates with a minimalist menu and dishes which are not always easy to digest, but the taste and quality of which are beyond doubt. Dishes from which they have forged their legendary reputation. And despite the fierce competition, it has never felt daunted and has always stayed loyal to its true identity, even when it has incorporated dishes from other smaller restaurants to its menu given a shared ideology. And that’s exactly the case with this splendid miniseries. Eight episodes about a legendary couple of choreographer and director Bob Fosse, and the women who was first his lover, then his wife and above all his great muse, Gwen Verdon. A veritable marvel.

On the one hand, the series introduces us to a guy who took life in deep slow sips, who believed himself immortal, unfaithful, selfish, extreme perfectionist, born seducer, addicted to barbiturates, smoker and inveterate drinker, … deep down, a child in the body of an adult whose conduct was of his time, and which today would be logical and absolutely reprehensible, just like someone who took advantage of their position to sleep with young colleagues and aspiring stars while devouring a life of excess. And on the other, the woman who had to endure his anger for years; his whims, his infidelities while working, although not as much as she wanted, while she was taking care of their daughter Nicole, who, by the way, is one of the series producers and whose addictions and weaknesses are also showcased.

One of the series’ virtues is the way we are witness to the complex relationship between the genius who managed to transform the aesthetics of musicals, and the woman who was capable of translating his ideas and turning them into artistic realities – at some point she points out that she would never have been able to do it on her own – and that she was forced to use her full arsenal to get him to work on the theatrical version of Chicago. It was Chicago that would relaunch Verdon’s career earning him major fame after a period of ostracism. That’s why the series triumphs when it unites the starring couple, Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, both spectacular in their conversion and involvement with their respective characters. In addition, at no time does the series fall back on the easy culprit, as they show the continuous leaps backwards and forwards in time; when episode three opens with an inspired musical number in which Bob Fosse arrives at the editing room for Cabaret to the beat of Wilkommen played by Joel Gray in the 1971 film and almost forgotten today; or the way of presenting each episode, imitating fragments of films or works, but with Verdon or Fosse, like when he imitates Lenny Bruce. Spectacular and extremely elaborate visually, this journey through the emotional and sentimental swings of the legendary couple doesn’t pass up on the opportunity to show the ins and outs of a film shoot and what went on behind the scenes and that we had never been told about. Of course, coming from this fine restaurant with such a sublime menu, what else was to be expected?

By Blai Morell
Blai Morell. Cinephil and critic. He works in Rac 1, QuèFem and Fotogramas.