I’m buying whatever Vanessa Bayer is selling.
I Love That for You is admittedly a hard sell.
On paper, a Showtime comedy about a grown-ass woman who lies about having cancer so she can live her dream of being a home shopping network host might not sound like a must-watch. But I assure you, it’s the show you never knew you needed.
The fresh concept comes from a delightfully hilarious duo, Vanessa Bayer and Jeremy Beiler, who worked together on Saturday Night Live for years. Bayer also stars in the semi-autobiographical series as our main gal, Joanna Gold, a childhood leukemia survivor who’s living a socially sheltered adult life under her parents’ roof. When we first see Joanna in 2022, she’s working at Costco with her dad. After deciding it’s time to make moves and audition for her favorite home shopping channel, the Special Value Network (SVN), she embarks on one hell of a glow up.
#Blessed Credit: Tony Rivetti Jr. / Showtime
SVN is the hottest of hot messes, led by ice-cold CEO Patricia Cochran (Jenifer Lewis). Under her judgmental eye, Joanna tries to find her star power alongside Patricia’s senior associate Darcy (Matt Rogers); fellow network hosts Jackie (Molly Shannon), Beth Ann (Ayden Mayeri), and Perry (Johnno Wilson); and a thoughtful, dreamy, musically inclined stage manager named Jordan (Paul James). Oh, sorry. There’s just one thing I left out. Joanna only has her dream job because she told everyone her cancer came back.
Spoiler alert: It hasn’t.
While cancer is no laughing matter, Bayer had leukemia as a child and was able to approach the heavy topic from a place of personal experience. She captures the fear, frustration, and chaos that comes with a cancer diagnosis, as well as the emotional tolls that linger after recovery. Between cancer conversations, workplace drama, identity crises, and rocky relationships, the series has a surprising amount of depth coursing through each 30-minute episode. But serious scenes never detract from the razor-sharp, spot-on humor that makes the show tick.
Girl’s night! Credit: Nicole Wilder / Showtime
No, like. I’m obsessed with them. Credit: Nicole Wilder / Showtime
I Love That for You is a rare glimpse at comedic lightning in a bottle. Every character is perfectly cast, with quirks and personalities that exquisitely complement each other. Lewis, in particular, shines as a fiercely independent woman who loves Rolos more than people and gives her one-night stands “fuck baskets” to encourage them to leave her house. And of course, the series would be nothing without Bayer, who could teach a charming master class on how to be painfully awkward. Joanna’s beaming smile, over-the-top reactions, and rogue body language are endlessly amusing. Her random sound effects, voices, and flustered word salads could easily make one snort. And her unnaturally abbreviated words — from “gelat” (short for gelato) to “thank” (short for thank you) — are so cringeworthy you can’t help but love them.
As someone who was also obsessed with infomercials as a child, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the elaborate world of SVN a shoutout. The set, which gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the network’s offices, stages, control rooms, and dressing rooms, is so fun. The plethora of props are a thing of beauty. And it’s as enjoyable to see the characters hustling to sell products onscreen — which range from pleather joggers to infinity scarves to place mats — as it is to see them interact with one another in the office.
Ugh. This set is everything. Credit: Tony Rivetti Jr. / SHOWTIME
I Love That for You is both unconventional and wonderful. It inspires earnest introspection along with unrelenting laughter in the form of stellar jokes, physical comedy, and a liberal use of the word “fuck.”
Whether it’s a pencil, a rancid-smelling pillow mist, or a one-of-a-kind comedy with a whole lot of heart, I’m buying whatever Bayer is selling.