As I look over the year in TV to pick out favorites for my Top 10, I’m using this column to highlight those 2021 series that I liked but don’t plan to put on my list. Yesterday’s selection was HBO Max’s “Starstruck.” Today’s choice is also an HBO Max romantic comedy, but one with a futuristic and somewhat twisted bent.
“Made for Love,” adapted from Alissa Nutting’s novel, is about love in a high-tech world that does not lend itself to romance. Cristin Milioti stars as Hazel, a woman whose obsessive and aggressive tech-billionaire husband (Billy Magnussen) has implanted a monitoring device in her head, so that he can track her every perception and feeling. After 10 years, Hazel makes an escape from his Atlantis-like kingdom and returns to her father’s modest home, desperate to start over (and remove that device).
The story is a bit overwrought as it reaches across eight half-hour episodes, but Milioti is a charmer (as she was in “How I Met Your Mother” and the movie “Palm Springs”). And, as her father, Herbert, Ray Romano is extraordinary. Herbert, a widower, is a likably odd dude, which becomes abundantly clear when he introduces Hazel to his girlfriend, Diane, who happens to be a life-size doll. Yes, it’s a “Lars and the Real Girl”-type situation.
Initially, it’s kind of funny, especially since the expression on the doll’s face is so peculiar and, in some ways, human. She provides some good visual punch lines. Herbert sleeps with her, he watches TV with her, and he even takes her to restaurants, despite the way people in the town laugh at him. But by the end of the season, Romano has managed to make Herbert’s love for Diane into something poignant, as we learn more about Herbert’s past and future. By the way, the show has been renewed for a second season.