From the minds behind The Rehearsal (Nathan Fielder) and Uncut Gems (Benny Safdie) comes a mockumentary/found footage style HGTV spoof about a couple trying to create THE new big eco-friendly city and “do good for the community.” Set in Española, New Mexico, the series is completely riveting while simultaneously being absolutely revolting for most of the hour-long first episode. Trust us when we say you won’t be able to take anything seriously for more than 5 minutes at a time. Episode 1 introduces the couple, Whitney and Asher Seigel, played by Emma Stone (!) and Fielder, who are working on a documentary to show off their house-flipping skills in a show rightly titled Flipanthropy (oops).
What Happens In The Episode?
Within the first 5 minutes of the show, we’re left cringing thanks to Dougie (played by the enigma that is Safdie), who happens to force a woman with cancer to appear teary-eyed so his documentary can be entertaining (yikes). Whitney is disgusted by the gimmick because all she wants is to “do good” for the locals. They’re giving the dying woman’s son a job at the newly opened bistro in the town out of goodwill (you know, as part of their flipping). After the title credit rolls in like it was made using Keynote back in the late 2000s, we’re shown the “beautiful” home that the couple lives in, an enchanting house that is entirely reflective (unfortunately, not of the people living inside it), i.e., made from mirrors and eco-certified by a German company that claims to be the gold standard for eco-homes (the sustainability girlies are just losing their minds). Dougie is absolutely distraught by how boring the show is turning out to be, with the lack of drama and only house talk. HGTV would be very disappointed.
In the meantime, the happy couple is meant to do an interview for TV, and the reporter keeps asking them questions about Whitney’s parents, who are known as slumlords, something she cannot by any means be associated with. Asher, though, is the one who gets furious and “flips” out on the reporter, forcing her to talk about her dad, who left her, to put across his point about Whitney being her own person. In the most unnecessarily brash way, he tells her to maintain eye contact with him because he’s the one talking (you see what we mean?). Given the situation, Whitney is furious and tells Asher to go back and apologize to the reporter and make sure that her parents are never mentioned on air. Dougie is overjoyed by the news of Asher messing up the interview, but Whitney won’t allow him to shoot, so instead, he gets B-rolls, which may be just as bad or worse for Whitney.
When they reach the place where the reporter wants to meet Asher, she asks for 10 minutes to finish up some work (rude!). While waiting, Dougie gets Asher to go up to a young girl and give her some money for some extra community work showmanship. Asher’s reluctant at first, but he has no choice but to do it. The guy has only a $100 bill and goodwill, and all aside, he’s not about to blow it on some homeless child. After handing the elementary-school-aged black girl the money for the clip, he asks for the note back, promising he’ll buy six of the Sprite cans she’s selling, which are worth $2 each, for $20 (how generous!). He grabs the note from her hand, which doesn’t go as well as he planned, and, you guessed it, the girl says, “I curse you.” Asher, a skeptic who doesn’t so much care for what she’s saying, decides to maintain his good streak and give her $20 anyway.
This man doesn’t want to use the ATM because it has a withdrawal charge, but after he realizes he’s got no choice, he decides to use it. Well, what do you know? The machine doesn’t work, and one of the guys in the store tells Asher to give him his pin so he can do the magic trick and bring out the money. The cycle repeats, and at first, he refuses, finally folding and giving away his pin. He gets the money, but by the time he gets out, the girl, her sister, and her father have left. He speaks to the reporter, giving her a scoop about a casino, which she’s only interested in if there are documents to prove his words, and they decide to meet next Tuesday. This clearly isn’t going to work out for the Seigels, but sure, we’ll see how it goes.
At Whitney’s parents’ home (the same ones she said she’s not associated with anymore), her mother fat-shames a woman, and her father talks to her husband about being insecure in the bedroom (this stretch has got to be the strongest in the whole show). Now, we don’t know about you, but we won’t be able to see cherry tomatoes the same again. When they get back home, their delivery of chicken penne is missing the chicken, something Asher cannot stand and needs a refund for.
Dougie has a lot of ideas, but Whitney keeps tearing them down because they violate her idea of the perfect good she wants to create in Española. Dougie is actually Asher’s friend, and they’re banking on him because HGTV is supposed to be trusting of his work. Considering Whitney is so totally against it, Dougie shows them a TV show he worked on about a “Bachelor” kind of show, except the leading man is a burn victim, and his face is covered right until after his chosen bride, and he ties the knot (Nah, this isn’t even a prank). Things escalate, and Whitney ends up seeing the clip with the little girl; when she hears the word “curse,” she completely freaks out (At least someone in the House of Asher cares). Asher, the skeptic, calls her an imbecile for thinking curses are real, but she gets him to go back and find the girl in the night and give her the full $100.
Why Does Asher Lie?
On his way to finding the girl, Asher also calls up the delivery guys regarding his chicken pasta with no chicken (very eco-friendly of you). When he reaches the homeless shelter, the doors are closed, but he’s let in by a caretaker. The man says they’re low on funding, so they can be open only three days a week. This is obviously the perfect opportunity for Asher and Whitney to do something good for their community, but he just keeps this information to himself and doesn’t even bother making a donation. He ends up giving the $100 bill to a random woman with a child by the side of the place in a tent and getting back home. In the meantime, Dougie gets talking to Whitney, who is trying to record a voiceover for one of the clips. He tells her how it was unbelievable that Asher, the analytical guy who would’ve made the perfect trader, is doing what he’s doing now.
He tells Whitney about how Asher would’ve never convinced him to do this project, but it was she who made him think that this would be something that would work. Not to be that person, but he makes a little sweet speech about how she’s a ray of sunshine, like that one-time Andrew Garfield spoke about her. He’s obviously saying all this to gain her trust, what with the big fight and her reaction to his other show and all. Asher returns right then, and he and Whitney get talking in the corridor while Dougie waits inside. It almost looks like we’re listening from his perspective as we look through a peephole, and Asher lies about giving the money back to the girl and her telling him that the curse is lifted. At the end of the episode, right when we think the two of them are going to enter the house, they knock on a different door, so maybe someone else is listening in. Or maybe it was just some fancy way of shooting the scene and making us feel more voyeuristic than we’re already feeling. Finally, Asher stands in the room, his eyes shaky and looking dazed, leaving us wondering if there really is a curse and if he’s finally sensing it, too. One can imagine that the guy lied because he was tired of hearing his wife tell him what to do, plus he didn’t really care for curses anyway.