Daisy May Cooper is a bona fide celebrity on British television, so well known as an actress and creator of her series that she was invited to participate in the British adaptation of The Masked Singer earlier this spring. A true Otter, she was.
Jenny McCarthy might not have known what to do if Cooper had been unmasked on American Masked Singer in February. Cooper may have been recognized from two Armando Iannucci works, The Personal History of David Copperfield and Avenue 5, but the American remake of the award-winning comedy she starred in and created with her brother Charlie, This Country, was a flop.
Similarly, the American adaptation of the British smash hit Taskmaster, which Cooper contributed to the tenth season, was a flop on Comedy Central.
That, of course, is evolving. This spring, American viewers will get a crash lesson in Daisy May Cooper, finally giving us a chance to learn about this incredible multitasker.
That Cooper’s first significant domestic exposure was the HBO drama Rain Dogs, a scathing and effectively dismal investigation of economic desperation and discovered families in modern London, was probably for the best. Cooper’s broad yet grounded lead performance is the glue that holds this tonally tricky piece together.
Cooper’s second springtime star vehicle, Am I Being Unreasonable? on Hulu and BBC One, maybe even more wholly demanding. Am I Being Unreasonable? was written alongside Selin Hizli, and it can be described as either a comedic thriller or a ridiculous mystery.
It’s a fantastic show to follow and try to figure out, and it features many of the same acting elements that made Cooper so compelling in Rain Dogs. However, the show’s structural ambitions come at the expense of its emotional impact. Too frequently, this tale of two friends united by shared suffering is reduced to a game of espionage.
Do I Sound Irrational? Cooper plays Nic, a suburban mother who is emotionally stagnant. She has a deep and abiding love for her son, Ollie (Lenny Rush), but her marriage to Dan (Dustin Demri-Burns) is stuck in a rut, and she is haunted by the sudden death of her real love, Alex (David Fynn), a pain she can’t talk about with anyone.
How can she tell Dan or her super-annoying next-door neighbor Karla Crome (who steals every scene she’s in) how she feels?
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Suddenly, Jen (Hizli) arrives. She, too, is a frustrated mother. Like Nic, she despises overbearing mothers. Soon, Nic shares intimate details about her life with Jen while under the influence of alcohol; even though Jen has her secrets, their supposedly therapeutic connection may have unintended consequences.
If you want to know anything about Nic as a character, you first need to know that she is incredibly humorous and broken. Nic is having flashbacks, hallucinations, and rage attacks, which, although understandable, hinder her ability to connect with others and influence them.
Like Costello (Bradley Cooper’s character in Rain Dogs), Nic is a devoted mother who worries excessively that her child will be like her in every way. Cooper has swiftly established herself as a standout actress opposite kid performers, and her sequences with Rush are equal parts amusing, endearing, and slightly unsettling upon reflection.
Hizli may have the more challenging job because Jen’s true nature is initially obscured. Could she be a woman who recently moved here by herself and is looking for companionship? Is she in search of friendship, vengeance, or something else entirely? To Hizli’s credit, she manages to make you care about her character even as she keeps you wondering about her motivations by combining lovely grief with manic glints that leave room for many interpretations.
On April 11, David Fynn posted on his official Twitter feed, “American pals. I’m extremely proud to be part of this one. Lands on Hulu today.”
American pals. I'm extremely proud to be part of this one. Lands on Hulu today. https://t.co/RZK27zzNBK
— David Fynn (@davidfynn) April 11, 2023
This game of “Am I Being Unreasonable?” is a guessing game. It keeps the show going and, in the end, is what drove me crazy. Withholding information is the driving force behind the entire series.
In some cases, it’s natural. Nic is in denial about many things, and there are things she knows but can’t tell anyone for increasingly clear reasons. Jen may be in denial or self-deluded, but the reasons she can’t reveal her history are plain to see.
Nonetheless, the show grows increasingly invested in filling in existing narrative gaps. The series is best approached as a puzzle than a character study, so if all I can think about is, “Oh, that’s why that plot hole wasn’t a plot hole!” or “Oh, that wasn’t a character inconsistency at all!” then I’m not giving it my full attention.
The fact that Ollie is an aspiring filmmaker with a funny horror preoccupation helps rationalize some of the show’s genre shifts. Still, the startling, nightmarish excursions are probably enough to set it apart without focusing on the story and its omissions. Instead, more important themes and facets of the characters’ personalities have been glossed over.
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Do I Sound Irrational? has been picked up for an additional season. I’m curious to see if the first six episodes are merely a whirlwind introduction to establish that anything may happen to these individuals in the rest of the season and not a template for the structure moving forward.
Spending more time with the two leads as humans rather than moving parts in a sleight-of-hand game may allow the excellent acting to shine more. However, without deceit, the show might not get very far. I have reservations about Daisy May Cooper’s American Spring, but I love it. Also, I highly recommend watching Rain Dogs.
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