Stream it or skip it?

We’ve never tried a digital detox, so we have no idea if it would work or not. But we all think that we can use one at some point or another; Getting away from our phones and computers allows us to become more involved with the real world around us. A new French comedy shows what happens when two friends decide to do just that after they each go through a particularly humiliating night.

Opening shot: A bag of popcorn is pulled from a microwave and a woman sits online watching what her boyfriend is doing.

The essence: More accurately, Léa (Tiphaine Daviot) is looking at what her ex-Boyfriend Guillaume (Gauthier Battoue) is doing. Despite having been separated for a year, Léa is convinced that this is just a momentary breakup, which is why she has been cyber stalking him through her social networks. She even has passwords in her email and cameras that she uses when she rides her scooter. Every time she texts him, he tells her to leave him alone.

Her roommate and best friend Manon (Manon Azem) has problems of her own; she is trying to start a singing career under pressure from her mother Patricia (Héléna Noguerra) to move home and work in her restaurant. Her manager Diriko (Nicholas Berno) wants her to dress sexy and wear a fake butt for her industry introduction; she reluctantly agrees, but when he encourages her to dive onto the stage, she hits the ground and her fake cheeks fly off. Suffice to say, the video goes viral.

Léa has an equally bad day when she realizes that Guillaume has finally blocked her on social media and changed all her passwords; she even runs to her office to ask why she is excluded from it. Not only is she arrested, but Guillaume decides to press charges, calling her “sick”.

The friends get drunk to death that night and, in the midst of their misery, decide to start a digital detox. That means no phones, no social media, no internet for a month. When they wake up the next day, with their phones smashed and everything else ripped off the walls, they decide it’s something they should try, hard as it is, because being online all the time has been toxic to both of their lives. They enlist the help of their friend Gagan (Oussama Kheddam) to maintain their electronic devices, handle incoming calls to their store, and keep them honest.

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off the hook
Photo: Marie Genin/Netflix

What shows will it remind you of? off the hook (original title: detox) is in the crazy high-concept vein of comedies like dazzledthat tend to succeed when the lofty concept dissipates and the characters are what we end up seeing.

Our take: The reason we mention that the characters take over the concept is that off the hook doesn’t exactly put Manon or Léa in the best light before they start their detox. Manon is a bit pathetic, taking sexist orders from her disgusting manager to make it as a singer. Léa, on the other hand, is bordering on criminal insanity, and there isn’t much context at first to make her seem like anything other than the stereotypical “crazy ex-girlfriend” that Rachel Bloom created an entire series about.

Don’t get us wrong, Tiphaine Daviot does a lot with Léa’s craziness; she’s a talented comedic actress, with facial expressions and tics that are sometimes funnier than the lines she says. She somehow manages to make us give a shit about Léa even though she’s harassing her ex so hard. What we wish we had was some basis for why she has been so obsessed with Guillaume a year after they broke up. Is it just that she can’t believe he left her or is there something deeper?

We need that part of her backstory, or else she’s going to look crazy. We get a little backstory for Manon in the guise of her mother, who seems to be judgmental and loud, and her interactions seem to be in the tense but loving category. We’re still not sure why Manon decided to start a singing career in what appears to be her twenties or thirties, but at least we know that she hates the indignity of diving into a puddle of dough and having breadcrumbs fall on her for a little while. ad session.

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We see hints of how detox influences members of the female inner circle, like when Léa’s mom tries to get Léa’s dad to kick the internet out of the room and he just walks out, or when some of Manon’s relatives use the idea from detoxification to disciplining his teenage son. If the idea is that the detox will not only expand the horizons of the friends, but also positively influence their loved ones, some of the craziness of the first episode will not feel so manufactured.

Sex and skin: None in the first episode.

Parting shot: When Léa’s sister-in-law arrives with messages on the second day, Léa and Manon fight over her phone in a sure sign of digital withdrawal.

sleeping star: Oussama Kheddam is funny as Gagnon, who has no faith in his friends that they’ll make it in a few days, much less a month.

Most of the Pilot-y line: “I know! We set a time, like in the 90s,” Léa tells Manon when they realize they can’t call each other when they meet at Léa’s sister-in-law’s apartment.

Our call: TRANSMIT IT. Although the main characters of off the hook have schematically drawn motivations for doing their digital detox, we look forward to seeing them both change and grow as they re-engage with the world around them.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a couch potato. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, vanityfair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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