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HGTV Hell: Exploring ‘The Curse’ of Reality TV

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by SPN Editor

In “The Curse,” Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder take on the roles of Whitney and Asher Siegel, a married couple facing both the challenges of trying to conceive and reality TV with their HGTV show, “Flipanthropy.”

Benny Safdie plays the role of Dougie Schecter, the producer of their problematic show. The series, filmed from June to October 2022, premiered on November 10, 2023, on streaming and on-demand platforms for Showtime and Paramount+ subscribers.

“The Curse” is a genre-defying masterpiece, seamlessly blending cringe comedy, character study, and elements of horror. The show unfolds as a gripping exploration of discomfort, pain, and despair over 10 weekly episodes. Stone and Fielder portray a couple attempting to gentrify a resistant New Mexico town while their own marriage unravels, creating a narrative that is both odd and unforgettable.

“The Curse” intricately weaves a narrative that delves into complex issues, using the characters of Asher and Whitney Siegel as conduits for exploring broader societal challenges.

The show adeptly addresses the historical interaction between native pueblos and their land rights, illustrating a longstanding history of encroachment on these rights, particularly by white Americans. The gentrification depicted in the series becomes a powerful metaphor, representing the latest phase in a historical narrative marked by the struggle for native rights.

The proximity to Los Alamos introduces another layer to the narrative, raising the issue of nuclear energy and its potential environmental impact. The show skillfully navigates the dichotomy of nuclear energy being either environmentally friendly or destructive, highlighting how environmental consciousness can be harnessed or misdirected, with profound unintended effects on less-affluent communities.

While the central characters, Asher and Whitney Siegel, are financially well-off, the show explores their engagement in an HGTV project, “Fliplanthropy.” The couple, backed by Whitney’s real estate magnate parents, embark on building energy-efficient homes in Española. The narrative cleverly explores the tension between the couple’s liberal ideals and the potential implications of their project on the town’s residents. As they strive to raise the standard of living, the show’s producer, Dougie Schecter, becomes a keen observer of the cracks in their marriage.

The character names add a layer of humor and meaning to the narrative. Asher’s nickname, “Ash,” and Whitney’s name meaning “white island” cleverly highlight their outsider status in a diverse community. The show skillfully portrays their attempts to balance their bleeding-heart ideals with personal aspirations for wealth and fame. Dougie’s last name, “Schecter,” with its meaning of “ritual slaughterer,” provides a subtle hint to his character, adding depth and nuance to the storytelling.

“The Curse” masterfully intertwines personal stories with broader social issues, creating a thought-provoking and entertaining narrative that navigates the complexities of gentrification, environmental consciousness, and the intersection of personal ideals with societal realities.

Despite the standout performances, especially from Emma Stone, the series is noted for being deeply unsettling and a challenging watch. It excels at making viewers squirm, using Nathan Fielder’s signature cringe comedy to full effect.

The Curse Review

Critics offer a mixed review of “The Curse,” highlighting its sublime execution as a crime caper with a brilliant cast and applauding its successful blend of cringe comedy with contemplative character study and horror undertones. However, some find the series confounding, suggesting that its mix of tones and genres leaves central themes, particularly those related to race and constructions of the self, undeveloped. Despite these criticisms, others see “The Curse” as a skillful rendition of a familiar riff, played with love over a well-known record.

“The Curse” has been described as an old riff played with love and skill, akin to a familiar record. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a score of 83%, reflecting its polarizing yet impactful nature.

With a total of 10 episodes, each running approximately 30 minutes, “The Curse” invites viewers into a world where the boundaries between reality and fiction blur. Premiered on November 10, 2023, the series promises a unique viewing experience that challenges conventional storytelling norms.