What if you convinced Renée Zellweger to star in a baffling cross between a Mexican telenovela and a Barbara Taylor Bradford miniseries, threw in a gay topless dancer called Kevin, abandoned all plot and chucked in dialogue like: “Everything feels broken – like our marriage vase?”
Well, you might get What/If, which redefines the ‘so bad it’s good’ genre to such a degree that Tommy Wiseau, director of the world’s worst film, The Room, will be shaking in his boots.
Now, I know you can’t spare the time to watch any old crap, I understand. I didn’t want to surrender to What/If either. I wondered whether life was too short. But then my friend memorably described the script as “written by Shih Tzus with typewriters, except actually it’s just written by one Shih Tzu wearing a bowtie while the rest of them run around barking in the background”.
Who could resist? Episode One starts with plucky molecular biologist Lisa as she attempts to fund her ailing start-up, which aims to save children with a rare resistance to leukaemia treatment – children like her little sister, who died of the disease just after their parents perished in a house fire. (I KNOW.)
Sean has a secret. And Marcos has a secret. And Kevin has tight buttocks. You follow?
It’s not going well, so Sean, her hunky ex-football-player-turned- paramedic husband (who may as well have ‘GOOD GUY’ emblazoned on the back of his jacket) agrees to a night of passion with evil venture capitalist Anne Montgomery (Zellweger), in exchange for a $20m investment. Meanwhile, Sean’s best friend’s wife Angela is having an affair with a heart surgeon. Then there’s Lisa’s adoptive brother Marcos, who meets a guy called Kevin who dances on a box in a bar, so obviously Marcos’ partner merrily invites him back for a threesome. Oh, and Sean has a secret. And Marcos has a secret. And Kevin has tight buttocks. You follow?
No, didn’t think so. In fact, I think this may be the world’s first spoiler-resistant show, because there’s not a single moment when anyone can say for sure what’s going on. Is there a cure for it? Who cares? This is turbo shlock, loosely based on Indecent Proposal. Things happen. It rains at night. Contracts are signed. Flashbacks, revenge and broken marriage vases are featured. At one point, to demonstrate how focused and determined Anne is, she actually does archery in her living room. Renée hams it up so much she could start her own deli, and the rest of the Z-list cast look woefully confused, as if they’re wondering when they can get back to their day jobs holding signs that say ‘Golf Sale’.
What/If calls itself an anthology series about moral choices, which is fancy talk for, ‘Nope, we’ve got no idea what’s going on either.’ It’s truly, hilariously, joyfully bad. What if it was good? Well, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.
What/If is on Netflix now