New York: A dramedy

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  • Photo: John Wisniewski, via flickr



I sometimes feel as though a typical day in New York is, on an emotional level, equivalent to being tossed into the plotline of a D-list romantic comedy. In the film, the swoon-worthy lover akin to James McAvoy or Ewan McGregor has been replaced by 8.5 million city-goers.

Some scenes are hot and steamy, like commutes in subway cars packed tight like sardines in a tin can. Others are melancholy, like realizing your unlimited monthly MetroCard has slipped away, to be picked up and used by someone else like a lover lost.

Critics might say that the climax is weak, but one could argue that the premise is more of a “character study” than a traditional narrative structure in which action rises and falls in great hurdles.

It’s the little things — the joy of a buttery, fresh baked croissant from Balthazar and the woeful, gut-churning aftermath of your gluten intolerance that follows — which make the plot interesting.

Considering the cast of characters remains fairly consistent and the general setting remains the same day-by-day, it may be more fitting to liken this lifestyle to an episodic series. A dramedy of sorts (CC: Netflix executives).

Here’s how I’d envision the pilot might go:

Alexa, 25, wakes to the sound of an electric drill hacking away at the drywall just below her bedroom as a crew of builders continue their work transforming the first floor into an ice cream shop. She chuckles at the cruel irony of this, as she is severely lactose intolerant and just a few sweet bites would put her stomach into pure turmoil.

Cut to: the L-train platform. Alexa commutes from Williamsburg to Midtown Manhattan each day. It’s a worthwhile trek for a job she enjoys, but each journey offers new surprises — sometimes good (finding someone’s unlimited MetroCard) but often bad (spending 20 minutes in a delayed car with her head in a tall man’s sweat-soaked armpit).

Today’s surprise isn’t great — she’s run into her ex-boyfriend. This occurs roughly once every other month. The director (Alexa) would have it differently, if only the actor would agree to the script: love reignited in a passionate scene in which he admits that she was right about everything always, and how could he possibly live without her?

She eyes him from across the car. David Attenborough narrates something about animal instinct, predator and prey. She approaches with confidence. She goes in for the kill.

“Hey, what a surprise!” she says through cringed teeth, followed by uncomfortable banter, followed by “Yes, great to see you, too,” and some profuse sweating.

Cut to: the office. Alexa works in advertising. This scene, some viewers point out, could be cut — it’s much too long (8 hours).

“That was really long and pretty boring,” one viewer noted. “It could’ve used more action — all she did was stare at her computer!”

“I did like when she spilled coffee on herself, though. That was funny.”

Cut to: happy hour at a bar, no name. The bar is called “No Name.” It’s meant to be cool.

The casting director has collected a motley crew to fill the space, although roughly half of the male actors sport some type of man bun, a number Alexa finds to be entirely unnecessary.

After two glasses of wine and one greasy plate of french fries, Alexa realizes that she had agreed to accompany a friend to a yoga class that very evening. A dramatic face-palm is followed by a “ba-dum-tiss” on the drums and forced laughter by the studio audience. Alexa throws some money on the table, apologizes to the friends she double-booked, and exits.

Cut to: the yoga studio. While her friend flows gracefully on the mat adjacent to her, Alexa maintains a steady child’s pose. Her attempt at downward dog has led some of the food she’d just eaten to make a brief reappearance. At the bottom of the screen, subtitles read:

“Yoga is a sport of interpretation, to be adjusted to the needs of the yogi. Stronger, more advanced students enjoy a vigorous, athletic routine. Weaker class-goers may find a more meditative flow.”

Cut to: Alexa’s apartment complex. As she turns the key in the lock, she wonders what she’ll find — she expects that her roommates will be awake and chatty. To her surprise, she enters to an empty home. It’s quiet — almost too quiet.

She tiptoes to her room, changes into pajamas, and settles into bed, suspicious of any plot twists or cliffhangers. But they don’t come, and her lids become heavy, and she drifts off with ease.

“I didn’t get the ending,” one viewer commented. “But I have a good feeling that things are about to get more interesting.”

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