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Nick Hornby plunges into the culture wars

The running times of the episodes are getting longer and longer. The upcoming season of sci-fi drama Stranger Things features a two-and-a-half-hour episode that puts many feature films to shame. Lucky for viewers with busy schedules, Nick Hornby’s bite-sized comedy state of the nation (BBC Two) bucks that trend with its savory 10-minute tidbits about a couple in marital therapy.

Or more specifically, the couple who meet up in the same pub before each weekly session. In the first multi-Emmy Award-winning series in 2019, it was the beleaguered but loving couple of Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike as they searched for Dutch courage in a west London pub. The Brexit conflict gave the title a double meaning, but luckily didn’t feature too much.

Now we’ve flown across the pond to a much more combative setup. Scott (Brendan Gleeson) and Ellen (Patricia Clarkson) meet at a hipster Connecticut cafe whose inscrutable menu and non-binary barista Jay Scott immediately angers. But then they would: He’s an aggressively conservative “family guy,” while Ellen is a judgmental liberal activist who gets arrested over environmental protests.

Yes, Hornby has plunged headfirst into the culture wars. It makes the opening chapters almost unwatchable as Scott rants about Jay’s pronouns, claims his affairs were a product of another era, and after defending his penchant for cow’s milk over trendy alternatives, lactose issues get damn mad about the smells his childhood disappears: gasoline, tobacco, meat, farts. Right: His nostalgia goes to the point of flatulence.

Ellen is less cartoonish but still unbearable. She has failed to tell Scott that she secretly became a Quaker and began financially sponsoring a Somali teenager, and she claims to have prison wisdom after being incarcerated for just a few hours. How on earth, you ask, did this apparently irreconcilable couple survive 30 years of marriage, and how soon can they divorce?

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/state-union-series-2-review-nick-hornby-plunges-culture-wars/ Nick Hornby plunges into the culture wars

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