Made For Love, A Made-For-TV Must See

HBO Max’s new hit comedy starring Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano and Billy Magnussen critiques Silicon Valley as well as modern dating with funny wit.

HBO Max has premiered a new comedy series starring Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano, and Billy Magnussen. It is called Made For Love. A capsule drop of the first three episodes was delivered to all users of the streaming service on the morning of April 1st. The show is a darkly comedic one, with scenes of violence, intense luxury, and a futuristic take on sex. 

Made For Love Season 1 is now available to stream on HBO Max. Featuring an all-star cast with Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano and Billy Magnussen in the lead roles, it is a sci-fi dramedy featuring technology gone wrong.

Cristin plays Hazel Gogol (Née Green), a woman who met tech-tycoon Byron Gogol ten years ago. They have been married for that entire decade and have lived their lives together in a bubble space known as The Hub. The Hub is made up of virtual reality cubes that come together to make a beautiful surrounding that isn’t actually real.

Byron is deeply manipulative and an extremely powerful tech magnate. In some ways, he is a parody of Elon Musk, but he is also an amalgamation of other powerful men from the 21st century as well as recent science fiction films. He is not outwardly evil, but he is insecure and selfish. He wants Hazel all to himself, hence why he has locked her inside a VR cube in the desert. 

I have always enjoyed HBO comedy series, such as the highly-acclaimed Barry, the bizarrely funny Girls, and especially The Righteous Gemstones.  So when I found out Made For Love was coming to HBO, I was excited to check it out. Hazel is easily one of the best characters on any of these shows.

Hazel comes from a different background. Her hometown was small and impoverished. She gets through her days at The Hub by passive-aggressively giving Byron the finger behind her gossip magazines, which she reads lounging by the pool. The pool contains the dolphin Zelda, whom Byron uses as a guinea pig for his latest tech project. 

He plans to insert a chip into the brains of all couples, so that they may communicate in “...authentic and honest relationships.” Byron calls this plan “Made For Love”. The chip would allow both lovers into the mind of the other, eliminating the need for privacy and secrecy. To show his dedication to the project, he proposes that he and Hazel will be the first to take the plunge.

Hazel is soon dedicated as “User One”, against her will. While she thinks the project is a future one, she soon finds out that Byron has implanted a chip into her brain a few days prior. Her life in The Hub has been strange and controlled at times. Her naps have been scheduled and she is chirped at by robotic owls which let her know what she is supposed to be doing.

HBO's Made For Love Episode 1
Image Source: Showsnob

The World of HBO's Made For Love

Hazel’s sexual interactions with Byron must be rated by her, and while playing a flying simulator game, she is bombarded by the pop-ups sent from Byron’s team. She is understandably exhausted by this and she becomes angry and complacent in her life with Byron.

As the show opens, we are shown her escape, which later turns out to be a botched suicide attempt. When Hazel jumps into the pool, wearing the dress she wore the night she met Byron, she also has the owls in a sack around her neck which she fashioned from the bedding. This is the very same bedding that her orgasm occurred in earlier. It is a symbolic death and she wishes for it all to be over. However, Zelda, the dolphin, pokes a button that reveals a door for Hazel to escape into, and she decides to try life on the outside. 

While engaged in a hilarious sequence with one of Byron’s minions, at a strip club, she uses an emergency fire ax to chop his fingers off and escape. This is where Made For Love excels, as it has violent scenes which are not funny. But the way the scene plays out, with Hazel’s quick apology to him as she cuts his hand in half is timed hilariously. She escapes to her father’s house, knowing full well that Byron and company are following her through the chip in her head.

A flashback between Hazel’s family shows Herb, her father, attempting to fix a plane that he has recently received in a trade for their station wagon. Her mother is skeptical of his ability to fix it, and Herb is shown as having a drinking problem. Still, the memory is a fond one, and Hazel uses her Gogol software to keep an eye on her father while in The Hub. 

Made For Love Episode 2
Image Source: Telltale TV

Made For Love Episode 2 "I Want A Divorce"

Next, we have episode 2. When Hazel escapes to her childhood home, she stumbles in on her father in the middle of intercourse with his “synthetic partner” Diane. Ray Romano plays the father with hilarious shame and zeal and brings his usual comedic timing to the character. He and Milioti have good chemistry, they bounce jokes off of each other with ease and also share tender father/daughter moments. Her father Herb agrees to help her. He has sold the plane to a local family, the Voss’. They travel to the town tavern to try to convince Ma Voss to let them use the plane to escape from Byron.

This does not go well, as Herb’s standing in the community has plummeted since his relationship with the doll, Diane, started. A flashback in which a young and starving Hazel finds her father passed out right outside the same tavern, after winning the mechanical bull riding contest becomes important now, as twenty years later, Ma Voss wants to see Herb ride again.

With that in mind, he must beat her son to retrieve the plane. He agrees, in order to get the plane, and in one deeply humorous scene, which we never see, Herb goes from mounting the bull to on the ground, sure that his “bladder is burst”, as well as other hilarious remarks about his medical condition.

Hazel takes her father’s car keys, intent on leaving this place but she soon finds one of the Voss sons stealing Diane from the car. She attempts to stop him, but a man hits him in the back of his head, helping her out. This is the same man who was kind to her inside the bar, and as Byron was able to see from her chip, had aroused her with his smell. The smell becomes a major device later on as well as a punch line.

Cristin Milioti and Billy Magnussen together
Image Source: Deadline

Made For Love Episode 3 "I Want This Thing Out Of My Head"

After the battle of the bull ride, we have episode 3, which leads to a confrontation between Hazel and Byron. The Hub features all the amenities one could want, minus one smells. According to Hazel, “Byron doesn’t believe in smell.” This is just one of the funnier lines in the show which is referenced in episode 3 when Byron tries to lure Hazel back to The Hub with the promise of a new “smell cube”. 

The episode features a flashback to an interview with the formerly happy couple. Byron and his goons stage a summit for the couple in the present time as they discuss the differences in their relationship.

In the same episode, Byron and Hazel discuss these differences at her father’s house, and she finally sees through his narcissistic ways. She asks to take a walk, knowing full well he will see what she sees.

Next, she goes to find the man who helped her, using her sense of smell, and ensuring that Byron can watch, she directs the young man to remove his pants and touch himself for her. Byron is incensed with rage, as Hazel turns to the camera and says, “I don’t know what I want. But I know I don’t want you, Byron.” The episode ends there.

Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green
Image Source: IndieWire

Why You Should Watch Made For Love

HBO Max has had a good first year with dramas like my personal favorite Perry Mason, I Know This Much Is True, and my wife's favorite Love Life. But 2021, so far, has shown that HBO Max is a place for great original comedies as well. The humor is well-written and the casting is on point. Milioti and Magnussen deliver their funny lines with deadpan precision. 

What this shows does well is timing. The jokes aren’t that original or over the top, they are just regular things that become funny because of the way they are delivered. Hazel’s apology to Lyle as she cuts his fingers off is a good example. The slow-motion scene in which Hazel gleefully beats a Byron piñata to death to the tune of a charming song is right on the money.

In addition to the comedic rhythm, the flashback sequences help the show along as well. The non-linear story is very effective. One can be sure that mysteries will be solved, as not everything will be made clear at once. This keeps the viewer wanting more, wanting to find the answer to a question from the previous episode. 

Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green
Image Source: Marie Claire

The Cast of Made For Love

The cast of Made For Love has many bright spots, and all the performers come together to deliver a hilarious and dramatic show. Here is the main cast that appears in the show:

  • Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green
  • Billy Magnussen as Byron Gogol
  • Ray Romano as Herb Green
  • Noma Dumezweni as Fiffany
  • Patti Harrison as Bangles
  • Caleb Foote as Bennett
  • Dan Bakkedahl as Herringbone
  • Augusto Aguilera as Liver
  • Kym Whitley as Judiff
  • Raymond Lee as Jeff
  • Christopher Bagnall as Shane Voss
Byron with Hazel Gogol
Image Source: Informone

Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green

Milioti’s performance as Hazel is great too. She is very real, and vulnerable, and overall pretty sad. In The Hub, she plays a fake version of herself, singing duets with Byron to entertain his board members. But this need to fake things causes her to attempt suicide, which would be a very dark scene if it weren’t for Zelda’s help.

These dark moments are given comedic light with funny occurrences like that. Milioti’s control in the scene with the young man is sexy. She is shown as taking back the power and showing Byron she doesn’t need him anymore. In this, she asserts herself as a woman and sticks up to the insecure bully that is Byron Gogol. 

Most importantly, Milioti is a charismatic actress. She can pull off a dramatic and sad scene with ease, but she really shines in comedic moments. Her own charisma, coupled with her chemistry with her costars Ray Romano and Billy Magnussen gives the show a believable feeling.

She was also on The Sopranos as well, she played Johnny Sack’s daughter in the final season. It is good to see her in a central role here. She always had potential, she is an extremely beautiful girl with a sweet personality and one hopes that this new show can be her own personal showcase. Her comedic timing and charm are on point. If you liked her in this, check out another science-fiction comedy that stars her opposite Andy Samberg, 2020’s Palm Springs.

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg promoting Palm Springs 2020
Image Source: ABC

She has also cut her teeth in the theater industry, earning a Grammy Award for her performance in Once. She also had a smaller role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street in which she played Jordan Belfort’s first wife.

Milioti is perhaps best remembered for her role as the mother on How I Met Your Mother. She appears in the final season only, and many critics and fans bemoaned the killing off of her character. Cristin is also a singer-songwriter and has released a couple of singles of her work.

Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green on Made For Love
Image Source: TVLine

Billy Magnussen as Byron Gogol

Magnussen is as magical as Byron as well. His superficial beliefs and background make him an easy target for humor. The fact he doesn’t believe in smell is quite funny. He seems to live in his own reality.

In many ways, he is similar to Griffin, from The Invisible Man. In the 2020 film, Griffin uses his technological savvy to build a suit that will allow him to stalk his ex-girlfriend. She was trapped much in the same way Hazel is. The parallels are obvious, but because this show is a dark comedy, liberties are allowed.

Magnussen and Milioti previously worked together on the acclaimed 2018 episode of Dark Mirror which won four Primetime Emmys. The feature-length episode, "USS Callister" touched on similar themes of misogyny and technological abuse which are used to such great effect in Made For Love. It is hard to imagine HBO not capitalizing on the success of that particular episode of Dark Mirror.

Cristin Milioti and Billy Magnussen share how they built their chemistry up.

Ray Romano with his wife Diane In Made For Love On HBO Max
Image Source: The Austin Chronicle

Ray Romano as Herb Green

One can also not count out the name recognition that Romano brings to the show. Coming off two career-resurgent roles in The Irishman and Get Shorty, this show too allows his comedic grandeur to live on. And he plays well off Milioti and adds an extra layer of absurdity to their interactions. He is, after all, a comedic television legend.

All in all, Made For Love has an optimistic future. Milioti’s comedic timing, as well as charisma and charm, make her a must-see here. The writing is funny when it hits and Ray Romano really brings his hilarious gravitas to the set. The combination of Milioti and Romano is a revelation and one can imagine it will only get better as time goes on.

The Cover Art For HBO's Made For Love Soundtrack
Image Source: Amazon

The Music Of Made For Love

The soundtrack is fresh and potent. With music from Keefus Ciancia, as well as more selected tunes, the vibe is fresh. There are a few nostalgic cuts that go well with Hazel’s trip back home. The musical duet between the main characters is usually an underused device.

In films about love, especially two charismatic individuals, a duet can be played off really well. The two of them sing Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love is Strange”. We, as the audience, enjoy the other side of this, as we only know that they are going through a hard time, and this is both of them having to be fake at a party. This foreshadows the couple’s destruction down the line.

Hazel And Byron Duet
Image Source: TVLine

The soundtrack includes a diverse group of stand-out artists from the psychedelic Weyes Blood and Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski. These sounds play an important part in setting the overall tone of the show and add an important element to the progression of the scenes.

Above, Cristin Milioti shares her crazy experience filming Made For Love for HBO Max.

Made For Love Season 2

The season finale of Made For Love was creatively left open-ended, just in case it got renewed for a second season. It has not yet been renewed for a second season, but it has not been canceled either. We sure hope it does get renewed, and the fans agree, as it currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Joseph Poulos is a freelance writer from Michigan.

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