The Wine Show is like a dream the internet had, made into television. Its setup is a Mad Lib of wonderful things. In it, English actor Matthew Goode, a period-drama head-turner with an Adam’s apple that has the panache of an ascot, teams up with soulful Welshman Matthew Rhys, star of The Americans and one half of the most ’shippable romance this side of a bubble-wrapped UPS package, to taste wine in the Italian countryside. Goodey plus Rhysey (as they are nicknamed on the show, to distinguish between their Matthewness) plus alcohol plus Mediterranean sunshine equals—it’s basic arithmetic—squeeeee! But for the presence of Oscar Isaac, The Wine Show seems perfect.
In the trailer, over which a portion of the internet squeed itself, Goodey and Rhysey, sporting a gnarly-yet-becoming vacation beard, giggle and chatter in alluring Anglophone accents, as if starring in a fantasy you have never been optimistic enough to imagine. The world is a vicious, violent, uncaring, and unfair place, but the trailer for The Wine Show proved that gorgeous thespians can still scam all-expense-paid vacations to Italy, because the market for soothing entertainment devoted to the finer things in life—ancient grapes, villas, erudite hunks with swoony tenors— exists, and, thus, so does civilization itself. Yet in order to continue seeing The Wine Show as evidence that the world cannot be all bad, because it is full of Matthews and Moscatos, there is one thing you must never do: You must never actually watch The Wine Show.
If the trailer for The Wine Show is a dream, The Wine Show is the long, detailed telling of the dream that is excruciatingly dull to hear about unless it features you or sex or you and sex. The show might be redeemable if it were the starting point of a future Christopher Guest movie or a Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon collaboration in desperate need of a script overhaul, but it is neither of those things. Each episode of The Wine Show—which debuts on Hulu on Saturday—runs about 50 minutes, which is probably 48 minutes too much (the trailer was two) and definitely 20 minutes too long. Rhysey and Goodey, whose brother-in-law is the series’ creator, have around 15 minutes of screentime per episode, in which they taste vintages that have been ferreted out for them by the host of the show, wine expert Joe Fattorini, try out useless and expensive wine gadgets brought to them by Joe, and go on their own wine-finding adventures, assigned to them by Joe. The majority of the episode features Joe and female correspondent Amelia Singer trekking around the world to learn how various wines are made. I believe these segments would be stultifying if one were not counting down the time until Goodey and Rhyseys’ faces reappeared, but since one is, they are unbearable.
In Goodey and Rhysey’s presence the eye is sated, but the ear is not. This is truly the worst crime of The Wine Show: It takes two dreamboats and reduces them to weenies. Actors are not writers or comedians, and it is unfair to expect the pair to keep up a stream of sharp repartee, but it is nonetheless a little crushing to discover that crush-object Matthew Rhys is the kind of person who, upon hearing someone say “I have a dilemma,” responds “I know dilemma, lovely boy,” while looking like the cat who ate the canary. Goodey acquits himself marginally better than Rhysey—he’s less of a goof—but the groan-worthy lines streaming out of the pair’s mouths include “Obi Wine Kenobi” and Goodey’s heartfelt “Knock me down with a feather!” upon tasting an Indian rosé.
Wine talk, even when delivered unsanctimoniously, still sounds like bullshit, especially when you can’t taste the wine yourself, and the verdict on it is being delivered by amateurs (strapping though they may be). And though the show is very relaxed (Goodey wears shorts, FYI), it can be shudderingly oblivious. It strives not to be snobby, but it is suffused with a clueless aristocratic languor. In the first episode, when Joe brings the Matthews some “delicious, sweet” South African wines, Rhys winces. Does he not like sweet wines? “I’d like to say it was the best of times, but sadly for me it’s the worst of times,” he replies. Rhys is sitting on the porch of a gorgeous villa overlooking the Italian countryside, drinking expensive alcohol that has been hand-selected for him by an expert. “The worst of times” is just a figure of speech; still, it’s not the time to use it. In another segment, Joe brings the Matthews a Lebanese wine and makes some concerned noises while explaining that “whole vintages haven’t happened because of missiles.” Oh whole vintages! You don’t say. Would you be so kind as to top me off?