Hulu’s very loose Four Weddings and a Funeral remake was (mostly) a delightful rom-com mini-series produced by Mindy Kaling. Taking the update of the 1994 film on its own, the show provided me with the warm, fuzzy, and not grim!dark TV feels I’ve been lacking recently. I really looked forward to it every week and think it mostly succeeded in fulfilling a hole in my TV viewing desires. It was a diverse show about love and relationships without the cloying and emotionally manipulative pulling of deeper emotions attempted by shows like This is Us (which I like), A Million Little Things (which I kinda gave up on), and The Village (which I hated the commercials for). But despite its diversity, both on screen and behind the camera, the show had a Duffy Problem.
Our main character is Maya, a policy wonk sleeping with her politician boss. When her friend Ainsley is set to get married in London, Maya flies out to perform her maid of honor duties. On the way there, she meets a dashing Pakistani gentleman who, though they connect instantly, she assumes she’ll never see again. Unfortunately, Kash her best friend’s fiance. The series mainly follows these two, and their group of mutual friends, as they figure out just what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
Duffy, one of the Core Four members of Maya’s college friend group, is the seemingly sad single one. He is hopelessly hung up on Maya, while the others are all in relationships. Maya, of course, is sleeping with someone she can’t have, so he thinks there’s hope for him yet. But he’s never says anything to her about his feelings for over ten years and we’re supposed to feel really sad about it.
For about two seconds, I thought they were going to make Duffy a critique of the “nice guy trope.” Duffy exhibits many of the characteristics of the nice guy: chronically friend-zoned, pining after a girl in his life, and unable to see her disinterest as a firm rejection because he is blinded by hid feelings for her and not her own feelings. But the show never challenges these traits. Duffy gets with Tabby, whose affections he is blind to, his friends suck up to him when he gets mad they haven’t read his 1400-page magnum opus, and he finally gets to date the girl of his dreams even though she is definitely in love with someone else. He’s rewarded over and over again, despite the way he treats Tabby for trying to help him with his book, despite the way he treats Maya after they break up, despite the way he treats his friends when they don’t do something they clearly can’t do. (Why would you expect CRAIG and AINSLEY to read your fantasy book, bro?)
When he and Maya break up, it’s HIS decision because he feels like she’s just being vaguely distant. Then, when he finds her pining letter to Kash, he gets angry with her for having feelings for someone else, when he did the same thing to Tabby. He spends weeks in a funk, being mean and broken and I felt not one ounce of pity for him. I was more annoyed that he was unable to grow up and see his friend as someone who has clearly deep feelings for someone, even though she tried to make it work with him. Maya’s not perfect, but the way Duffy and the rest of the group treated her was double any offenses she committed, to me.
Even towards the end, he finally moves on from Maya and begins to spend time with Gemma, who at the very least, doesn’t take his crap. She’s tough with him in a way that no one else is, but still falls for him. Despite that one sweet, sweet shove, she doesn’t really make a comment on screen about some of his more churlish behaviors. Duffy is rewarded for his previous actions, and we never see the other ways in which he experiences growth on screen. After the year hiatus between Maya and the group, Maya mentions he’s dressing differently, but that’s the only real way we’ve called attention to the fact that Duffy has changed at all.
Then, suddenly his mother gets ill, and we’ve now spent more time with members of Duffy, Craig, and Ainsley’s family than we ever did with Maya’s family. (We know her mom died, but don’t get to meet any members of her family. We’re meant to assume she’s spent 10 years in America, when her friends all moved to London, with no friends or family close by? I suppose that’s why she’s sleeping with her boss at the start.) We’re meant to feel for Duffy’s concern for his mother and his fear of losing Gemma, but because of my dislike of him (which at that moment of his mother’s cancer reveal was kind, but in other moments reached critical mass), I didn’t care. At the end, we spend lots of time on his rec center wedding, while our main relationship Maya and Kash rushedly reunite. (Duffy’s even further rewarded by Tabby, who apparently brought several British pre-teens to a wedding in New Jersey by herself. Someone, preferably NOT Nicholas Sparks because heck no, needs to give Tabby several drinks.)
I was hoping, with Duffy’s first infraction, that the show would spend some time interrogating or challenging the “nice guy trope.” Not that Duffy would turn out to be more understanding than he was, or that he wouldn’t briefly achieve his dream of dating Maya, but that more than just short shove from Gemma would call him on his bs. Duffy is right up there with Ross Geller and Ted Mosby in sad-sack, “nice” characters who get the girl no matter how far they test the boundaries of friendship, decency, and “niceness.” He’s not as bad as the characters from ten and twenty years ago, but the show didn’t consciously distinguish him from that ilk, and I know the vast majority of my peers who watched the show hated Duffy with a passion.
Even the season(/series?) finale showed more of Duffy’s life than Maya, our supposed main character and main love interest. Duffy lives with Gemma and Giles at their estate and presumably still works at Giles’ school, but what are Maya and Kash going to do? Unclear, because the episode spent so much more time on Duffy and the two other trash friends (sorry not sorry) who abandoned Maya and not enough time showing us Maya achieve her polticial dreams or figuring out how she’s going to make it work with Kash long-distance with him finally being in a successful play. They’re both living their dreams, how are they supposed to make love work? Perhaps there will be a season two that will explain these things and spend a little less time with Caleb Duffy. But considering this was meant to be a mini-series, I think we’re stuck at the rec center in New Jersey, slurping up liquefying jello.