Realty TV Shows about couples of all configurations litter the cable landscape. Celebrity couples, couples with dwarfism, extreme cheapskate couples, couples struggling with obesity, teen couples trying to raise babies, and couples competing to race around the world. Alexis Ryan Britt & Terence Deutsch’s new documentary series “My Other Half” is simply about what being part of a couple means to the partners in 5 different arrangements. It profiles a polyamorous couple, a lesbian couple raising children, a millennial newlywed couple, and two more orthodox couples years into their marriages.
The way the documentary was sent for review is in an episodic format instead of as a feature film. Each episode allows the couples to narrate the origins of their relationship and any of the turbulence they’ve encountered. Whatever the final format, this is way it will be reviewed. “My Other Half” is broken into 5 episodes, each focusing on one of the aforementioned couples. If presented as a feature, it would naturally cut back and forth between the different couples as it tackled similar issues to show commonality. The filmmakers do an admirable job of selecting couples but because of the current format, the strength of the piece is negatively impacted and episodes focusing on some of the less interesting couples drag. For instance, the polyamorous “couple” of Brad, Stacy, & Becky is probably the only angle substantive enough to fill an entire episode (which range from 8-14 minutes).
“My Other Half” is optimistic about these couples. It paints a mostly pretty picture of marital bliss and only minor problems. None of the couples are dealing with disease, war, or poverty. If it had a thesis, it would be that relationships are essential and that passion often takes a backseat to practicality and companionship. The couples seem to have been vetted to the point of unimpeachability. Wholesome and nonthreatening. The press materials claim that this is a portrait of diverse relationships; however, the majority of the couples are heterosexual, monogamous, seemingly affluent white people. By being so broad and trying to appeal to everyone, it ends up feeling too vague to ever find a passionate audience.
In the crowded space of nonfiction, with documentaries like “The Imposter”, ‘The Act of Killing”, and “The Overnighters”, it’s easy to overlook an admittedly well produced, quaint piece like this. While those might not seem like direct competition, there’s only so much time and attention.
Also, on a strangely specific note, there is a scene in which the facade of one of the subjects appears to crack. He talks about his anger issues and at one point says that while his partner has a big heart and is a sincere person, he himself has to feign sincerity. It is a moment that passes quickly but shows hints of an unsettling problem underneath.