“Made for Love” starts with a great concept. It examines toxic masculinity and the way tech has divided us as much as it’s united us through the story of Hazel (Milioti) and Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), the latter an Elon Musk-esque tech wizard whose company builds gadgets and machines that the world uses to make their lives better. He spends almost all of his time trying to expand the reach and ability of the company he named after himself, Gogol (subtle). He even lives in the Gogol Hub, the tech campus that’s basically an expansive virtual reality simulation. Want to go to Paris? Snap your fingers, and the world around you will make it look like you’re sitting by the Eiffel Tower. There’s never a reason to leave. Which is why Hazel basically hasn’t been allowed to for a decade, ever since her first date with the possessive Byron.
“Made for Love” opens with Hazel escaping the Hub and then circles back to detail what finally sent her over the edge to flee this tech prison: Byron’s long-promised project that implants a chip in the brains of two partners so they can feel and think the same things at the same time. As he tells people, “Every thought, every feeling, shared,” never asking himself what kind of sociopath would ever want that kind of invasion of privacy of their alleged loved one. Byron is the kind of toxic dude who believes that every time his partner isn’t thinking of him or doing something for him that he’s somehow failing. He even has a device on which Hazel can review her orgasms to make sure they’re perfect. Everything has been technologically refined to remove the humanity of it. And then Byron went and made Hazel the test subject for Made for Love, implanting a chip in her brain without her knowing it. Hazel needs to escape Byron, but the Bezos wannabe can see her every action and even feel her emotions. What happens when ‘Made for Love’ becomes ‘Made for Stalking’?
Hazel’s journey takes her home to a small town called Twin Sands, and back into the life of her father Herbert (Ray Romano), who has become a town outcast because he likes to show off his new “synthetic partner,” a real doll. It’s right here where it feels like “Made for Love” is about to start interrogating what partnership means. Its two male leads have very unusual concepts of partnership, with Byron wanting to control everything about his and Herbert not really caring that his partner literally doesn’t have a mind of her own. But the team behind “Made for Love” have a frustrating habit of dropping these ideas into their narrative and then not doing much with them. Part of the problem could be that the first four episodes—totaling less than two hours because this is, blessedly, a half-hour show—are required to fill in so many narrative gaps that the thematic exploration remains for the second half of the season. Or the writing just may not be up for the challenge of digging below the high concept.