Off the Hook Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
The idea behind Off the Hook (Netflix), or, to give it its French title, Détox, is intriguing. Roommates Léa (Tiphaine Daviot) and Manon (Manon Azem) start to suspect that their smartphones, to which they are practically glued, are making their lives worse. They attempt to do a dry January on their digital lives, eschewing all devices and therefore emails, texts, social media and apps, for 30 days.
They come at the project from different angles. Léa is so obsessed with her ex-boyfriend that she stalks him to the point of arrest. That isn’t hyperbole: she uses a spy app to watch him, sitting down with a bowl of popcorn as if she were about to watch a film. She also logs in to his emails and keeps tabs on his social media. When he changes his passwords and blocks her, she turns up at his workplace, ranting about how she still loves him. There is an odd undercurrent of “well, everyone does it, right?”. Either I am not getting the joke, or I am alone in not having any desire to log in to my exes’ emails to see what they have been up to this week.
Manon, meanwhile, finds herself being humiliated online. Although Off the Hook is largely given the quirky slapstick treatment – all bright colours and madcap dashes around Paris – Manon’s storyline has more sinister undertones that seem at odds with its jolly presentation. She is an aspiring singer, managed by a cretinous and violent “producer” who tells her to lose weight from her arms, put on weight on her backside and dress sexy. When she falls off stage during a lacklustre gig, her fake silicone bottom lands on her head. Naturally, the moment goes viral and she gains far more attention for that than for any of her artistic aspirations.
During a night of drunken commiserations, Léa and Manon decide that it is the digital world, and not their terrible behaviour or the awful people around them, that is making their lives so shambolic. They pack up their phones, laptops and tablets and ask their friend Gagan, who runs the local grocery shop, to lock them away for a month. He lets them use his landline for anyone who needs to get in touch with them. The challenge is set.
I am sure many of us have fantasised about being untethered from our smartphones. I do weekly, when a screen-time notification pops up to inform me, in a roundabout way, that I could have used my time more productively than Googling whether homemade crumpets are worth trying to make (not really) or whether an actor is Irish or not (with apologies to the cast of Bad Sisters). Off the Hook points out that technology makes everyday life more seamless; Léa and Manon find themselves unable to navigate, or tell the time, or find out who is going to an important family event. It turns out that digital clocks and maps have their uses, after all.
As the two relearn life in its analogue form – asking people for directions, using a landline to get in touch with someone hours, if not days, later – there are some surreal touches that add a bit of fun. The women are sent to a digital-detox weekend retreat, where they are zapped with short electric shocks if they reach for their phones when a ringtone sounds. I like the idea of a white room where people are sent to do nothing but think for 30 minutes; perhaps that should be compulsory everywhere.
The idea of a digital detox begins to spread. A nephew learns that big tech firms harvest data and starts a movement called We Are Not Pigeons, urging his classmates to join him and revolt. Léa’s mother decides she wants more real-life experiences and ends up going to war with Léa’s father, who prefers to live his life online, where he can check facts, watch documentaries and play chess.
This is a silly, knockabout comedy. It shouldn’t have to be an oracle of wisdom. Its observations are mostly familiar: a young YouTuber is a showoff; a man who compulsively reviews stuff cannot think without assigning everything a star rating. It sees a world in which being without a phone is akin to public nudity, but it doesn’t push much further than that. The idea of deliberate disconnection from the digital realm has been fodder for plenty of articles and books before, but I am not sure that putting the concept through its paces in a sitcom format has been done. Perhaps there is a reason for that.