Editor’s Note: As with all of our All the Things articles, there are Spoilers included below.
I had to pause episode one to write the following sentence. CONNECTED IS AMAZING!!! Now you might be asking yourself what the hell is Connected; don’t you worry because I am starting a 12 episode marathon to bring you all the juicy details. But before I click play and continue my decent into this new spin on reality TV, let me break down the basics for you.
The AOL docudrama series, Connected follows six people living very different lives in New York City. The premise of this show is based on an acclaimed Israeli show under the same title. However, in AOL’s Connected we get to see American life captured in a unique way. It is no secret that reality shows are scripted to bring the drama and eventually get boring and wither off to die somewhere. With Connected, there is no script. For six months, six people film their own lives. Most of the time, the angle is shot from their perspective as they handle the camera. Other times, we get a deep, personal glimpse into their soul while they open up in front of the lens as if we have been best friends forever. It is this special twist on reality TV that pulled me in and has me raving like a loon. There is a saying to never judge a show by its pilot, because it takes time to build characters, but not with Connected. The raw filming of this docudrama will have you pulled in before you can think, “AOL makes shows?”
Flash Forward a few days and a few gut wrenching episodes later:
I have finally caught up and I don’t regret one second. This show is more than cliff hangers and expensive action scenes. Connected allows the viewer to really bond with these people. It is hard not to, when you are basically given a front row seat to join them on their life adventures. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
Meet the cast and get a quick recap of what has been going on in the last twelve episodes:
Jonathan 37, in relationship
Relatable: Jonathan will connect with anyone that understands the struggle of wanting to be better then you are in the now. He is a writer that falls prey to his inner critic at times, but pushes through in hope one day; his name will be as recognizable as his girlfriend. Jonathan can be tough to swallow at times when his insecurities rise and he puts on the tough guy act, but deep down you have to admire someone who just wants to make his own way.
Episodes He Is In: 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12.
Recap: There are three things you must know about Jonathan! First is he is dating Susan Sarandon. Second, he owns a Ping Pong Bar (never heard of one before). Three, he is afraid of rejection. He is so afraid of rejection that instead of sending out a book he worked on for three years, he just decided to write another book. Through his episodes you see his main focus split between branding his book and his relationship. There are times that I can’t stand this man and most of those times revolve around his disdain for the limelight his girlfriend is in. Even if he says it a thousand times, he is happy for her, it’s hard to believe when he leaves early from her events or rolls his eyes when she is spotted. I enjoyed episode three and five because we got to see him in new lighting. In both episodes his father makes an appearance and is joined in episode five by Jonathan’s wife.
Meeting his wife as they finally sign the divorce papers after nine years, is by far my favorite Jonathan episode because we get to see a lighter side. However, the smiles and jokes are quickly tossed aside when he throws all his focus on building word about his book. In episode six we get to see him take a step back as a bad review rolls in, but quickly push through for a chance to be interviewed. When we catch back up in episode nine, we start to see that Jonathan is continuing to struggle with his relationship and watch as it comes to a breaking point. In episode eleven, we get to see Jonathan living it up a little after his break up when he decides to take a chance and get back into the dating world. We leave off with his business trip to LA, taking a crazy, unexpected turn in the last episode, as he works out the kinks for his surf bar.
Derek 30, single
Relatable: Derek is pushing to make something of himself out of nothing. We watch as he jumps from couch to couch dreaming about his big break. He thrives to make people laugh and doesn’t waste a second of pursuing his dreams; which is a good, because he is addicting and I cannot get enough. He is the type of a guy you can always count on to make you laugh. I also strongly connect with him, because he is more in my age range and living up the single life.
Episodes He Is In: 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11
Recap: Derek, Derek, Derek. Where can I start? This man stole my heart within five seconds of his intro. His determination to make a better life for himself, shines through and you just have to cheer him on. Every time we find Derek, he is usually moving between gigs, packing in a few per night. We also get a sense of the love and admiration he has for his mother, and that alone makes me swoon for the guy. In episode two, we see a big break head his way and watch as he starts to get ready to move in episode 4. The way he banters with his mother and is always in front of the camera, just goes to show that Derek is living life to the fullest (at least trying to). Sometimes this is apparent in the short scenes he shares with a special somebody, usually ending in small tiffs about where the relationship is heading. Episode eight starts with Derek falling deep into his addiction of shoes and clothing. It is refreshing to catch up with him and he is doing well. Finally found his own place (with roommate) and finally making enough money to afford sneakers, he only dreamed about six months ago. However, his spending habits might be bringing him back to full circle, if he doesn’t start reining it in. We finally in episode ten get the reason behind his fear of commitment, when he dives into his parents’ divorce and fathers absence. As for episode eleven, we get a chance to see him living his dream as his TV show is about to air and he is traveling around creating buzz. We leave off with Derek on an all-time high, as it appears everyone is loving the pilot of his new show.
Nina 36, married
Relatable: Nina had a long, hard journey to getting pregnant. When we first stumble across her, we get a small peak into the hardships that brought. However, as luck has it, we now get the chance to share the ups and downs that being pregnant can bring.
Episodes She Is In: 1, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12
Recap: She is a hard one to get into. Nina switches between the angle of her camera a lot of the time, leaving the viewer a little motion sickness. Not giving clear, defined shots gives a deeper inside into unease and deflated attitude toward not getting pregnant in episode one. I think another issue, is her relationship with her husband. It is so hot and cold, I can’t tell if the getting pregnant/pregnancy is taking a toll or if this is how it has always been. In episode four it becomes clear that Nina is also feeling a slight strain in their relationship, and confronts him about it. We got a slight break from the awkward of fighting, to join the happy couple in the celebration of their baby shower in episode seven.
Not another fight! Sometimes is just so difficult watching these two and by episode 8, I have to just say I think these two are my least favorite. It’s sad to say, but a lot of her time on film is during a fight or between fighting with her husband. Finally, during a Thanksgiving feast, we get to see a deeper side of their relationship and the joy that comes with having a child. As we slip into episode nine, we start to see the rush to get things done before the child is due (six weeks and counting). For a living Nina, helps design houses and has decided its time she takes control back of her own renovations from her husband. It is baby time and it couldn’t have happened after a better time, as Nina and her husband finalize that last of the birthing plan in episode eleven. In episode twelve, we are left as Nina starts to figure out the issues that come with motherhood.
Rosie 33, divorced and living with boyfriend
Relatable: Rosie is a strong, woman who has fallen on tough times. We fall in love with her as she starts to rebuild her life, figuring out what her next plan is. She lights up the screen with her smile and upbeat personality.
Episodes She Is In: 2, 3, 5, 6, 10
Recap: I LOVE ROSIE!! Next to Derek, she is the second to really just brighten up my day. We find Rosie in episode two being let go from her job as a radio personality and in episode three struggles with a health scare. No matter what life throws at Rosie, she is ready to come back swinging just as hard. She never gives up, even when she flat out explains she is feeling defeated and down. Rosie has an amazing boyfriend and their relationship, is what I wish to find one day. Another reason, I am instantly drawn into Rosie is that she doesn’t shy away from the camera. She expresses feelings over her divorce, family, and the struggles of being unemployed. We found out in episode ten that Rosie is not the girl to be going into surgery with. The way she put her boyfriends, worries to rest was just a little short of telling him he was going to die. But no matter what fear is coursing through his veins; it doesn’t stop him from asking her a question that might alter their course forever. We leave this couple on a high note, showing off her new promise ring.
Eli and Ido 34 and 37, Married with children
Relatable: Between Eli and Ido, we get a glimpse into a same-sex marriage with children. Maintaining a healthy marriage and taking care of children, is never easy. It is a lot harder when you are struggling with a recent loss. My heart breaks for them, as we watch the two trying to work through grief and reconnect with each other.
Episodes They Are In: 3,6,7, 8, 12
Recap: I still do not know who is who, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less. There bits are harder to watch because the pain is clear on their faces. Fathers of two children, they are working to reconnect after mourning their third child. We find them right before their youngest first birthday and are quickly brought into their heartbreak. They had been gifted with twins, losing one a few days after birth. The death of a child is never easy and you can see the distance it has caused between the two. In episode six we get to enjoy the chaos that ensues after the two switch roles for the day. See some of Ido humor shine through, while Eli finds it the worst day ever. In episode seven the emotions hit an all-time high as they try to figure out how they wish to celebrate the birthday of their youngest. I had to grab my tissues as they finally, together, went through old memories of their little girl and turned to each other for support instead of just themselves. Things are lighter in the next episode as we watch them pack up to celebrate Thanksgiving with relatives. During their drive, the two start to discuss the importance of family and if it wise to stay in America or head back home where their children can get to know more of their family. In the last episode they fall back into the discussion between staying in American and heading back home to Israel, which all comes down to if their eldest gets into a private school.
Lori 45, engaged
Relatable: Lori is your perfect example of Type A personality. When we first meet her, she seems to perfect to be true: planning a wedding, running her own business, and still looking flawless. However, we come to realize that no one is perfect and even Lori has a few relatable problems. She might be able to control the wedding all the way down to napkins, but what she is having a hard time controlling is her fiancé’s children. Lori gives us a great peak into how difficult it can be marrying someone with kids.
Episodes She Is In: 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10
Recap: Remember when I mentioned she is marrying a man with children? Did I mention they are four teenagers?! That is tough for anyone, but especially for a Type A personality who is controlling every detail of her business and wedding. Through episodes two through five, you see her really struggling with trying to befriend the children and make the merge seamless. Sadly, she isn’t having much luck and is usually ends up being over frustrated to the point of tears. It was nice to finally get a break from the tension in episode seven, when we are thrown into just how much thought she really has given her wedding. We also brush on the subject of being in your forties and the idea of still wanting to try for a child. While Lori is hard to swallow at times because you just want to shake her to relax, she isn’t afraid to open up and allow herself to be vulnerable. For example, when we get to see her finally relax and let the worries roll off her back while she catches up with her family. Uh oh, it’s the Holday’s and Lori is left planning Thanksgiving dinner in episode eight for her fiancé’s family. The dinner is a hit and for once, the family comes together to celebrate without fighting. Quickly, New Years is approaching and with it, the wedding date. Lori is taken back when her sister after ten years of silence reaches out in episode ten. We leave her, days before her wedding as she focuses on the family she is creating for herself.
Don’t worry; I still left some secrets for you to find when you start watching tonight. Don’t waste any time, popping over to AOL and starting the first episode of Connected. You want to make sure you’re all caught up for the next installment of episodes on May 11.
Connected is available to watch for free on AOL.