Rumors of celebrities who are dating solely for publicity are nothing new. It’s an idea ripe for tabloid speculation. But what if we could see this deal at work from the inside? That’s the premise of “The Arrangement,” a look at a Hollywood megastar, his girlfriend and the $10 million marriage agreement that defines their relationship. Unfortunately, this peak behind the curtain of contract love is less tabloid and more romance novel. The couple say “I love you” by episode 3 so the power of the contract, what should be the show’s main source of conflict, is weak and underwhelming.
Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista), a little known actress doing small TV parts, meets superstar Kyle West (Josh Henderson) during an audition for his next big movie. He’s so impressed by her performance that he immediately takes her out. One taco lunch later and they are on a private plane to an island. The very next day, Megan is offered a contract that outlines the rules for dating and eventually marrying Kyle. It’s a bizarre situation and one the show tries hard to normalize with a backstory about Kyle essentially being left at the altar. The heartbreak has made him wary of love and extra susceptible to the manipulations of his mentor/best friend Terence Anderson (Michael Vartan), the founder of a scientology like organization called the Institute for the Higher Mind and his wife Deann (Alexa Doig), a producer on Kyle’s upcoming film.
Terence is deeply involved in Kyle’s personal and professional life and Vartan gives the character creepy intensity but not much else. The architect of the arrangement, Terence’s motivations are transparent: Kyle is a brand that brings prestige to his business so whatever reflects badly on Kyle impacts Terence’s bottom line. And Terence is no fan of Megan but for no apparent reason. It’s a plot element that should create a lot of tension but it has little impact.
As for Megan, her world suddenly gets way more exciting — instant fame, glamorous parties, beautiful clothes — all with Kyle by her side, a handsome guy who wants to be with her. It’s difficult to see the downside of her signing on the dotted line. The storyline hints at some secret manipulations on the part of Deann but again, it’s hard to care when Megan’s choice has no clear consequences. The worst thing that happens to her in three episodes is when nude photos taken by her ex go viral, putting her movie contract in jeopardy. But Kyle saves the day by suggesting that they pose for a nude picture together to diffuse the situation and I suppose make a larger point about gender bias.
“The Arrangement” would be more interesting if it tackled issues it only hints at. A lot could be said about the artifice of celebrity culture and the public’s role in it. But the show seems satisfied to skim the surface without a strong point of view or much of a point at all.
“The Arrangement” is on Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on E!
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.