Watching the The Two Coreys is a bit like looking up my high school boyfriend on Facebook. Suddenly, he’s no longer the perfect object of my idolatry, but instead, a blathering train wreck with too much hair gel and an unfortunate penchant for appliquéd blazers. Any lingering affection I once had for either Corey — who both made appearances on my ceiling, my locker, and even inside my wallet — has been replaced by one question: What in the hell did I ever see in that guy?
In short, I am exactly The Two Coreys‘ demographic.
Equal parts voyeurism and nostalgia (a lot like Facebook actually), last season showcased hyper-fictionalized versions of the Coreys — Feldman condescending and controlling, Haim an irresponsible ex-addict. Haim moved in with Feldman and his wife Susie, to live in their meticulously kept California home, surveilled by camera crews 24-7. Within one episode, tempers flared: could they remain best friends despite the fact they annoyed one another endlessly? After weeks of overtly scripted encounters and sloppy edits, the first season ended with Haim verbally assaulting Susie, and Feldman declaring their friendship dead.
Until Season Two, that is, which basically picks up right where the last one ended: six months later, the Coreys are still not speaking to one another, only now, Haim is moving from Toronto to his own Hollywood pad, hoping to revitalize his acting career and his relationship with Feldman, as if the two were mutually exclusive.
The first episode opens on Haim and Feldman on their way to meet one another at a Hollywood diner, where they try to repair their 24-year friendship. As they drive “alone” in their respective cars, each nervously reminisces aloud. The set-up is already different from last season: instead of Haim tracking mud in on the white carpet so that Feldman can finger-wag, these first moments suggest a harnessing of actual tension. In an attempt to extract some real pathos, the series stays on its subjects for an extra beat or two while Haim struggles to light his cigarette or as Feldman furrows his brow in the rearview mirror. It’s a less intrusive, more instructive communication of emotional “reality.”
But just as the two Coreys face one another, the scene cuts clumsily to “Two Days Earlier…” and we are subjected to needless exposition (the Coreys addressed most of these expository concerns during their monologues). Stranger still, the lengthy backstory pivots on whether or not Feldman will agree to meet with Haim at the diner, hardly suspenseful considering that the episode begins with the two meeting one another.
However, once they start talking, the camera crews recede into the background, and the footage appears convincingly unstaged. Still, Haim’s exaggerated intensity and eagerness to reveal a serious secret call his intention for the meeting, and a second season of the series, into serious question. Haim’s revelation quickly becomes a platform for accusations against Feldman for “not having his back” throughout the years. As Haim grapples with his problems, he resents Feldman’s complicity during his particularly dark times: “What’d you do? What’d you do? Fuck all is what you did. Lines of cocaine with me is what you did, man. Well, God bless you.”
Haim’s blame game doesn’t last long. The second episode, airing directly after the first, finds the Coreys in couples’ therapy, and it’s here that Feldman’s facade begins to show signs of instability. As they both air grievances, Feldman then ruminates on another complicated friendship from his past, though he refuses to name him. (Considering Feldman’s widely publicized friendship with Michael Jackson in the ’80s, not to mention his testimony at the Jackson molestation trial, it’s hard not to wonder, to the point of distraction, if he might be that other “friend.”)
That’s kind of the problem with The Two Coreys. It’s full of distractions. Its efforts to be “real” are obscured by its stars’ egotism — or, more precisely, their persona maintenance. And when things do get heavy, the encounters hinge on residual issues from the exaggerated circumstances of Season One, or on serious allegations by Haim –but he looks decidedly untrustworthy in this season opener. In an extended sequence, Feldman calls him out on a betrayal to the press, which Haim denies, but then later admits he had indeed lied. But because it’s hard to tell which story is not a lie, Haim’s seeming brush with honesty left me alienated: I had really believed his early vehement, stone-faced protestations of innocence. In that next confessional moment, I felt as betrayed as Feldman.
While all this emotional exploitation seems like reality show gold, it’s too mired in the spectacle of Haim’s psychosis to question its authenticity or poke beneath the smug coolness of Feldman’s slick defense mechanisms. As the two sit in counseling, rolling their eyes and over-talking one another, it’s hard to tell if they even like one another enough to care. And I wonder, with a foundation built upon early fame, abuse and drug addiction, why would grown men want to rekindle such a friendship at all?
Just like Season One, that question is, sadly, never addressed. And, even as it takes their legendary chemistry as its central conceit, The Two Coreys does a shoddy job of catching any exemplary moments. In fact, when they’re reunited in the diner, seated in a booth facing one another, the camera holds on both. As Feldman removes his sunglasses and Haim slouches over his coffee, they appear more than uncomfortable in each other’s presence. It’s as though they are both thinking: What in the hell did I ever see in that guy?