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Series / Fosse/Verdon

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Fosse/Verdon is a biopic miniseries that premiered on FX in April 2019. It was created by Thomas Kail, who previously co-created Hamilton with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also serves as one of the series' producers.

It recounts the story of the rocky relationship between dancer, choregrapher and director Bob Fosse (played by Sam Rockwell) and his long-time creative partner and wife, Gwen Verdon (played by Michelle Williams, also one of the series' producers).

This series contains examples of:

  • Black Comedy: Bob in his fourth-wall breaking moments of doing a stand-up routine about the stress he’s under, bends double coughing his guts up, a sign of his impending heart attack. He straightens up and drawls "I have no idea why that keeps happening."
  • Bottle Episode: "Where Am I Going", which takes place entirely within a beach house at the Hamptons over the course of a single night.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In "All I Care About Is Love", Bob explains his problems to the audience by way of a Lenny Bruce-style stand-up routine.
    • In "Nowadays", Gwen performs "Razzle Dazzle" directly for the audience.
  • Broken Ace: In this series, Bob Fosse is portrayed as a brilliant choreographer who is constantly haunted by his failure as a professional dancer and as a movie director.
  • Career-Ending Injury:
    • Joan McCracken's acting career came to a sudden end because of complications from diabetes.
    • In "Nowadays", Gwen is already facing the prospect of retirement from stage acting because she can't keep up with Bob's exacting choreography, but her stage career ends even sooner after she damages her vocal chords, forcing her to undergo surgery and then take six weeks off, during which Bob replaces her with Liza Minnelli.
  • Creator Cameo: Producer Lin-Manuel Miranda appears in the show as Roy Scheider.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Cy regard Gwen as being this for Bob; left to his own devices, Fosse does things like replacing trained actors with prostitutes or deliberately keeping the set under-lit.
  • Dance of Despair: Bob tries to perform a soft-shoe routine for Paddy's funeral, but he's too heartbroken.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Bob tells the story of how he was raped at 13 by two strippers, and Paddy and Neil, who’ve heard it before, react like he’s the luckiest guy in the world. Ron doesn’t seem to think so, and having told the story, Bob has flashbacks and goes straight in search of a stiff drink.
  • Downer Ending: Bob dies suddenly on the way to the opening for the Sweet Charity revival, leaving Gwen and Nicole to deal with their grief. Nicole spends years mired in drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Driven to Suicide: At the end of "Glory", Bob attempts suicide because of the stress of trying to "fix" Pippin.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • "Where Am I Going?" sees the Fosses and their friends reuniting to remember Joan Simon, who died earlier that year.
    • In "Providence", Bobby tries to perform a soft-shoe routine at Paddy's funeral, but gives up halfway through and kisses Paddy's coffin.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Throughout "Where Am I Going?" Gwen tries to convince Bob to join her in working on Chicago, eventually resorting to the nasty trick of invoking their daughter Nicole and their mutual fears that they won't be able to provide for her. This finally convinces Bob to do Chicago... while he's also working on Lenny.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The series portrays Gwen Verdon's first husband, James Henaghan, as a rapist.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Early in the first episode, Bob imagines himself jumping off a balcony after seeing the reviews for Sweet Charity, his cinematic directorial debut.
    • In the opening of "Me and My Baby", Fosse imagines his interns all performing "Wilkommen".
    • In the climax of "Glory", Fosse experiences a hallucination in which Gwen, Paddy, and the Pippin cast are urging him to jump out his window.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Bob's reaction to hearing the premise of Company in "Life is a Cabaret".
    • Throughout "Glory", Bob almost literally drives himself crazy trying to come up with a better ending for Pippin, convinced that the play's Mind Screw ending would cause it to fail.
    • In "Where Am I Going?", Bob and Gwen argue about whether they should collaborate on Chicago or whether Bob should focus on making Lenny, with Gwen convinced that Lenny will fail, and Bob convinced that nobody wants to see Chicago.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: "Nowadays" strongly implies that Nicole Fosse's father was someone other than Bob Fosse.
  • Missing Mom: Gwen abandoned her first child in order to pursue her acting career.
  • Mood Dissonance: The re-enactment of "Who's Got the Pain" is intercut with a scene of Gwen being confronted by Joan MacCracken, Bob's wife, who knows that Gwen slept with him.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gwen is horrified when she finds out that Bob's wife is disabled.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Both played straight and inverted with Gwen and Joan. On the one hand, Gwen owes a significant debt to Bob Fosse for helping her become famous. On the other hand, Bob himself might never have never gotten anywhere without his famous second wife, Joan MacCracken, and once he divorces her, he soon finds himself dependent upon Gwen to help him as he moves into directing.
  • No Medication for Me: Following his suicide attempt, Bob is prescribed lithium, but he refuses to take it because it kills his sex drive.
  • Odd Friendship: Gwen Verdon and Ann Reinking become close friends in spite of the fact that Ann is Bob's mistress.
  • The Perfectionist: Both Fosse and Verdon are perfectionists when it comes to their crafts.
  • Rape as Backstory:
    • Gwen was raped when she was a teenager, which makes her paranoid about leaving her daughter Nicole alone with men.
    • Bob was raped by a pair of showgirls when he was 13. It screwed up his sex life for the rest of his life.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gwen delivers a blistering one to Bob in "Nowadays" when he moves to turn her closing number in Chicago into a duet, pissed off that after years of carrying his ungrateful ass, he refuses to give her this one moment in the spotlight for what everyone realizes will be her last stage role.
  • Romance and Sexuality Separation: Bob Fosse was raped by a pair of older women when he was 13 years old. The trauma badly screwed up his sex drive, causing him to have difficulty being intimate with anyone he actually loves, which in turn leads him to constantly cheat on each of his wives.
  • Show Within a Show: Multiple famous film and theatre productions are portrayed in the show, including Cabaret, Damn Yankees and Sweet Charity.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: In the first episode, Bob Fosse and Cy Feur have a strained relationship after Fosse convinced Feur's boss to hire him to direct Cabaret.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: As a preteen, Nicole Fosse pilfers her dad's drugs and cigarettes, hoping to get her parents' attention. As a teenager, she graduates to openly drinking and drugging. The epilogue reveals that she would go on to spend years mired in drug and alcohol addiction before getting sober in 1995.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Ten-year-old Nicole, bored out of her mind at a house party at the Hamptons where there are no other kids, smokes a cigarette, with this result.
  • Working with the Ex: The show jumps back and forth in time, including to periods where Fosse and Verdon had broken up but still continued their professional relationship.
  • Young Future Famous People: The miniseries, being historical in nature, shows several actors who would go on to be famous, including Liza Minnelli, Jerry Orbach, Chita Rivera and Neil Simon.