The 2010s were jam-packed with TV heartthrobs. There are the then-bookish, now-serial killer men brought to life by Penn Badgley, the pick-a-flavor benches of hunks in Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale, and guys who broke the internet like Noah Centineo and Manny Jacinto. Most where white. All were cis-gender men.
With the Sunday night premiere of Showtime’s Work In Progress, the television hottie parade finally explores a new route — with just 23 days left until the decade ends for forever. The face of that much-needed thirst evolution is transmasculine, non-binary performer Theo Germaine and their waiter character Chris, an out and proud trans man.
Chris is a revelation.
Work In Progress centers on Abby (co-creator/executive producer Abby McEnany), a self-described “fat, queer dyke.” Abby opens her series’ premiere, “180 Almonds,” detailing her suicidal ideation to her therapist. Abby has laid out 180 almonds following a rude nut-related encounter with a coworker. Abby eats one almond each day. She plans to die by suicide if “things don’t get better” by the time all of the almonds are gone. It’s a chilling way to begin a show. The scene becomes worse when Abby finally looks at her therapist and the camera followers her gaze. The woman is dead. Abby has obliviously been speaking to a corpse.
Abby is lower-than-low when she later gets a bite to eat with her sister Alison (Karin Anglin), a content straight woman with a husband and two children. You can fully understand why Abby feels so very devastated. Then Chris walks into the frame.
The sign of a Grade-A TV heartthrob is their ability to completely change the atmosphere of whatever situation they enter. Even the most depressing moment feels electric thanks to their presence. Review any scene involving Noah Centineo’s Peter Kavinsky for proof of this fact.
Chris brings that same energy to Abby’s life from the moment he enters it. In one second, Abby is detailing a painful memory from her childhood. Then Chris comes to check on Abby and Ally’s meal. The moment he leaves, Abby’s mind turns from her personal tragedies to the “gorgeous” person who just walked away. Abby is stunned, but noticeably more lively than before. After Abby complains about Chris’ perceived interest in Ally, the latter gets an idea. Ally is going to give Abby’s number to Chris.
Ally's matchmaking pushes the remainder of “Almonds” into full rom-com territory. Chris calls Abby to ask her out for a drink. She is both jumpy and excited over the romantic attention. When the pair finally goes out, Chris maintains the focused and intense eye contact that countless leading men before him have used to make lovers feel like the only girl in the world. It’s all purposefully dreamy, and Abby frantically texts her sister, “He is so hot.”
This isn’t the first time this year audiences have seen Germaine as a prospective lothario. The actor also starred in Netflix’s The Politician, which debuted in September, as James, political advisor to protagonist Payton Hobart (Ben Platt). In third episode “October Surprise,” Payton arrives unannounced to the home of his girlfriend Alice (Julia Schlaepfer). The couple has publicly broken up for the good of Payton’s class president campaign, but Payton believes they’re remaining faithful to each other behind closed doors.
When Payton bursts into Alice’s room he learns how wrong he is. Alice is hooking up with James, whose gender identity is never mentioned. He is simply the cute boy Alice is sleeping with. James admits the affair started before Payton and Alice’s feigned split. Now, James loves Alice. A hurt Payton claims James is simply jealous of him. But the way The Politician’s camera lingers on James’ face to close the scene suggests the series knows the character has oceans of romantic feelings of his own.
Work in Progress’ premiere allows Germaine to explore the depths of those emotions in a way Politician season 1 only hinted out. As we see over Chris and Abby's date, he is brash where she is avoidant. But, Chris is still considerate enough to listen. Take the moment the pair spots Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney at the bar. When Abby explains how Sweeney’s Pat character ruined Abby’s adolescent life, Chris urges Abby to confront Sweeney. As it becomes clear Abby is unable to handle such tension, Chris offers to speak to Sweeney himself because he “loves conflict.” He adds, “Please let me do this for you.”
It’s a sweet gesture that results in Abby getting an apology from Sweeney (after Abby collapses in a restaurant, but still).
When Abby and James end up in her apartment, you can feel the crackling sexual tension. It pushes Abby into an over-talking, nervous mess. Chris embraces that fact rather than shaming Abby for being Abby. That's why “180 Almonds” ends with Abby explaining the dark truths about her almond set-up instead of the pair making out on the couch. A true heartthrob adapts to the situation and the object of their attraction.
It's no wonder Abby so smitten.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.