If you could bottle the keen curiosity the new FX series Fosse/Verdon has about the details of both Bob Fosse's genius and his destructive, dishonest, sexually harassing, emotionally abusive behavior, you would perhaps have a little bit of curiosity to spare to make up for the project's limited interest in what it all meant for Gwen Verdon and countless other women he treated like hot garbage.
The first tell that this highly anticipated limited series cannot live up to its aspirations for itself is that while it is called Fosse/Verdon, the book it's based on is called Fosse. It is a better idea, in theory, to make a series that's about Fosse and Verdon and the collaboration that brought forward musicals like Chicago, Sweet Charity and Damn Yankees. Unfortunately, the series isn't really about both of them, except that both Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams—playing Fosse and Verdon—are stars. It's more like a twist on an old joke: "But enough about Bob Fosse. What did Gwen Verdon think about Bob Fosse?" [Note: They've only made five episodes available to press, and there are eight total.]
The Sam Wasson book Fosse, on which the show is based, is less a biography than a graduate thesis on Fosse's genius and, incidentally, a vigorous counterpoint to objections to his behavior that might scratch up his legacy. Most seriously, it raises the spectre, which the show pursues, of Fosse having been inappropriately sexualized, and perhaps sexually abused, by strippers in the clubs he worked in when he was 13 or 14 years old. That's obviously a very troubling story of trauma and it deserves to be told. Unfortunately for those hoping that sexualized girls would receive the same careful thought, the very same book unironically compliments the "killer rack" Verdon had at 15 when she was dancing "nearly naked" in front of "loud and hungry men." (Wasson is careful to point out also that she didn't have technique and was only there because of her sex appeal. At 15.)
Television and film never tire of these stories, it seems—men who are brilliant geniuses but who are awful people because of their terrible pain. Phantom Thread, Steve Jobs, Mad Men, it's an entire genre: The man is monstrous, but he's got his reasons, and you can't deny the talent, and women can't help wanting to either have him or mother him. It's clear the the executive producers of this series are fascinated by Fosse, and it's no wonder: they include Broadway hot properties Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Hamilton director Thomas Kail, as well as showrunner Steven Levenson, who wrote the Tony-winning book of Dear Evan Hansen.