For the second year in a row, Jessica Chastain portrays an iconic Tammy. This time around, Chastain (The Help, It Chapter Two) fills the shoes of legendary country artist Tammy Wynette, one half of a duo with successful solo musician, George Jones (Michael Shannon, Bug, Boardwalk Empire). While the two of them absolutely have a crackling energy between one another, I left the entirety of George & Tammy feeling rather cold toward their romance for the ages. Not every biopic deserves the miniseries treatment. George and Tammy would have been better served (and far less repetitive) in the form of a movie, though the performances of the ensemble still make it worthy of a watch.
From humble beginnings, Tammy’s story should honestly be epic on paper. However, we start first with George, and when Tammy is observed, she has already seen minor success. George appears to be a washed-up, raging drunk, but is he capable of forming an actual real relationship? In the late 60s, George was the so-called “king of country music.” Just as his star began to fade, he met Tammy. I expected the beginning of their union to feel charming and sweet, but it is actually anything but. One could call it simply a bad first impression—Tammy, a huge fan of George’s music, dashes to catch his concert with her second awful husband and their children. One minute, Tammy is involved in a pitch to join George on the road for his tour, while the next, she has walked out on husband Don (Pat Healy, We Need To Do Something, Dinner in America), fleeing with George for the unforeseen country music highs of their wildest dreams.
The complexity of their union is frequently frustrating to watch; they become stuck in a rut of repetitive, toxic behavior. However, they certainly have great music chemistry together. Much of this is thanks to Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain being cast in the roles. George and Tammy collaborate on impressive country tunes—from their first recording session as a music duo, the chemistry there is palpable. Nothing about the writing or portrayal of the story here tells me that George and Tammy belonged together. How am I supposed to believe their love story is one of the all-time greatest when George is practically insufferable at all times?
Beyond the irksome nature of George and Tammy’s relationship, perhaps what bothered me the most was how the show is content to glaze over the biggest successes and accomplishments of each individual. Important moments are breezed over or mentioned in passing—like Grammy wins or career milestones—in favor of petty drama and further drunken escapades. If we cannot celebrate the wins of these characters, how are we supposed to care about their more complicated struggles? When one has a cast this talented, how can the ball be fumbled so badly? I have so many questions and so little answers.
At just six episodes, as a miniseries, there is not enough ground here to justify the length. Each time George regressed and failed his sobriety, I became ever more annoyed. As the decades roll on by through to the 90s, I struggled to find a reason that George & Tammy was so drawn out. Chastain and Shannon deserve better, less boring material. I am admittedly not a fan of country music whatsoever, but some of these tunes are surprisingly good. On the bright side, at least I can leave with “Stand By Your Man” stuck in my head.
Don’t miss a dream duet when the premiere of George & Tammy debuts exclusively to Showtime and Paramount+ on Sunday, December 4th.