(CNN)“Made for Love” is the latest series set about 10 minutes in the future, focusing on the creepy potential of technology as a means of control. With Cristin Milioti at its center, this darkly comic HBO Max series uses that backdrop to offer an intriguing look at an abusive relationship, grounding its sci-fi flourishes in echoes from the here and now.
The show begins with a bang, as Milioti’s Hazel Green escapes from the space-age compound she occupies with Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), the visionary billionaire founder of a tech company called (what else?) Gogol. Byron, it turns out, has made Hazel the guinea pig for the company’s latest product, an innovation called Made for Love, which uses implanted microchips to produce “commingled identities. Pure union,” with the unsettling loss of autonomy that implies.
Hazel’s flight takes her to her quirky dad (Ray Romano), who is in his own version of a twisted relationship with an artificial companion. The focus is on Hazel and her efforts to carve out independence, made harder by the fact that Byron — thanks to his creation — is able to track her moves.
After roles in “How I Met Your Mother” and “Palm Springs,” Milioti has seemed poised to break out in a big way, and this vehicle is well suited to capitalize on her wide-eyed stares, given the absurdity of Hazel’s situation. The tone, incidentally, comes pretty close to HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” another series with a female lead thrust into serialized peril, and thus far one of the streaming service’s most complete productions.
As for how Hazel and Byron met, that gradually comes out via a series of flashbacks (by now an overused device), charting the origins of the relationship and pangs of discomfort that began to emerge even before getting around to his unique rich-guy quirks, like grabbing a morning swim with his pet dolphin.
Adapted from Alissa Nutting’s book, the show at times feels as if it’s working a little too hard at being outlandish, from the dollops of violence to the eccentricities of Romano’s character and the not-actually-a-woman in his life.
Still, the half-hour episodes move at a brisk clip, and there’s enough material to plumb — both about how Hazel got into this mess and how she might get out — to fuel this opening salvo.
“Made for Love” also taps into timely concerns about the tradeoffs associated with technology — an underlying fear applied to the quest for romance in the recent series “The One” and “Soulmates” — as well as how such innovations can unscrupulously be used to invade privacy.
Granted, the particular concept and setup might not be designed to last for very long before running out of steam; still, if it’s not quite love at first sight, thanks primarily to Milioti, there’s plenty here to like.
“Made for Love” premieres April 1 on HBO Max, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.