NEW YORK - Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell are so ready for their romcom moment.
And in the third, 10-episode season of Mozart in the Jungle, premiering Dec. 9 on the Amazon Prime streaming service, they'll be getting it.
The classical-music-theme comedy is all in on love this season.
It doesn't hurt that much of the first half of the season takes place in Venice. It hurts even less that the writers have expanded their view of romance beyond the will-they-or-won't-they dance between whimsical New York Symphony conductor Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Hailey (Lola Kirke), the young oboist he mentors.
Picking up on the kiss that Peters' Gloria, the orchestra board chairman, planted on the former maestro, Thomas (McDowell), in last season's finale, the new season finds the two exploring a relationship that ranges from slapstick to sweetly vulnerable.
You'll only wonder what took them so long to get together on screen.
Off screen, the Broadway legend from Queens and the outspoken Englishman from A Clockwork Orange (and Entourage) are fun to watch, too.
Settling into their umpteenth joint interview Tuesday in a SoHo hotel suite, they managed to turn even a choice of beverages into a scene.
Was the water flat or sparkling?, Peters wondered.
"She actually prefers the sparkling, but she thinks that gives cellulite," McDowell said teasingly.
Tea arrived. He instructed, British-style.
Did she want milk?
"Milk should always come first," he said.
"It should?" she asked. "I didn't know that."
"Always. You don't want it to curdle."
They'd never worked together before Mozart - "No! Thank God. We saved it all for this," boomed McDowell - and they knew each other only by reputation.
"We're good friends," said Peters.
A suggestion that a story line about such grown-up lovers would be less likely on a television network that depends on youth-targeted advertising brought a strong reaction from McDowell.
"I'm sure you're right. And that's a form of censorship, isn't it? This stupid thing called the ratings. So that is as bad as having a censor, you know, in London or in Berlin, with a red pen, going, 'No, you can't say that, you can't do this.' That's exactly the same thing, but it's because of the ratings. So they self-censor and it becomes like milk toast."
"Look, we have probably a larger demographic, because there's our love, there's young love," Peters said.
"It's classical music, so we're the baby boomer [attraction]. Got to keep them happy, and then you've got the young kids and you've got all sexy Gael, so what more do you want? It covers every base," McDowell said.
"And it's pretty good comedy, too," added Peters.
"Let's not forget it's brilliantly written," he said.
"It really is," she said. "Nothing . . . is expected."
The series, cocreated by cousins Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman with Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz and loosely based on a memoir by Blair Tindall, even does unexpected things with its music. The season's offerings include a contemporary aria for a fictional opera based on Amy "The Long Island Lolita" Fisher.
Peters has acted and sung professionally since childhood, though her character got to use her formidable voice only in the shower until an open-mic night last season.
She doesn't claim to be an expert in the classical arena.
"I just always loved, loved, loved music. I couldn't tell you the specific name of a piece. Now I go, 'What's that one? I have to get that one.' You know, I used to listen to Chopin and different things like that, and I was given a lot of classical music as a young person. My manager used to love it . . . . So now I know, 'Oh, that's Schubert,' " she said. "Good music is just good music, really."
McDowell had Stanley Kubrick as his tutor.
The director of 1971's A Clockwork Orange "introduced me to classical music in a big way, which was Beethoven and specifically the Ninth, which is very much a part of that character," McDowell said, referring to Alex, the amoral young goon he played in that controversial film.
"In fact, I learned, in German, the chorus, 'Freude, schoener Goetterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium,' " he said, reeling off the lyrics from "Ode to Joy."
"He wanted me to learn it. I thought I was going to sing it. Then I went, 'I learned that. When am I going to sing it?' And he went, 'What? Oh, no forget about it.' Jesus," he said.
"I bought myself a new stereo set with [large] speakers . . . and literally while I was reading the script pumped up the volume and really the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This genius piece of music. And then, of course, I went to find all the others and play them on that same stereo."