HBO has a habit of developing half-hour comedies (“sitcom” isn’t quite the right word) by indie filmmakers who like to blur the line between comedy and drama. Some stick while others don’t. The network’s latest attempt in that vein, ‘Togetherness’, comes from Mark and Jay Duplass, the brothers behind movies like ‘Cyrus‘ and ‘Jeff Who Lives at Home‘.
You may also recognize Mark from the cast of ‘The League’ on FX and a fair number of movie roles, some for his brother and some not. He stars here as Brett, a middle-aged family man with two kids, whose wife Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) has lost any interest in having sex with him. Brett is a vegan and a little obnoxious about it, but basically a good guy doing what he can to get through the days in his rather mundane life.
In the pilot episode, ‘Family Day’, Brett’s best friend Alex, a failed actor who’s made a mess of his life, gets evicted from his apartment and threatens to move back with his mother out of state. Brett begs him to stay for at least one day, so that he can tag along on the family’s beach outing and defuse some of the awkwardness between Brett and Michelle.
Also visiting from out of town is Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet), an immature wreck desperately trying to convince herself that the douchebag jerk she recently hooked up with (Ken Marino) is the love of her life, if only so that she won’t end up a pathetic spinster. Said douchebag is not necessarily on board with that plan.
The pilot episode has very little plot or action. The whole group goes to the beach, then the adults go out to dinner. Tina’s boyfriend breaks up with her by text, which causes her to have a public meltdown when she spots him with another woman. Witnessing this scene growing worse and worse, Alex willingly humiliates himself to distract attention from Tina. Later, they all get drunk and TP the jerk’s house like a bunch of stupid teenagers.
Tina decides that she can’t go back to her old life in Houston and invites herself to stay with Michelle and Brett. Of course, this is after Brett has convinced Alex to move in with them for a while as well. So, the whole group will now all have to share a small house.
The series is a comedy, but with no overt jokes or gags. It’s more observational humor about the little ironies in daily life, which may include petty arguments and disappointments. Some of the scenes hit a little close to home for me, especially those about the tremendous hassle and burden that dragging young kids anywhere can be (hauling a playpen and multiple bags of supplies and toys around, changing diapers in public, etc.).
The show isn’t really laugh-out-loud funny, but I like the characters and the tone. I’ll tune in again, even if I don’t honestly expect the show to last more than one season on the network.
I really enjoyed the first episode and hope it makes it.
I really like Melanie Lynskey, who I think is a criminally underused/wasted actress, so I’m somewhat curious about this. Having said that, it does sound a bit hit and miss. And as a minor point, I find adult characters that are so immature that they ‘TP’ someone’s house quite annoying (It does seem a distinctly American thing, though… I once had to ask someone what they meant when they talked about TPing! ). 😉