It seems difficult to really judge a show just based off of a series premiere episode. That first episode is designed to get audiences familiar with the plot, the characters, and the tone of the show. Any real judgment of the characters and the story arc they are contained in cannot be truly evaluated until a viewer is settled into the rhythm of the show. After a few are watched then you can see if indeed there is even a consistent rhythm and tone or any plausible and pleasurable developments. So what can be said about TOGETHERNESS after episode one? Let’s break it down and see.
First, is the basic construct of the show. HBO and all involved call it a comedy, but it is HBO’s version of comedy. When you think of TV comedy you usually bring to mind shows like Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory with a single camera shooting on a single soundstage with writing that times the jokes just right. That is not what you get here at all. Technically what HBO gives us is “dramedy”. VEEP and SILICON VALLEY are the closest HBO series to the traditional construct, but GIRLS and now TOGETHERNESS are more in the “dramedy” vein. That means it offers absurd and silly comedic content with the dramatic sections being the moments that seem to be strategically placed just right.
One case from the opening episode “Family Day” to illustrate the point would be the following. After several minutes of seeing the four leads out on a date night away from the kids they end it with drunken laughter and fun. Back home after the frivolity has ended our husband gets his sloshing wife to bed and asks her – boom – why has their sex life has ended. The episode is full of moments like that, a comedic situation spiked with a dramatic punch, and that approach will likely be consistent through the series.
It is not a bad thing, hell GETTING ON executes it brilliantly, and this show is off to a good start in doing it as well. To play it all out for us is the following characters: Mark Duplass (co-creator with his brother Jay Duplass) is Brett Pierson. He and his wife Michelle, played by Melanie Lynskey, have been married ten years and have two children. Their marriage is already rocky as the series starts. Coming into their home at this unstable time are her sister Tina, played by Amanda Peet and his best friend Alex, played by Steve Zissis. It is not the best time for them to stay with the Pierson’s, but neither can be turned away. What we are faced with then is four troubled individuals trying to sort out what is next in life. The married couple has trouble communicating and any intimate time to be had is spent solo. Tina feels she is an old hag with no one in her life and Alex is without a job, money and hope. It proves to be a great team of people to have under one roof as the misery and frustration congeals.
That is not to say this show is a downer; in this first episode there is plenty of witty repartee and tipsy fun between the hurt looks. The title tells us it is “Family Day” and as the show opens Alex is being brought to the house after being evicted from his apartment. He and Brett are greeted by the family in their beach attire ready to hit the California surf. That evening the adults have opportunity to go out on the town for some fun. Brett and Melanie have already hurt each other feelings throughout the day, but Alex and Tina have seemed to hit it off, especially after Alex deflates an encounter Tina has with the lover who just ditched her earlier in the day. Alex & Tina take matters into their own hands to bolster her spirits and give Brett and Michelle a boost as well, I think with a bottle of cheap booze to change the mood. By episode’s end Alex and Tina are hitting it off, but the Pierson’s end up at the moment I mentioned earlier as Brett puts Michelle to bed.
It was an interesting enough start to the series. As the season progresses we will see the importance of togetherness and how hard it is to maintain it, especially while others are watching. To help support some of the themes and specific scenes I mentioned here check out this Behind the Scenes clip:
Hey, there is a challenge for us this season! Find the scene per episode that best showcases the ‘togetherness’ theme. It is not a moment that is just all four characters in the same locale, but a moment when they are all working as a team towards a rewarding outcome. Okay, normally this would be the point of wrapping it up, but we have one more element for you. It is not embedded but, you can check out the whole episode on YouTube. Take the link to “Family Day or finding it still airing on 01.14 at 12:05am; 01.15 at 10:00pm and 01.16 at midnight. You’re welcome and remember TOGETHERNESS airs Sunday nights at 9:30pm.
Here is the preview of Episode Two “Handcuffs.” What does Michelle have in mind? Check out our review next week.
Okay, are you ready to band together to enjoy TOGETHERNESS with us?
Find Episode # 2 here.