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Life In Eagle Rock: New HBO Comedy 'Togetherness' Hits Close To Home
HBO debuts a new East Coast-West Coast indie dramedy lineup on Sunday night with the Duplass Brothers' new series, Togetherness, sandwiched between returning shows Girls (New York) and Looking (San Francisco). Now we may have been a little geographically biased when we first learned that the show was set in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock, specifically), but after watching the first few episodes, that bias might just be spot-on: Togetherness is proving itself a first-rate series about the gentrified, normcore life in L.A.
It stars co-creator Mark Duplass (from The League) as Brett Pierson, a married father of two kids, living in stasis with wife Michelle (Melanie Lynskey). Brett's best friend, Alex Pappas, is an actor who's contemplating moving back home to Detroit after he gets evicted from his apartment. Amanda Peet plays Tina, Michelle's sister who comes out from Houston to visit and decides to stay. Both Alex and Tina end up couch surfing at the Piersons, setting up the premise—and title—for the show.
Without giving too much away, the first scene of Sunday's episode, "Family Day," had us a little concerned that Duplass's Brett is just another version of Pete, one of The League's horny, prankster man-children. But Brett is different: he's only slightly immature, and a little more nebbish, constantly pushing up his glasses as a nervous habit. He lives a controlled, ordinary life working in the sound department at a film studio, and needs his bff Alex around to remind him of what the single life was like.
Everyone thinks that he and Michelle have a perfect life: two kids and a house in L.A. But Michelle isn't that happy either. She's slightly bored as a housewife, who opts for mechanical help rather than have sex with her husband, much to his dismay. She confides in Tina, who's only a little batshit crazy when it comes to dating men. She owns her own bounce-house firm, and when she meets Craig (Ken Marino) on a business trip, she equates their fling with 'dating.' Tina lets her freak flag fly when he breaks up with her by text, but toward the end of the episode, we find out why she's a little crazed when it comes to relationships.
Stealing the first episodes with a number of self-pitying and self-deprecating lines is Zissis. As Alex, he's the everyman actor who picked up the drama bug in a high school production and moved to L.A. to pursue his dreams. Fast forward a decade or so, and Alex is a little too chubby and follicly challenged to be a leading man. He's at that crossroads that many L.A. transplants have faced at some point: stay in the city to continue the good fight or run home to mom's.
Many of the season's episodes were written and directed by Mark and his brother Jay Duplass (most recently seen in front of the camera in Transparent) with contributions from Zissis, a high school friend of the Duplass brothers. Together, they've created well-rounded characters with dialogue that's often funny and painfully realistic, too.
The characters are familiar and relatable, mirroring many of our own or our friends' lives. Sure, they're a little shallow and self-absorbed, but a whole lot of fun to watch as they wander through adulthood and struggle with myriad issues around work, sex and marriage. In essence, they're gut checking their lives and reassessing their dreams of youth and using humor to soften the blow.
Togetherness' eight-episode season begins Sunday at 9:30 pm on HBO.