*The last paragraph expresses short analysis* During this crazy season it is very easy to overlook great visual narratives, something I wish was the case with the Kardashians. What is great deserves attention. So that is why today I am going to shine a light on one of those overlooked gems, Togetherness.
Let me warn you right here that Togetherness is an HBO show. If you don't know what that means, there is nudity. Though as with most HBO shows the raunchiness is there to supplement the story instead of the other way around. That is to say, all the small moments of explicit nature in the story aren't there simply to have them. They are there because it is important to character arcs and showcase people in real life, at their most vulnerable.
With that necessary yet stupid paragraph out of the way, let's get into what the story is about. Togetherness tells the tale of a Mother, Father, Sister, and Friend who on the basis of bad luck and circumstances are thrown in a situation to live with each other. Some have aspirations in Hollywood while others simply have aspirations of being loved. It is from there we see the process of damaged relationships, creating new ones, and - as the show's title aptly yet bluntly suggests - staying together.
Let me start by saying it isn't an easy process to create three dimensional, interesting characters, with flaws, and redeemable attributes. It is an even more complicated process to delve deep into real everyday issues that couples have without being overbearing, self-serious, annoying and dark. Togetherness does this with an ease that is almost indescribably beautiful. They also somehow are able to make it completely hilarious, and endearing at the same time.
Quite a bit of credit has to go to the actors as they should be - but probably won't be - nominated for awards. There is too many to count to give sufficient praise as even the supporting actors are fantastic, but I'll try to at least give the leads some love.
To start with, there is the dad of the group, Brett Pierson played by Mark Duplass. You might have seen the guy from such indie hits as Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love; as well as sitcoms along the line of The League, and The Mindy Project. All of his characters have this undeniable charm, and authenticity. Possibly none more so than here. You can completely believe depending on the day, that he is the most responsible person in the world, a goofball, or a damaged lover.
His wife Michelle Pierson - played by Melanie Lynskey known for Two and a Half Men - has the same level of multiplicity, though I would argue, not the same level of likeability factor. She is the level headed, cute, argumentative one who is even more damaged. To pull off the range her character has requires great talent. I'm glad to say Melanie Lynskey was more than up for the task.
Then we have the wife's sister Tina played by Amanda Peet, who I honestly don't remember seeing in anything before this. She is the party girl - the have fun mentality to mask pain. She is a loving go getter and inspirer when it comes to helping others; but neglects those own aspects in her own life. Her chemistry with all the other cast members is a wonder to watch.
The real star of the show though is Alex Pappas played by the unknown Steve Zissis. He is Brett's best friend and there to provide unequalled emotional depth and humor. It is because of him that Togetherness is not just a really good show, but a great one. Steve Zissis has provided the spark many shows die for when searching for characters. He just makes everyone better in the process. Him and Amanda Peet have this undeniable energy on screen together that is infectious. Though, more than this he provide the emotional frustration, and display of bondage from past mistakes with complete and utter mastery. I hope I will get to see more of this talent in the future.
Let's not be too confused though. Much of the likeability, humor and authenticity of motivation come from the writing. Togetherness has the best dialogue of anything I have seen this year. I believe the lines coming out of everyone's mouth not because I am supposed to, but because they are coming from a deep, earnest place, where universal motivations are held. The character development is real because there is real moments of interaction and tribulation to work through.
Where this show only slightly stumbles is that some of these moments of growth, and realizations are sometimes to hammed in, and not organic enough. Most of them work quite well, and there is little to no clichés to be seen in the story. One just gets the feeling that they had to compensate for a shorter run time by throwing characters in scenarios. Don't get me wrong, these scenes are acted brilliantly. I just wish the show had more time to build up to them.
When it comes down to it, Togetherness is a near perfect show. The acting is unparalleled for TV dramedies and not one of them even comes close when it comes to writing dialogue. It might not be puppies and roses all the times, but that's not what it is striving for. The creators of the show, the Duplass brothers, are bringing something honest, sad, and hilarious. They achieve that as good, if not better, than anything I've seen in a long time. I wish shows of this caliber were made more often.
Personal Preference: 4.5/5
Critical Analysis: 4.5/5