TV Review – Somebody Somewhere Season One

Somebody Somewhere (HBO)
Written by Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen, and Patricia Breen, 
Directed by Jay Duplass and Robert Cohen

“Real America,” they call it. The immense middle vastness of the United States, I suppose. Though it isn’t actually real. What they mean by that idea is exclusionary, shorthand for people “like you” who aren’t welcome here. It’s not entirely that simple, though. It’s a clash of the way of thinking in urban environments versus rural environments, which makes it more complicated because “Real America” is peppered with cities. Rural resentments towards cities are not totally unfounded; they are certainly misguided. These perceptions all come from a place that says there’s a limited amount of life in the world, and things unfamiliar to them threaten that sustained existence. If you step back, you can see that any sense of scarcity on the most basic human level of reality is a joke at this point, with excess wasted every day from sea to shining sea. There is room enough for everyone and plenty to keep them alive. Yet, we keep coming up with ways to ignore that.

Sam (Bridget Everett) has come home to Manhattan, Kansas. One of her sisters was dying, and she came back to sit by her side and gently guide her into that next stage. We meet Sam after the body is buried while she sleeps on the couch in her late sister’s house, unsure of what to do next. Her other sister, Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison), runs a furniture store selling many “Live Laugh Love” style things. Tricia and Sam do not see eye to eye on almost anything. Their parents, Ed (Mike Hagerty RIP) and Mary Jo (Jane Drake Brody), are trudging along with life as they know it, both trying to ignore Mary Jo’s obvious alcoholism. Sam works as a standardized test essay scorer, which is where she meets Joel (Jeff Hiller). He’s a gay man & a Christian, and Sam sees that as nonsensical. But the church has always been a family for Joel; he was lucky to find people who didn’t hate him. Through Joel, Sam discovers a side of Manhattan she didn’t know when she was a kid and possibly a group of people who can support each other as life goes on.

Shows like Somebody Somewhere are tricky because I can’t say I loved the series. I can clearly see why a person would, though, especially in our current era where community & a sense of belonging become rarer by the day. The show’s stakes make it something I probably won’t continue watching, which is no knock against it. But that’s just me and my personal taste in film & television. However, it is undoubtedly a relatable show for anyone that grew up in rural America, like me. The landscape shots and layout of the city feel incredibly familiar. 

Where I have difficulty lies in the fact that I think the way I was raised and how I subsequently handled my autism (pre-knowing for most of my life and post) has left me as an incredibly anti-social person to a degree. I don’t hate people, but outside my wife and very few friends/family, I usually keep to myself. This has been mistaken for being stuck-up by people who give it a cursory glance, but the irony is I just don’t see myself as someone that interesting. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to talk to me. It doesn’t help that people are quick to make judgments because of how I look on the outside. Some of those judgments don’t offend me. I’m an average-looking white dude from the American South, which definitely raises some people’s alarms. I don’t think they are wrong to be wary because many people who look like me are very toxic and have been responsible for many people’s pain. The flip side is I get lumped into those categories, and it continues the atomization of society. 

Somebody Somewhere is very focused on making everyone feel very welcome. The comedy is measured and never too over the top or ridiculous. There are some moments I felt the show reached into sitcom territory where pulling back would have been the better angle. However, most of the time, it’s just a show about people trying to make it. They have a conflict at work or a blow-up argument with a family member. Solutions take time to come, but there is always one. The most fantastical aspect of the show is that there are obvious solutions. 

The show’s greatest strength is the dynamic between Sam & Joel. Jeff Hiller is a character actor whom you will know when you see him. You may be unable to pinpoint where you have seen him, but you have spotted him in some sitcom. He brings a joyful energy to counterbalance Sam’s intense existential struggles. For her part, Bridget Everett does a fantastic job. I only knew her as a very high-energy burlesque-like comedian; she does a tremendous job acting here. Her love of singing is incorporated into the series through a realistic plot, so her natural strengths are woven into every episode. If you didn’t have Sam & Joel, the show could not work if it was just her family.

Somebody Somewhere is a show about average-looking & decent people who live in a place very much like where you live (if you are reading this from the United States). They work so they can take care of themselves and those they love. They spend time with these treasured people and find reasons to laugh. But, of course, there are always reasons to cry, so there is no need to search for those. Each day that ends in a head on a pillow is a victory, and you wake up in the morning to take on whatever is thrown at you next. If you are searching for a series that feels like a warm, comforting hug, you are set with this one.


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