January 19, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Togetherness”



Previously… on TOGETHERNESS:  Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), a couple with two young children, found their house getting crowded with the additions of Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet), a businesswoman with a disastrous romantic life, and Brett’s oldest friend Alex (Steve Zissis), who’s acting career is failing.

Episode 2:  The seemingly casual, semi-improvisational filmmaking style of the Duplass brothers (Mark and his brother Jay, who co-created Togetherness with Zissis and both wrote and directed the episode) is lending itself well to the half-hour format.  The signature failing of the “mumblecore” indie movement, of which the Duplasses are shining lights, tends to be rambling self-indulgence, but with half an hour or less to play with (tonight’s episode was actually short by HBO standards, barely 25 minutes), Togetherness has to make its points and move on, which is a healthy piece of advice for any dramatic narrative.

The second episode was fairly self-contained, with the background situation as its serialized element.  Michelle, whom we’d seen denying sex to Brett in the pilot, expressed her own sexual frustrations to Tina, and decided to explore her interest in light S&M, the result being a comic wreck since Brett had no idea what was going on, and ended up injured in a delicate place.  Meanwhile, Tina made it her business to turn Alex into her pet project, declaring that if he lost some weight and fixed his shedding hairline, he could be the next Brad Pitt.  The spark of the episode, as it was in the pilot, was the relationship between Tina and Alex, which isn’t quite pre-romantic, but has a loose-limbed, not-quite defined charm, since each regards the other as fascinatingly weird.  It’s a contrast that extends as well to the actors, with Peet’s network-honed polish lining up interestingly against Zissis’s more shambling style.  The show’s central marriage, with all its strains of familiarity and routine, is more familiar TV territory, although Duplass’s and Lynskey’s performances and the show’s attention to detail give it more grounding than the network version of their story would have.

Togetherness is part of the niche-y part of the HBO schedule, and although it didn’t get off to much of a start in the ratings, losing almost half of its already-low Girls lead-in, it was considerably higher-rated than Looking, which has made it to a second season.  While the network naturally values its blockbuster Game of Thrones, and on the comedy side the higher-rated Silicon Valley and Veep, the subscription model allows for shows that have small but passionate fanbases, and Togetherness is probably the most likable and least self-conscious of the current Sunday triple-feature, refreshing for its small but well-observed moments.


PILOT + 1:  Characters Worth a Weekly Visit

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."