The Duplass brothers did it again with HBO’s Togetherness, which makes it inconceivable that it was canceled.
I admit I was a latecomer to the show, which recently concluded Season Two and, hence, it’s lifespan. Mark Duplass (Brett Pierson) said this week that the show he created with brother Jay and Steve Zissis (Alex Pappas) couldn’t be picked up by another network, meaning HBO didn’t ultimately want it and made sure no one else could get it.
Togetherness was one of those shows that audiences instantly connect with because we associate with the organic main characters, or at least we know and love someone who reminds us of them. They could live next door. Plus the show weaved a beautiful tale of humanity and love, family and friendship.
First there’s Brett, an anxious and gun-shy Hollywood sound engineer who seemingly has it all in homely wife Michelle (Melanie Linskey) and two young children, the adorable Sophie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and baby Frank. But we soon learn Brett is suffering through an identity crisis — and from a lack of intimacy — as his marriage flails.
Michelle, meanwhile, is similarly lost as she realizes her life has been relegated to that of selfless mother saddled with a husband who, albeit a great guy, bores her.
Then there’s frumpy and balding Alex, Brett’s best friend who is undergoing his own mid-life crisis. His career as an actor sinks to such lows that he is stalking famous producers in bathrooms at parties when he’s not considering moving back to Detroit to work at his parent’s restaurant. To make matters worse, Alex is in love with Tina Morris (Amanda Peet), who also happens to be Michelle’s sister, an undignified beauty who continuously plays Alex’s heartstrings while desperately seeking a superficial relationship to belie her own low self-esteem.
Then, the roles reverse. Alex loses weight at the urging of Tina, who also pushes him to go after the roles he wants rather than those he’s typecast for. Alex gets a big part in a television show and revolutionizes himself. Tina, on the other hand, sees her business fail and her new relationship with Larry (Peter Gallagher) fall apart because she discovers she wants kids.
At the same time, Michelle runs into the arms of David (John Ortiz), a community activist who at first captivates her with his passion for starting a local charter school. But the mutual attraction grows and grows to the point that finally she succumbs passion and cheats on Brett, sending their marriage into a death spiral.
Brett exacts revenge, even as he and Alex pursue their real dreams of producing a Dune-inspired play. The plot and character development is brilliant.
That’s about as far as I want to go in revealing the plot because you really need to watch the rest for yourself, and enjoy every moment of it. The Duplass brothers and Zissis wrap the show wonderfully with a feel good dénouement that is both satisfying and heart aching when we realize we’ll never again know the characters aside from gluttonously binging On-Demand.