Review: Togetherness s01e03 “Insanity” – Men in Spanx

After three episodes of its eight-episode first season, it seems pretty clear where Togetherness is headed and what it’s going to be. I don’t mean that as a criticism. Unless it changes gears in subsequent episodes (and there’s no reason why it can’t, but I hope it doesn’t), this is a show built less on surprise than on an examination of the inevitable. The basic character trajectories were set up in the first episode, and the show seems committed to following them through to the end. There is plenty of room for the unexpected, but this show doesn’t seem to need to rely on narrative smoke and mirrors. It has nothing to hide, but rather seeks to confront the emotional and psychological reality of its four characters with a minimum of artifice and exaggeration.

Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) continues to struggle in her marriage to Brett (Mark Duplass). In this episode, she begs off the premiere party for the film Brett worked on, goes to a bar for some “me” time and winds up meeting a divorced father (John Ortiz, Silver Linings Playbook). Nothing comes of it, but something will eventually. Michelle and Brett seem to be in a situation where things are going to have to get worse before they can get better and there’s no guarantee at this point that better will ever come from it. It’s kind of heart breaking because, as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, they’re a likable couple (she’s more likable than he is… he’s a little fussy and uptight… but I find him disturbingly relatable) who clearly still love one another, they’re just in a huge rut and don’t have the means to work it out.

The other story thread of the evening involved Tina (Amanda Peet) trying to get Alex (Steve Zissis) into “leading man shape” first with the “Insanity” workout and then crashing Brett’s premiere party and Alex (wearing Spanx to fit into the too tight Diesel pants Tina had him buy) stalking Brett’s producer (Peter Gallagher) whom Tina most likely goes home with at the end. The sad look on Alex’s face when he realizes what’s happening, mostly because he clearly has a crush on Tina, but also probably the sense that Gallagher was only paying attention to him to get to Tina.

There’s also a relatively minor scene near the end where Brett tries to apologize to his director for the business the previous episode with the authentic coyote sound effects, only to have the drunken director humiliate him.

The best scene though was Brett and Alex bonding in the car after a long and disappointing evening over Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” It’s a simple, funny moment with the two middle aged men (similar to Michelle rocking out to The Cure in the previous episode) reverting to their happy youth. Neither Duplass nor Zissis are rangy actors (Zissis is the more of the two), but their long real life friendship and working partnership pays off gloriously in scenes like this. They have great chemistry together.

I haven’t read the reviews or heard the ratings, but I worry that Togetherness is too unassuming to really catch fire and carve out its share of the current cultural TV zeitgeist. Maybe the relatable characters and the moments of warmth and jags of humor will be enough for it to catch on. I hope so.

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