TV review: "Togetherness" is fun, smart and hard to take

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

HBO’s new comedy “Togetherness,” from brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (“The Puffy Chair,” “Cyrus”), is about a group of thirtysomethings struggling with direction, marriage, relationships, careers, sex and pretty much everything else. It’s buoyed by some good humor and strong performances — and fits well with HBO’s other Sunday night comedies “Girls” and “Looking” — but can be tough to watch sometimes.

“Togetherness” centers on married couple Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey), who are in the biggest marriage slump known to man. When Brett’s best friend/failing actor Alex (Steve Zissis, who co-created with the Duplass brothers) and Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet) move in with them under unfortunate circumstances, things get more complicated.

Through four episodes of “Togetherness,” I’m impressed by the cast and will finish the entire eight-episode season, but after the excellent and subtle pilot I found some problems.

Let’s start with the good. Zissis is clearly the breakout star here, as seeing down-on-his-luck Alex attempt to turn it around — with some pushy help from Tina — is the best element of the show. Part of the reason for this is Peet’s Tina, who’s also a fireball of fun, and the duo’s chemistry is impeccable.

Where I found “Togetherness” lacking — mainly because the pilot was so good and the Duplass brothers are very talented — is in the central marriage, and mainly Brett. Both Mark Duplass and especially Lynskey are giving great performances, but their characters are sometimes too much.

I find Brett’s Type-A personality particularly grating, even if that’s the point. It’s completely understandable Michelle doesn’t want to have sex with him — even if she can’t understand why — as he’s basically a wet noodle about everything. Michelle is more likable than Brett, but she has her own set of annoying traits. At least she tries to improve the couple’s sex life, which I imagine has been tragic for decades.

I say give “Togetherness” a shot if you like indie/awkward comedy. Zissis and Peet alone make this show, and if the married couple can stop being so passive, things could get really interesting.

[photo courtesy of HBO]


9:30 p.m. Sundays on HBO

3 stars