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Review: "Togetherness," HBO, and the Unicorn Male Friendship

There are no actual unicorns in this show (sadly- but there are some cute aliens in the finale, so we'll allow it), it's just one of those rare pieces of art that shows emotional growth, vulnerability, and nurturing love between male friends- Ted Lasso and This Flag Means Death are other good examples. I have been meaning to watch this two-season show forever (it's old- 2015/2016), since I heard the writers, brothers, Mark and Jay Duplass, speak about what it takes to get past the notoriously fragile male ego to have this kind of bond of love and trust on Brenè Brown's podcast a while back.

Set in LA, Togetherness stars Mark Duplass (from The League (another fantastic, hysterical show, but with a little more traditional friendship dynamics), The Mindy Project, The Morning Show, & lots more), and Melanie Lynskey (in tons of stuff, best known for Two and a Half Men, Yellowjackets, and one of my top five favorite performances in one of my top five movies, Away We Go), as a married couple with two small children. Their marriage is stale and cold and they're both kind of lost in what they're doing with their lives; he's a sound effects guy for TV/movies and she's a SAHM.

Their real, quality relationships are with their best friends- in his case, his equally nerdy Dune-obsessed best friend since high school, a struggling actor, played by Steve Zissis (wrote a lot for this show, also wrote Cruella, has acted in lots of things, including another one of my favorite shows, I'm Sorry and- this made me laugh - apparently he played the "New Sweet Boyfriend of Mother Who Dated Pricks" in the movie Her). In a show full of incredible performances, his might be my favorite. Every reaction is surprising and genuine, I could watch him all day.

The wife's best friend is her sister, played by Amanda Peet (The Good Wife, lots of stuff in the early 2000s- The Whole Nine Yards, Something's Gotta Give, the fantastic Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, etc), who is also really funny and surprising, subtle and fun to watch. This show really gets into the fact that she's typically seen as the pretty, sexy one and not given credit or expectations for anything else, or allowed to do things like age.

All of the bit parts are also really strong performers (Mary Steenburgen, Peter Gallagher, Katie Aselton, Ginger Gonzaga, John Ortiz, Michael Gross). Even the characters you're supposed to dislike because they are obstacles for our leads true happiness and connection are likeable and multi-dimensional. There are no villains, it's just that life and relationships are hard and weird sometimes.

The dialogue is hilarious and poignant and the characters vivid. The story involves the leads trying to find themselves, coming together, falling apart, hurting and healing each other, learning, and a lot of infidelity and sand. Some of it gets kind of wackadoo contrived toward the end, but the reason I'll miss this show since we finished it last night is because of how sharp and warm it is. The writing and acting is strong and the world and relationships they created so authentic and, even despite all their flaws and the shit they put each other through, aspirational. Again, the friendship between the sisters is familiar and lovely, the friendship between the two dudes? Revolutionary.

Love it. Please watch so we can talk about it. High fives all around.

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