If you’ve yet to watch an episode of HBO’s wonderful Somebody Somewhere, I am extremely jealous of you. You have the experience of a lifetime to look forward to, should you choose to press play. But you also wouldn’t be alone in your hesitation. The half-hour-ish dramedy’s first season aired last year to rave reviews and a slew of awards nominations, but still flew under most people’s radars.
On paper, it doesn’t necessarily sound like much: a slice-of-life story, about a woman named Sam (Bridget Everett), who is trying to pick up the pieces after she moved back to her small Kansas hometown to take care of her terminally ill sister. That alone would be enough to turn off anyone looking for HBO-level stakes. Somebody Somewhere, which premieres its second season Sunday night, is a comedy without the dark humor of Barry, and a drama without the cutthroat narcissism of Succession.
In fact, it weaves between these two genres at such a quick—but completely undetectable—pace, that it’s hard to put it into a box at all. (Though it’s worth noting that it seems strategic that the network’s programmers would slot it as the before-bed comedown, following those two shows.)
For a series so seemingly incomparable, Somebody Somewhere has no shortage of relatability. It’s that stunning empathy that gives this small show its cogent edge. In its second season, Somebody Somewhere replicates everything its first seven episodes did so well, without ever feeling like a retread. This latest batch of beauty confirms the series as one of the decade’s finest, thanks to its delightful ensemble cast and a knack for fleshing out life’s minutiae, with gravity and irreverence in equal measure.
It takes no time to settle back into Somebody Somewhere’s charms. After spending the first season developing a proper best friendship with her old high-school show-choir peer, Joel (Jeff Hiller), Sam has finally started to settle into her life in Manhattan, Kansas. Following the death of her sister, Sam spent Season 1 in a state of flux, trying to figure out if there was any place for her in the town she grew up in. Her dead-end job might’ve been a nightmare, but it brought her Joel; Joel might’ve reminded Sam of her abandoned dream of being a singer, but he brought her voice back. Slowly, Sam’s shattered heart was patched up. But the more hits you take, the slower they heal.
Life hasn’t stopped punching down at Sam, either. Things are in just as much disarray as they were in Season 1. Sam has just gotten better at handling them, thanks largely to Joel and the cast of misfits that he’s brought into her orbit. Joel and Sam are occasionally rooming together, now that Joel found out how lucrative (and riddled with cleaning costs) renting out his house on Airbnb can be. This clever narrative device allows the pair to get into all kinds of mischief together—from teeny ‘tini nights to attending high-school choir recitals to gossip—so the show can indulge the pleasant comforts of their dynamic, without their relationship becoming too enmeshed or gimmicky.
Though the duo is having even more raucous fun together this season, the substantial emotional foundation that the show rests on never falters. Since we last checked in on Sam’s family, her alcoholic mother Mary Jo (Jane Brody) has had a stroke, and her father, Ed (the late Mike Hagerty), has left the family farm to visit his brother in Texas. Ed was a lovely, grounded character, full of humor and nuance. Hagerty’s passing is very much felt within this season’s narrative. Although Ed’s absence is written into the show, Somebody Somewhere honors Hagerty by treating his character’s departure like a death, permitting the weight of that grief to impress upon the season.
In the premiere, this culminates in a moving sequence, where Sam is stricken by the vitality of her father, which still lingers in their barn and on the land, even when he’s away. Anyone who has experienced the stirring, massive sensation of having to sift through a loved one’s belongings after they’re gone, will be affected—and maybe even overwhelmed—by this moment. But it’s the perfect example of what this show does so well, maybe even better than anything else airing right now. Somebody Somewhere mines life’s truths and pours them out, scattered and serrated, so we can admire their jagged edges and beauty in tandem.
Everett and Hiller are both rewarded with plenty of these quietly introspective (and completely Emmy-worthy) moments, both together and apart. The two are a match made in scripted-television heaven, and their natural chemistry washes over the entire production.
Because of this, all of the bumps in the road for Somebody Somewhere’s characters feel drearily personal, like we’re beset by our own friends caught in a rift. Both seasons of the show are only seven episodes long, but are packed so full of authenticity that they each feel like extended glimpses into real stories. That also means that the highs are as equally perceptible. Season 2 isn’t afraid to move the emotional needle and send it all over the charts—and at a pace as brisk as the steps Sam and Joel take at the park (to people-watch and complain together).
Nothing here feels too tense to come back from, or so chaotic that you have to pick a special time to sit down and watch. Somebody Somewhere is the perfect relaxation fare, brilliantly unhurried by the soft brass score that laces through each episode. That melody moving through the show is important. Music, in all its forms, is an integral part of Somebody Somewhere. The show continues to serve as a platform for Everett to exhibit her vocal talents, this time doubling down on their stirring heft. Singing remains Sam’s hidden passion, and when she’s asked to bring it to light for an event, it exposes all of her regrets, and the feelings of loss that come with it.
To watch this show is to open your heart to existence as it is: beautiful and ugly, at the same time. No frills, no pretension. This isn’t feel-good television, it’s feel-everything television. The only thing unrealistic about Somebody Somewhere is expecting viewers to be content with seven episodes, when we need 700. We’d all be so much better for it.
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