ALWAYS STUCK IN SECOND GEAR
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING with your goddamn life?” Sam’s sister Tricia asks her in the first episode of this dramedy. In the moment,
Sam (Bridget Everett) acts offended by the question, but it’s one she privately asks herself all the time. She is in her forties, has never had any real direction, and only returned to her Kansas hometown to care for their other sister, Holly, as she died from cancer; then she stayed for lack of a better plan. Sam befriends former high school classmate Joel ( Jeff Hiller) and confesses she never amounted to much “because I didn’t think I was any good.” When Joel asks what she’s referring to, she replies, “Everything.”
Somebody Somewhere was created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and produced by Jay and Mark Duplass. The Duplass brothers’ previous HBO series, the terrific but short-lived Togetherness, also dealt with middle-aged disappointment, and shares a knock-around, low-fi charm with its successor. (And, for that matter, with many of the best episodes of High Maintenance, for which Bos and Thureen previously wrote.) Very little happens over the course of the seven-episode season, but this is the point. And it makes the small victories and minor defeats ring out much more loudly than if Sam’s life were a nonstop thrill ride.
Everett is a comedian who appeared regularly on Inside Amy Schumer, where she got to close each season by belting out raunchy cabaret songs with titles like “Put Your Dick Away.” The singing continues here — the first episode climaxes with Sam and Joel sharing a touching duet of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s “Don’t Give Up” at an event he hosts for the local queer community — but Hiller and his unnervingly varied range of smiles do most of the comic heavy lifting in what’s otherwise a dryly amusing series. Everett, by contrast, plays things seriously, and well. She’s an intensely watchable presence as we witness Sam trudge through an office job she hates, fend off passiveaggressiveness from Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison), and try to persuade their father, Ed (Mike Hagerty), to seek treatment for their alcoholic mother, Mary Jo ( Jane Brody). Sam may be down on herself, but the show about her turns out to be good at a lot of things.