There are some shows that just feel settled in after their first season, know what we mean? They’ve established their worlds and the characters within it. So when the second season starts, the show can just keep exploring and deepening these characters instead of trying to reinvent the show. That’s what we felt when we watched the return of Bridget Everett’s excellent dramedy Somebody Somewhere.
SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE SEASON 2: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Scenes from Manhattan, Kansas. We see pictures of Sam (Bridget Everett) with her dad Ed (the late Mike Hagerty), Sam’s niece Shannon (Kailey Albus) at her high school graduation, and Sam’s sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) in a picture with her ex-husband torn out.
The Gist: Sam and Joel (Jeff Hiller) power walk through a park and play “Pound or Pass” as they look at various people at the park. Their friendship has become so close lately that they’re actually almost common-law spouses. They even live together; Joel is living with Sam while he makes his house available for short-term rentals. When they check in on his house after the last guest leaves, Joel steps in dog shit that the previous guest didn’t clean up.
Sam definitely feels more settled in Manhattan since she found Joel and the people at Choir Practice, but everything around her is less settled. Ed, on the encouragement of Sam and Tricia, has left the farm in his kids’ care in order to sail with is brother, a function of making his life his in his senior years. Sam’s cranky mother, Mary Jo (Jane Brody) is raising hell in a nursing home. And Tricia, newly divorced from Rick (Danny McCarthy) after he cheated on her with her business partner, has to cope with a truly empty nest when Shannon starts at the University of Kansas.
Ed has left a long list of things for Sam to do in order to get the farm ready to be rented out, and Sam gets really emotional as she cleans out the barn; she tells Joel on the phone that “it feels like I’m packing up his whole life, and it sucks.”
Tricia invites Sam and Joel for dinner because she has no idea how to cook for just herself and she has too much food. She drinks a lot of Chardonnay and tells them that she tried to retaliate for Rick’s discretion by trying to sleep with her business partner’s husband. But, for the most part, she has no idea how to be alone.
At Sam’s house, she and Joel are paid a surprise visit by Fred (Murray Hill), coming back early from his sabbatical; Ed got in touch with him to check on Sam. Of course, they’re elated to see him.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? In our first season review, we compared Somebody Somewhere to shows like One Mississippi and Work In Progress. But it’s more or less a show that stands on its own at this point.
Our Take: One of the things that struck us while watching the second season premiere of Somebody Somewhere is that it looks like Everett and Hiller are having a whole lot of fun bouncing off each other in their scenes together. We don’t care if the dialogue they’re volleying back and forth is scripted or improvised; the laughter they both spew feels genuine, like two friends who love each other just having fun together.
That feels like the vibe of the second season, now that Sam has settled into being back home and living in the house of the sister she took care of in her final days. Much of Sam’s energy is now directed outward, and Everett plays her as someone happy to not be naval gazing as much as she used to.
As we mentioned last season, the characters surrounding Sam are well thought-out, and the ones we see in the first episode are all dealing with their own life dramas. We’re especially intrigued to see Tricia, who thought last season she had the perfect HomeGoods-sign-decorated life, deal with the fact that she more or less has to start over. “You’re good at it, or used to it,” she says to Sam about being alone. Seeing Tricia try to figure out her place in life as a divorced empty nester will be one of the things we’re looking the most forward to seeing.
It was interesting that Everett, who wrote the episode with creators Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, decided to deal with Hagerty’s death by sending Ed away instead of having him die offscreen (at least for now). Even so, the scene where Sam cries to Joel over the phone as she’s in the barn, saying, “He’s everywhere… every inch of this place is him,” feels like the trio’s acknowledgement that Ed isn’t coming back. It was a touching tribute to Hagerty, who played the role of his life after a long career as a character actor and died shortly before the second season started filming.
Somebody Somewhere has that settled-in feeling that make good shows become terrific shows in their second seasons. Some characters may be gone, but the show’s comedic core and its heart are still there, and we’ll follow its slice-of-Midwest-life vibe for the entire season.
Sex and Skin: That’s all you care about anyway, right? We let you know how quickly the show gets down and dirty.
Parting Shot: Sam and Joel turn off their lights at the same time, and Sam yells to him, “Sweet Dweeeems!”
Sleeper Star: We were happy to see Murray Hill back, because his backslapping nature is good for the show. Hopefully, we’ll see other people from Choir Practice throughout the season, too.
Most Pilot-y Line: To be honest, the first episode was pretty much smooth sailing from start to finish.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Everett and her collaborators build on what made Somebody Somewhere such a success in its first season: Subtle performances that are balanced with bawdy comedy and an ensemble of characters we like spending time with.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.