‘Somebody Somewhere’ season 2 review: A delightful delicacy anybody anywhere can enjoy
A show’s title can communicate a great deal about its content, and Somebody Somewhere does that exceptionally well. It’s a straightforward story of one person – two people at this point – living an ordinary existence. Sam (Bridget Everett) and Joel (Jeff Hiller) happen to reside in Kansas, but that informs, rather than defines, them. Just like anyone else, they can’t control what takes place around them and what others do, and that’s the beautiful simplicity of this show. Its characters and performers are more than strong enough to make up for the absence of any lavish frills or jaw-dropping plot twists.
Season one was rooted in the death of Sam’s sister and her search for herself, which included her embracing her literal voice (Everett is a fantastic singer who sings a number of times on the show). A somewhat steely relationship with her surviving sister, Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison), evolved into a slightly warmer interaction thanks to the dissolution of Tricia’s marriage and now finds her throwing herself into her party planning business, Trish Upon a Star. It’s rewarding to see the characters’ storylines converge in season two as Sam and Tricia encounter familial challenges of a different sort.
So much of season two of Somebody Somewhere merely finds Sam and Joel hanging out together. Their laughter is infectious, whether it follows commenting on “honeys” walking in the park, sitting down at the exact moment they hit ten thousand steps, or Sam deflecting any hint of emotion Joel might suggest that she has. They get a real kick out of someone mistaking the openly gay Joel for Sam’s husband (the season’s tagline is “a totally platonic love story”) and take any opportunity they can to gently mock those they don’t like. But none of their fun is rooted in meanness, and they’re just two people enjoying each other’s company, a relatable and very watchable duo. The foundation of that dynamic was built in season one and only becomes more heartwarming – and occasionally more temperamental – in season two.
It’s not all fluff and fun, however, as this season does deal with serious themes. Sam has to contend with her mother, Mary Jo (Jane Brady), being confined to a facility as a result of her declining health and expressing a bitter resentment towards Sam and Tricia, at one point banning Sam from coming to visit her. The show also deals movingly with the unexpected death of actor Mike Hagerty, sending Sam and Tricia’s father off on a new later-life adventure rather than killing his character off. His absence is felt potently in a scene where Sam breaks down crying, lingering in the sadness of memory and a transformed relationship which stands in for the actor’s real-life untimely death at the age of sixty-seven.
But Somebody Somewhere knows how to pivot expertly from comedy to drama, and the shift can be wondrously disarming. Sam and Joel have a great banter but both know how to be loyal friends, and do become aware when they screw up and elicit a disappointed reaction from someone who is depending on them. This show features rich, lived-in characters whose journeys feel natural and authentic, a genuine union of people who, in most cases, just want to be together. The way they interact is appropriately unspectacular, familiar, and easy to watch.
Less is always more on Somebody Somewhere, and the shots of the family farm underline just how marvelous nature can be on its own, even in a place known mostly for cornfields like Kansas, which Mary Jo humorously bemoans as a boring state. Directors Lennon Parham, Jay Duplass, and Robert Cohen guide the season’s seven episodes with an invisible hand, aided by a whimsical, grounded score from Amanda Delores Patricia Jones. The cast is phenomenal, with Garrison in particular given a wonderful spotlight with an enhanced role for Tricia, and Tim Bagley an endearing new addition. It’s the chemistry between Everett and Hiller that truly seals the deal, encapsulating a venerable, close friendship and all the ups and down that come with it.
Somebody Somewhere premieres its seven-episode second season with one episode on HBO and streaming on HBO Max on April 23, with new episodes following weekly.
Photo: by Sandy Morris/HBO