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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Other people can really mess with your Togetherness

Illustration for article titled Other people can really mess with your Togetherness
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Friday, it was announced that Togetherness will not return next season. The Duplasses and Steve Zissis immediately sent out the following message:

To Our Incredible Togetherness Fans,

We got the news today that HBO has decided not to renew our show. And, while we are certainly feeling all the sadness that comes with this kind of news, our predominant reaction is one of overwhelming gratitude for all of you. Millions of you tuned in to watch a personal, niche show about sensitive people and the sensitive feelings they feel sensitively. In a time where you have so many great options on TV, we don’t take this lightly and will be forever grateful for your kind words and support. Know that we love all of you and that we will be back soon!

Your fans, Jay, Mark, and Steve

The cancellation makes it the third exemplary show in a row paired with Girls that HBO axed after its second season (following Enlightened and Looking). The Newswire on the cancellation led to a page full of snarky comments, lumping this show in with the trials of whiney white people, which, let’s face it, sometimes it belongs there. That immediate reaction points to a problem the show has, as I’ve mentioned before, due to the glut of series about middle-aged L.A. types dealing with various relationships. But Togetherness has/had so much more to offer than many of those (looking at you, Love), and the second season has even been an improvement on the first. So I’ll miss this show’s deeper explorations of the relationships between people, and the news is making me look at these final three episodes with a bit of added weight.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen how our main four characters become different people depending on who they’re spending time with, as the two dyads of Brett and Alex and Michelle and Tina gain strength. This week, we see what happens when other people enter the equation and mess with it a little, which makes perfect sense in a week that HBO decides to cancel this show. For the Duplasses and Zissis, for the chance to work with their friends and make something they love, it’s like Michelle’s charter school or Brett and Alex’s Dune puppet show finally reaching fruition, only to close due to lack of financial support.

So, we can see how having another element enter the picture throws everything out of whack. Hilariously, Dudley’s participation in the Dune practices add an even weirder, unhinged element, as he fuels a different part of the creative process. It’s not bad, exactly, just takes the project in a completely different direction. Anna, meanwhile, appears to be set on thwarting Michelle’s efforts completely, a bizarre, 180-degree turnaround from last week when she was Michelle’s absolute cheerleader, which is an unusual misstep for this show. What would Anna’s main purpose be? Just a bored, rich stay-at-home mom looking for someone else’s project to plunder? She’s so villainous and duplicitous here, she might as well tie Michelle to the railroad tracks. Michelle’s “check the laptop” email plan is also insane: Why not just have Tracy or whoever forward the original email, instead of getting caught breaking and entering and absolutely humiliated?

Nothing against Michelle, but I completely see Anna’s point. This could be because my own kids are in a public school system that is on the verge of striking and is in a bit of a budget crisis. (Like Michelle and Anna, I go to a lot of those school-parent meetings.) You can sketch schools in the clouds all you want, but absolutely nothing is going to happen without the money to fund them. So if Anna can tap her friends that can write a $5,000 check without a second thought, why the hell not? Michelle can want to hang onto her indie ideals all she likes, and her school will stay pure, but fictional.

So Anna’s involvement may even be better for the project in the end, but not for Michelle, and all of Anna’s insults at the end were downright mean. (My son, watching over my shoulder, was cheering for her to get pushed in the pool.) Similarly, Dudley’s presence in the Dune project might actually make the thing reach reality, but not in the way that Alex and Brett (especially Brett) envisioned. The big question for all is if that’s better than them not existing in the first place (in both instances, I think it is). There’s also a parallel to be drawn between Brett and Michelle, that in both cases, they’re the ones steadfastly holding onto their lofty ideals of their projects, while realists like Alex and Anna are aware that outside help is needed to make things happen. It simultaneously shows how unrealistic they both are in this respect, and also how this similarity may have helped along the dissolution of their marriage.


Tina, on the other hand, continues her search for someone to collaborate with for a baby, and it looks like Toby from The Office is not going to be that person. Honestly, I thought he was being kind by giving her the lowdown on how heinous the L.A. dating scene is. What’s so great about Tina, is that she can bounce back from a burn like, “You’re not hot enough anymore to be this much of a bitch” to immediately become Michelle’s co-conspirator at the fancy fundraising party. Only Tina could dap on lip gloss with such menace, a lip gloss that looked suspiciously like the one that Anna lent Michelle last week (no big deal, just a parallel). Brett and Alex have gotten a ton of play this season, so I loved seeing the bond between Michelle and Tina, who bring out the best in each other not because of their similarities, like Alex and Brett, but because they’re complete opposites. Tina needs Michelle’s sanity when she’s going through Tinder. Michelle needs Tina’s brutal honesty to tell her why her husband doesn’t seem all that anxious to come home (because he’s in adolescent bromance heaven), and her lunacy to create a distraction at the party. Tina’s impromptu song may be my favorite moment of the show so far, which is saying something.

People change, but as Brett says, “they do not change that much.” For example, Dudley and Tina will probably always be slightly crazy. But they can change in single steps: Brett and his Bruce Hornsby T-shirts for Natalie. Michelle pushing Anna in the pool. And Alex getting a full-time gig, with ramifications we’ll surely see next week, in the penultimate episode of this small, amazing series.


Stray observations

  • Amanda Peet’s rage against her “geri-ina” couldn’t be more ironic, as she had her third kid at 42, just before filming this season. (Check out this interview for fun on-set breastfeeding stories, like there’s any other kind.) I love her old-woman voice, which we’ve gotten to hear a few times this season.
  • Brett and Natalie: still off-the-charts adorable.
  • Great Photoshop work on that pic of Paul Lieberstein: “It’s not a lie. It’s Photoshop. So, you like to travel?”
  • Love Alex clinging to defining his role as a “somnambulist.”
  • Also hilarious: Drafting that Dune production in five acts! “Too long and needs focus,” says Dudley. Just like Batman V Superman!
  • Power rankings: Everyone (and I mean everyone) is down across the board because Togetherness has been axed. Dammit, I am really going to miss this show.