somebody Somewhere, the spiky and lovable seven-part HBO series created and starring Bridget Everett, comedian, actress and singer, begins on the heels of a quiet loss. Sam, a 40-year-old woman performed by Everett, struggles to adjust to life in her hometown of Manhattan, Kansas (also Everett’s hometown), where she returned a year ago to take care of her beloved sister Holly during her illness.
Six months after her death, Sam works as an unenthusiastic taker for standardized tests and sleeps on Holly’s couch; She still couldn’t bring herself to touch Holly’s bed. Sam is a blank, turned inside and talked a little, harassing everyone other than sympathetic co-worker and former high school classmate, Joel (Jeff Heller), who remembers her as a “big deal” back in the choral days of their shows (hence the BFD title for the first episode, written by Co-authors Hana Bose and Paul Touraine and directed by Executive Producer Jay Duplass).
Quiet is not how one would describe Everett, a staple of the New York comedy scene as a bawdy performer and surprisingly alternative cabaret performer (featured songs include Boobs, What Should I Do To Get That Dick In My Mouth? Song Of Pants). HBO called Someone Somewhere a “middle-aged” storyline that’s pretty accurate — both for Sam, reeling from losing the only person who seems to have understood her, and for 49-year-old Everett, in her first major series role in years Of the small parts (perhaps most famously on Inside Amy Schumer).
Everett’s stage character is larger than life – her operatic voice, her libido, her body and especially her chest, which was made famous by members of the Powerboat audience. By contrast, Sam is the pent-up and mistrustful alter ego of the reckless performer, a fanciful vision of what it would have been, had Everett not left the “little apple” for the big one, or been tampered with rather than encouraged. Sam navigates between the home of her snooty sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) and her parents’ farm, stuck and unsure, dressed in oversized clothes, alone. She’s a singer at heart and songwriter of Everett’s Dirty, but she’s afraid to reveal the music of grief.
Sensing its potential, Joel, a gay Christian with his own complicated relationship to his hometown, calls Sam “choir training” – a deceptive celebration of music and eccentricity and a haven for the city’s misfits. The climaxing scene for episode one, as with half of the series’ episodes, is a moving musical number: Sam, persuading Joel, embraces the stage for the first time in years. This moment, convincingly played by both Everett and Hiller, reinforces a pivotal romance in the series: Sam’s re-embracing of singing, and thus the most honest, tender, stinging self that wins the friendship between her and Joel. In an age when most adults seem to avoid making neo-platonic confidants.
Both relationships are fun to watch in bloom, even if they aren’t always the most exciting. One’s enjoyment of someone somewhere depends somewhat on the backseat plot threshold – there’s resentment, buried secrets, tense conversations and occasional outbursts, but little outside conflict or hostility. For the most part, everyone on the show (even Tricia) is a good-hearted person who does their best, trying to connect and make small accomplishments along the way.
Although filmed in Illinois, many in between shots of cornfields and a cute college town street (Manhattan is home to Kansas State University) effectively evoke a Midwestern town: a cozy heart, a little sleepy, unassuming and full of character if you know where to look, like Fred Rococo, friend of Sam and Joel, chairs the choir practice ceremony performed by the King of New York, Murray Hill.
The main draw, though, is Everett, who I’ve been watching do anything after enchanting Sam. Despite all her walls, which Everett never allows us to think is anything but shaky and inappropriate, Sam has an undeniably maternal and magnetic side—not in the sense of literally having children, and their absence leaves Sam feeling judged by her hometown and family’s faith in the environment, But in the care of others. It’s a lopsided supporter of her teenage niece Shannon (Kylie Alps), the one who convinces her father Ed (the excellent Mike Haggerty) to convince her mother, Mary Jo (Jane Brody) to try rehab. When Joel attacks on a particularly painful afternoon at the receiving end of Tricia’s judgments, it only takes a day for her to mend her weakness. “I don’t think I’m really a friend,” she says.
Joel disagrees, and neither do I. Welcoming Sam—wounded and warm, submissive, finally open to new friends—into your life for seven half-hour classes is as natural as Sam’s last command of a karaoke mic.