Hit or Sh**: Freeform’s ALONE TOGETHER
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
I’ll always root at least a little bit for Freeform. The butt of several jokes, their little engine huffs and puffs along, getting ever closer to being designated a little engine that could. And hey, every so often they get within swinging distance! But their general wheelhouse always maxes out at rubies-in-the-rough, never really diamonds. Therefore, I can say with full certainty that the Lonely Island-produced ALONE TOGETHER is the best thing the network’s put out. Unfortunately, the best thing the network’s put out is another comedy about finding love and happiness in LA staffed by white-passing stand up comedians.
Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo play loosely fictional versions of themselves. Both attractive by conventional standards, they find that they’re still the smallest fish in the biggest pond when it comes to the unrepentant hotness of the denizens of Los Angeles. Best-friends-that-totally-should-plow-but-probably-won’t-until-the-finale, the pair lean on each other as they navigate the peaks and valleys of one of the world’s most impacted and superficial dating scenes.
I’m not quite sure why that’s still a pitch that gets picked up to series in this day and age, but before I go too far down the path of cynicism, I owe it to ALONE TOGETHER to admit that it is, in fact, funny. In an era where half-hour shows feel obliged to balance out the sugar with a hefty spoonful of medicine, it’s nice to have a show that, at least initially, is just in it for the yucks. Esther and Benji have an easy and genuine chemistry that translates well to screen, and the jokes are all willing to go a few half-steps further than you expect, giving a slight tint of dark raunch to the proceedings that keep the pilot afloat. While I have to stick up for my fellow thiccboys out there and say I’m wary as to whether or not Esther’s fetishizing of them is genuine or done in a tongue-in-cheek manner, if nothing else you get to see Jerry from PARKS AND RECREATION as a sleazy sugar daddy, which is worth the price of admission alone.
It’s frustrating, then, that ALONE TOGETHER just can’t manage to be more than the sum of its tried-and-true parts. There’s nothing less interesting than a comedic show about comedians, and while ALONE TOGETHER at least has the decency to give Esther and Benji professions that don’t involve barely-fabricated stand up material, a show about being a millennial in LA runs a pretty close second. Surely we get it by this point! LA is filled with weird, Instagram-famous pseudo-celebrities, people are shallow and only in it for the money, and it’s impossible to get jobs you’re qualified for so you’ll probably have to be a barista! Also, not to get too localized, but I feel that LA natives are doing the place a bit of a disservice by trafficking in fictionalized stereotypes—I’m not exactly on many guest lists, but most of the young people I know who live and work here are pretty average schmucks working pretty average jobs. As such, it doesn’t quite ring true that Esther and Benji are undateable considering I’m sure most of LA would be thrilled to be romantically or sexually involved with a petite, eternally schoolgirl-apparent woman with a daddy fetish and a swarthy man with a kind voice and disposition.
But, once again, ALONE TOGETHER is good, even if it’s lowercase-g. And, to be honest, most of the shows on Freeform are capital-B Bad. So at the end of the day it’s nice to see a by-the-numbers, entirely competent comedy appear on a commonly derided network. But that’s really all I have to say about it. If for some reason it’s 2 AM, you’re a little bit under the influence, and you’re trapped in a Hellish reality where you only have access to Freeform, sure, pop it on, you’re guaranteed at least a few chuckles.
ALONE TOGETHER airs on Freeform on Wednesdays