Auteur comedy is having a moment. Half-hour single camera comedies like Better Things, Divorce, You’re the Worst, and Atlanta (along with Fleabag and Catastrophe in the UK) embody the singular visions of their creators with their own unique voices. Enter Alone Together, the Freeform comedy from Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo, which just officially aired its pilot Wednesday after posting it online earlier this month. While it’s too early to gauge critical or commercial reception, the show has already been picked up for a second season.
The show centers around the platonic friendship of its two creators as struggling comedians in Los Angeles. It features some really well-written and quippy dialogue that gives their relationship the organic feeling of long-time friends who have grown so close that they annoy and love each other equally. That writing is the show’s best quality, both celebrating and satirizing millennial culture.
Benji lives off his parents’ money while Esther is obsessed with learning “hot girl secrets.” This is the social media rat race that we live in today. As Benji’s sister says: “Millennials, they don’t date. They don’t even sex. They just flow through life, too distracted by how lonely they really are.” Esther is constantly feeling as though she doesn’t stack up. She’s ignored because she’s not hot enough at the party and overlooked because of her career choice. “All the greats had daddy issues,” she says, adding later that her dad “says I’m failing because by my age, Amy Winehouse was already famous and dead.”
At the same time these jokes portray trying to “make it” as an LA millennial (I know many) while pointing out how ridiculous the whole process is. Alone Together doesn’t just touch on millennial dating and careers either. It goes deeper and taps into the anxiety that fuels it all. One of the first laughs of the episode is about how Esther grinds her teeth because she’s “stressed about money and Boko Haram.” The episode then ends with Benji and Esther joking about how they’ll probably die alone.
“Alone together” is, perhaps not coincidentally, a term I first heard used to talk about how the internet is both making us more and less connected than ever before. The main pop culture depiction of that idea has come in the Black Mirror variety, showing us the horror of how technology can let us sink into our worst instincts. But this take from Alone Together is fresh. It shows us how these cultural shifts are at work in the present day, and without the heavy moral lessons of its predecessors. Instead, it offers a very funny perspective on what’s going on with society’s most notorious generation.
Many of the early reviews I’ve read have mentioned in some shape or form “Oh I’m glad not all millennials are like this? Right? They’re not, are they?” Like all comedy, it’s an exaggeration to make a point. Sure, Benji and Esther – to some extent – offer portrayals of some of the deepest fears we have about millennials. They’re vapid, anxious, and depressed, but the show’s tone offers up a slightly different take and one that will be exciting to see play out. I’m screaming.