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The television debut of critically-acclaimed indie directors Jay and Mark Duplass ( Cyrus, The Puffy Chair), Togetherness follows four adults living under one roof struggling to keep their relationships and dreams alive as they approach the age of forty. Brett (Mark Duplass) and Michelle (Melanie Lynskey) are struggling to rekindle the spark in their relationship, which has puttered out from the stresses of marriage and children. When Brett's friend Alex (Steve Zissis) and Michelle's sister Tina (Amanda Peet) move in with them, the foursome engage in a tragically comedic struggle to follow their personal dreams while still remaining good friends, siblings, and spouses to each other. (From the HBO synopsis)

 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
I consider myself a big fan of the Duplass brothers' filmography. They opened my mind to mumblecore (a dumb name for an interesting genre) which led to me seeing a lot of great movies I would've otherwise avoided. I went into Togetherness to see how their form translated into a half-hour episode of television and am happy to report that the answer is quite well. Much like their movies, overall plot almost seems secondary. There isn't a big gimmick or driving narrative force behind these characters. Instead, it feels like the writers focused on making characters worth spending time with, mixed them together, and then let a story grow out of it from there.  

This is one of those shows that draws you in with its comedy. Once you've grown attached to the characters it can swing very competently into dramatic territory in a way that is more effective because of that attachment it established with humor. The issues the four friends go through are nothing revelatory or particularly interesting in and of themselves, but the Duplass brothers have a knack for finding that elusive spot where comedy and drama meet to form something especially touching. They capture the way the right song or a friendly face can pull you out of a slump, or how a man and a woman can be important supportive figures to one another without a romantic connection.

 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
Another thing I greatly admire about the Duplass brothers as storytellers is that they don't always do what's easy. When I first saw their film The Do-Deca-Pentathlon I recall being frustrated by the way the movie's fun premise of competing brothers is ground to a halt by family drama. In retrospect, I admire that they didn't go the easy route of a crowd-pleaser and decided to use the brotherly rivalry as a jumping off point to make a larger point about adulthood and responsibilities. Togetherness is similarly gutsy about some narrative choices. Lesser shows would give into the romantic whimsies of its characters. This series has some bitterness. This first season, for all of its comedy, ends in a really dark place. It doesn't coddle you the way a network sitcom would and I think it is much more interesting for it.

There are some things about the show I wish that I liked more. If you're looking for diversity in your television you won't find it here. Aside from one supporting character you're mostly dealing with white middle class couples here. Much like with Girls, I found myself a bit frustrated with the cyclical nature of some character arcs. In a short eight episode season it feels like some characters have already gone through the same subplots twice. Alex falls for Tina, realizes its not going to work and recovers. Later he falls for her again, and realizes its not going to work. There is something interesting to say about the boundaries these characters are exploring, but I feel like the Duplass brothers just try to say the same thing a different way and it is already tired territory. The back and forth of Brett and Michelle's sexless marriage is used for great humor and drama, but I'm already feeling the repetition of it. You could argue that it's human to fall back into the same behavior and traps over and over, but they don't seem to be exploring that angle either. It isn't enough to sour my enjoyment of the season, but going in to the new season I'm hopeful that these characters will have a bit more to do.

 Togetherness: The Complete First Season

Video


HBO delivers a strong presentation with this 1080p transfer. One thing that is immediately apparent is this show looks much more grainy than anything on HBO right now. There isn't much technical information on IMDb for the show, but I feel safe guessing that this is in 35mm. I watched this season on HBO Go and the grain is mostly masked by the digital compression. In this higher bitrate Blu-ray presentation the grain is fully intact and has a nice consistent texture to it. Visually this show is also much darker than its contemporaries. This is true on both HBO Go and the Blu-ray release. I thought the black levels were very crushing at first but this appears to be a stylistic choice and it is honestly a refreshing change from the overly bright, warm filter over most comedies these days.

Audio


This release has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is a show about characters talking to each other so it isn't a bombastic mix, but it has plenty of effective, subtle qualities that impress. The soundtrack has some variety from Rush's "Tom Sawyer" to a softer James Blake track, and they all sound great here. Surround channels are mostly just used for ambient noise like the outdoor sounds of a park, loud bar, or passing traffic. Dialogue is very easy to make out. I really don't have much to say here. This track does exactly what it is supposed to and I found no fault with it.

 Togetherness: The Complete First Season

Extras


On the first disc we have a series of behind the scenes clips called Inside the Episode (HD, 11:46). There is one for each episode and they each run for approximately 3-4 minutes. This a standard inclusion for most HBO shows and makes for a light bit of extra viewing. We also have a few Deleted Scenes (HD, 04:15) from episodes 1, 3 and 4. On the second disc are more Inside the Episode(HD, 10:51) segments. There are also more Deleted Scenes (HD, 02:47) for episodes 5, 6 and 7. Last of all is Amanda & Steve (HD, 05:02), which is just a bit of Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis goofing around on set.

Overall


If you are a fan of the Duplass brother's filmography then you should really check out Togetherness. Their approach to storytelling and their deft handling of tone have made it to the television format unscathed. Though I was a little frustrated with the character arcs, it felt well worth my time and I am optimistic about the upcoming second season. This Blu-ray release from HBO is nice to look at and listen to, but extras are light.

 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
 Togetherness: The Complete First Season
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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