Review: The Moping Comics of ‘Alone Together’

Posted January 9, 2018 4:52 p.m. EST

Buddy comedies, odd-couple comedies, will-they-won’t-they comedies, us-against-the-world comedies. All well-worn territory. So props to “Alone Together” for finding a new kind of pairing, even though that pairing is more of a listless inertia than an actual bond.

Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo created this single-camera comedy and star as Esther and Benji, two aspiring comedians and purported friends. But they don’t seem like friends — and not because they seem like a romantic couple, which they don’t. They’ve confused complaining for companionship. “I know trivia about your life and feel comfortable constantly insulting you” is not friendship. Well, maybe for some people it is. But you’d hope that those people enjoyed that aspect of their lives, which Benji and Esther do not seem to, at all.

“Alone Together,” starting Wednesday on Freeform, is the latest in an awfully long line of autobiographical comedies about comedy, and it embodies some of the genre’s major misconceptions: that comics make good actors, that stand-up comedy is somehow inherently interesting or virtuous, that only comics experience youthful ennui.

Esther and Benji are both fractionally employed and complain frequently about their miserable finances, their singledom and their lousy lots in life. What they mostly do, though, is compulsively talk about food and shame. Esther mentions a need to feel “skinny and pretty” twice in the first two minutes of the show, and throughout the five episodes made available for review, both she and Benji have strict rituals around binge eating and strategies for food hoarding.

It’s a theme that quickly moves from quirky to genuinely disordered in ways that the show does not seem to notice. It also seems particularly misguided in a series that airs on Freeform, a network, formerly known as ABC Family, geared primarily toward young women.

Freeform renewed “Alone Together” for a second season before its first season even had its premiere, so Esther and Benji have plenty of adventures ahead. “Esther’s way of being cute is like, not trying at all,” Benji says at one point. It’s time to start.