All episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
“It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.” This slogan was a punchy line in the sand distinguishing the Home Box Office network from everyone else for more than a decade. Over there is where you get Friends and ER; over here is where you’ll find Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Through and beyond the lifetime of this one tag, HBO’s controlling share of quality television was hard to argue with. Lately, however, the esteemed network doesn’t shine quite so brightly in a media landscape where “TV” isn’t the real competition anymore. FOMO, not HBO, dominates the airwaves, and it’s what makes a pleasantly inoffensive HBO comedy like Togetherness difficult to recommend.
The “Fear of Missing Out” is a perfectly natural social bother that’s been thoroughly exacerbated by expanding consumer options. Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to so much else. Will this phone support my favorite apps? What quality should I rent or buy this iTunes movie in? What’s a Tidal, and why won’t it let me listen to The Life of Pablo elsewhere? TV’s cord-based distribution model now seems quaint compared to the multiplying streaming and satellite services that have to be finagled like Tetris blocks to satisfy your entertainment desires.
And that’s just platform selection we’re talking about. Figuring out what you actually want to watch is even more daunting. FX researchers estimated the number of original scripted programs that aired in the U.S. last year to be over 400, and that number is likely to grow in 2016. The deluge of content has done noticeable good in terms of diversifying the TV landscape; the number of different demographics and viewerships TV can cater to is unprecedented. But even a generous estimate for how much TV out there is chaff will still put the average viewer up to their eyeballs in wheat.
HBO’s waffling blue-chip status isn’t helping matters. Pop culture juggernaut Game of Thrones only carries 10 weeks of the year, and True Detective is off licking its wounds. Girls is on its way out, while beloved comedy Veep faces its first season without creator Armando Iannucci. New talent isn’t looking especially promising right now, either. HBO’s latest potential flagship, Vinyl, debuted to garage band numbers on what looks like a stadium tour’s budget. In the absence of any single, truly premium platform, and in the face of overabundant options, viewers have to be more ruthless when choosing how to spend their TV time.
For these reasons, Togetherness, a nice little show that debuted on HBO last year, teeters uncomfortably between “optional” and “unnecessary” in Season 2. It’s a program one can very easily enjoy as a way to pass the time between Girls and Last Week Tonight on Sundays, the latter being perhaps HBO’s only vital show currently on air. But considered on its own, Togetherness has, at best, a performance or two keeping it from being a series with nothing to feel FOMO about.