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In the 1989 romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal’s character Harry argued that men and women could never really be friends because sex always gets in the way.
Pffthth. What does he know?
Esther (Esther Povitsky) and Benji (Benji Aflalo – Benji A) of the comedy series Alone Together (2018, now streaming first and only on Showmax) violently disagree. They claim – frequently and colourfully – to find one another sexually repulsive. And they’re not protesting too much.
“It’s a buddy comedy. It’s not a will they, won’t they. It’s not a love story,” says Esther P. “This is true friendship. We haven’t hooked up, we haven’t kissed. There’s nothing there.” But adrift in Los Angeles’s rocky, image-mad social waters, they cling to their friendship with one another like shipwreck survivors. Imagine a younger, ever-so-slightly less-jaded version of Julie (Julie Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) from comedy series Difficult People (2015-2017). In Benji A’s words, they’re “selfish losers who want it all”.
Alone Together explores the magical moments of understanding that form the heart of real friendships – even between the ghastliest people – and it’s a level of acceptance and camaraderie that you’d seldom find in lovers. “We live in an embarrassment-free zone. We thrive off the things that would normally be embarrassing to someone else,” says Esther P of her real-life friendship with Benji A, which the show is based on. “We try to keep all the stories as true to us as possible. Some of the episodes are literally stories we’ve pulled out of our lives and things that have happened to us,” explains Benji A. Ready to get real? Here’s what we’re talking about…
Esther and Benji nonchalantly agree that they’re the ugliest people at a Hollywood party. They’re sixes in a world of 10s, no offence. “When you’re really close to someone, you’re just kind of mean to them. That’s not true of everyone; I can’t claim to speak for everyone. But for me, it’s very true. It’s a form of love. It shows that you know each other very well, and it’s fun and playful. When Benji says something insulting about me, that’s a form of love, almost leaning into a sibling-esque relationship,” says Esther P.
Hot girl problems
Esther will never be one, Benji will never date one – they’re both too short, LA-fat and meh-faced to play in that hot girl league. And they commiserate over the inaccessibility of hot-girlness from episode 1. Esther P clarifies: “This isn’t a show where it’s like making fun of the pretty people. I understand it’s controversial to admit that you want to be skinny and pretty, but that’s how I really feel, that’s how the culture of Los Angeles has made me feel. I’m not going to pretend like I didn’t want those things when I first moved here. I quickly learned that those women who are so perfect and beautiful, their reality is different than mine. They walk in places, they get free stuff, people act different around them, people notice them and stare at them. If you’re gorgeous you might as well be a celebrity. And I kind of became obsessed by it, because I wasn’t being treated that way.”
In episode 3, Esther begs Benji to come with her to get her eggs harvested because “I just need you there in case I get murdered. I want a friend to get murdered with me too.” On hearing that brilliant argument, Benji tells her that it’s fine, he’ll go with her. Hey, women who go to the bathroom together all the time, this is what real commitment looks like.
Sharing a past
But it’s not all insults, moaning and murder references. In episode 9, Esther quite happily lets Benji watch a video of her emotional high school dance recital, forgetting that it leads to a sobbing breakdown after her experiences at prom. When he sees that it’s really upsetting her, he immediately moves to turn it off and instead of mocking, turns to comfort her sincerely. When it comes to what really matters, Esther and Benji have it figured out.
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