HBO's 'Somebody Somewhere' Depicts Lively Goings-On in Manhattan…Kansas

Somebody Somewhere on HBO
(Image credit: HBO)

Somebody Somewhere premieres on HBO January 16. The dark comedy stars Bridget Everett as a woman who returns to her hometown in Kansas after years in the big city, following the death of her sister, and doesn’t quite fit in. She meets a nerdy guy at her dead-end job, and he invites her to choir practice, a free-spirited open mic event at an abandoned mall. 

The woman, Sam, finds community there. “Grappling with loss and acceptance, singing is Sam's saving grace and leads her on a journey to discover herself and a community of outsiders who don't fit in but don't give up, showing that finding your people, and finding your voice, is possible. Anywhere. Somewhere,” goes the HBO description. 

Hanna Bos and Paul Thureen, veterans of HBO’s High Maintenance, created the show and executive produce as well. They work in theater in New York, and have been watching Everett onstage for years. “For us, loving Bridget, loving the idea of telling a Midwestern story, looking at lives that are not always examined, it was sort of a dream project,” said Thureen. 

Everett, 49, is a bit of a star on the cabaret stages of New York. Thureen described her as “a force of nature and larger than life, but super vulnerable and super funny. She’s a singular talent–there’s really nothing like her.”

Somebody Somewhere offers characters that viewers have not seen before, Bos said, in a place they haven’t seen either. “Bridget brings people together,” she said. “I hope the show does that on a really basic level.”

Bos added, “Bridget gets people to let go and give in and laugh and cry at the same moment. We try to do that by showing the journey of Sam opening up, and engaging in life again after hiding and suppressing the talent she has.”

That many in real life are venturing out again after close to two years of COVID-related isolation, she added, makes the show timely. 

Sam is in Manhattan, Kansas, though is better suited for the other Manhattan. Shows and films typically depict the person with lofty dreams departing the small town for the big city. In Somebody Somewhere, the person with big dreams comes back to the small town. 

“It’s about seizing the day in small ways,” Bos said. 

Everett is an executive producer. Carolyn Strauss executive produces for Mighty Mint; Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass and Mel Eslyn do so for Duplass Brothers Productions; and Patricia Breen and Tyler Romary exec produce too. Jay Duplass directs the pilot and a couple other episodes. 

The cast includes Jeff Hiller, Mary Catherine Garrison and Danny McCarthy.

The characters look like real people, imperfect as they may be. “We like real, grounded worlds and the show is a very grounded world,” Bos said. “It’s a very human show.”

The producers spent time in Manhattan, Kansas, known as the Little Apple, where Everett is from. The show is shot in Kansas and Illinois, the producers finding some farmland west of Chicago–wide streets, big skies–that felt like the Little Apple. 

The reviews for Somebody Somewhere are quite favorable. “The show is generous in spirit…even to characters who first seem to be antagonists; Tricia, for instance, begins on a note of church-lady superiority but grows more nuanced and sympathetic. In fact, Somebody Somewhere can be generous to a fault, in that Sam’s struggle gets lost at times as other stories in the ensemble are foregrounded,” wrote The New York Times

“But I see this broad focus mostly as a strength, giving the season a depth (over a quick seven episodes) that feels as if it could sustain the series for a long run. This is a show made in the spirit of choir, after all. You need to let the voices blend.”

Everett, the Times added, “can still be stunning when she solos.”

The Chicago Sun-Times calls it “a superb and instantly engrossing work, with Everett delivering a knockout performance as Sam, a smart, dryly funny, self-deprecating, cynical, insecure woman in her 40s who is struggling with grief, who has spent most of her adult life feeling as if she’s on the outside looking in, as if she doesn’t quite fit in anywhere and with anyone…Until now.”

Thureen called Somebody Somewhere “a comforting show.” Bos said it “has a lot of hope.”

“It’s about somebody who has been hiding and not waking up and this show has a nice message about connecting,” she said. “It’s about how it’s not too late and it’s about not giving up and it’s about, if there’s something you love, you should just get out and do it.” ■ 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.