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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Disney's 'Alone Together' is a new kind of buddy comedy

Disney’s latest sitcom features stand-up comics Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo, who struggle for status in Los Angeles as platonic friends trying to navigate the slippery slope that leads to fame and fortune

Alone Together is a new Disney sitcom. Photos courtesy of Freeform
Alone Together is a new Disney sitcom. Photos courtesy of Freeform

It’s a fool’s errand to devote every waking moment to becoming one of the hip people in status-­obsessed Los Angeles – but such a quest rises to tragic hilarity when the vanity seekers are two platonic friends who lack the common sense to realise they belong together.

That’s the premise of Alone Together, a new sitcom about two outsider kids now grown up who are always there for each other when it comes to chasing their foolish dream. Even as they press their eager faces, metaphorically, up against the plate glass of the Hollywood candy shop of money, beauty and fame – so close and yet so far – they fear they’ll be perennially stuck on the outside looking in. They’re probably right.

That’s the charm of Alone Together, a show which represents the younger, edgier brand – along with Grown-ish, the Black-ish spin-off set on a college campus – that the Disney-ABC Television Group, a division of The Walt Disney Company, has been developing over the past two years for Freeform, its new cable and satellite TV channel.

Heavily promoted on social media prior to its January launch in the United States, the show stars two established stand-up comics – Esther Povitsky and Benji Aflalo – and hails from the comic minds of the Lonely Island gang, led by former Saturday Night Live and current Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg and his fellow executive producers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.

“Our audience will quickly fall in love, as we did with real-life best friends Esther and Benji, who navigate a world of perfect 10s as self-proclaimed 6s,” predicts Karey Burke, Freeform’s vice president of programming and development, who’s already renewed the show for a second season.

Vanity Fair characterises the show as “a new kind of buddy comedy” – while Aflalo vows their characters will never be romantically involved: “Let’s be honest. Romance doesn’t really work out for anybody, ever.”

This is not the kind of sanitised show one might expect from Disney, or what was previously known as the ABC Family platform of kid-friendly wholesome fare. To their relief, Povitsky and Aflalo readily admit they were handed enough creative freedom to keep it real.

“We’re not into graphic stuff, but we do want to be edgy,” says Aflalo. “[Disney] doesn’t push back on anything, really. I don’t ever feel like there are things we can’t do – and there was never a sense of that. I don’t feel restricted in any way.”

“I think we got to do the version we wanted because neither of us are super-dirty,” adds Povitsky. “We’re not squeaky-clean pilgrims, but neither of us are blue.”

In real life, the comedy couple describes their relationship as “co-dependent friends”, which has raised more than a few eyebrows among their mates, who persistently wonder if there’s something more between them than funny business.

“We met at The Comedy Store, which at the time was not the cool place to be. It was kind of where losers congregated and we identified as that,” says Povitsky. “That was how we met, as two of the misfits who were hanging [there] until 3am

every night.

“In terms of being a partnership, I do want to be clear, and Benji will agree: We’re not a comedy duo. We both do stand-up on our own, we do a lot of stuff on our own, so it was never like, ‘Let’s team up.’ It never felt like a partnership, just a friendship, and we wanted to do one thing together.”

“We have a co-dependent friendship and those friendships get a bad rep,” says Aflalo, “but I think the co-dependent friendship helped us because we relied on each other. We made that short [film that led to our series]. We really had to lean on each other. It was a partnership out of necessity because I don’t think either of us could have put a short together on our own.”

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Read more:

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Stars of Netflix horror movie 'The Ritual' share their creepy filming experiences

Netflix's 'Altered Carbon': explore a nightmare future where money can buy you immortality

'House of Cards' final season: Diane Lane, Greg Kinnear join cast

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The platonic concept for Alone Together, says Povitsky, “was borne out of how we spent so much time together and people took notice. “‘Why are those two always hanging out? They’re not dating. Are they dating? Are you dating?

People are always asking us those questions.

“We couldn’t understand what was going on, and that sort of became the starting point for us. People clearly want to know what’s up – so that just got us in the mood to do stuff together.”

In a smart, millennials-friendly marketing campaign – with their network’s blessing – Povitsky and Aflalo recently took to Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other digital platforms to whine that Freeform was being a cheapskate about marketing their show – and wouldn’t spend a dime to promote it. Playing along, the network brass relented somewhat and promised the pair a status-symbol billboard in Hollywood ... but only if they could get 10,000 Tweets.

They got their billboard.

Alone Together airs on Monday on OSN Series Comedy HD.