"Togetherness" brings Eagle Rock to HBO

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Occidental’s campus and its surrounding neighborhood frequently host film crews that turn the suburbs of Los Angeles into places ranging from Chicago (“Parenthood”) to Spain (“Arrested Development”). “Togetherness,” the latest show in HBO’s Sunday night line-up, is both shot and set in Eagle Rock.

“Togetherness” centers around a young couple, the Piersons, trying to navigate their way through adulthood as spouses, parents, professionals and humans. The show takes an intimate and honest approach to the family comedy.

Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass and Steve Zissis write, produce and star in the local production. The Duplass brothers reached acclaim after premiering their first feature film, “The Puffy Chair,” in 2005. Since then, they have jointly written and directed four more feature films and acted in a number of other projects. Jay Duplass most recently played Josh Pfefferman in Amazon Prime’s, “Transparent,” which won Best Comedy Series at last month’s Golden Globe Awards.

The pilot episode of “Togetherness” introduces Brett (Mark Duplass), Michelle Pierson (Emily Lynskey) and their intimacy issues, which come to a head when they catch each other masturbating. When Brett’s best friend Alex (Zissis) gets evicted from his apartment and Michelle’s sister Tina (Amanda Peet) gets dumped by her pseudo-boyfriend, both find refuge at the Pierson residence. Although the show is not as light as family-oriented shows like “Modern Family,” its treatment of real family issues is more stripped and raw.

With a full house the Piersons find themselves surrounded by adults who, for the most part, have never fully grown up. Characters in “Togetherness” exert doses of childish fun to get through the stresses of adult life, whether that means playing pranks or pulling the car over for an air drumming solo.

Aside from relatable plot points, Occidental viewers will also recognize some familiar landmarks; the Piersons live in a house right off Colorado Boulevard, frequenting neighborhood landmarks such as the Peekaboo Playland and Eagle Rock City Hall. In the third episode of the season, “Insanity,” Michelle Pierson leaves the kids with a babysitter and walks down to a bar on Colorado in an attempt to be independent. After a few drinks, she ends up joining a movement of parents at City Hall trying to start a charter school in Eagle Rock. The Piersons don’t just passively live in Eagle Rock—they actively engage with and are a part of the community.

As a young white family, the fictional Piersons could also play into the recent, real-life demographic shifts and influx of new businesses that have sparked discussions of gentrification in Eagle Rock. The issue of gentrification has not really been tackled yet in the show, but with the parents’ efforts to open a charter school in the area, the topic is ripe for more direct coverage. “Togetherness” captures the current state of the neighborhood by giving audiences a glimpse into the lives of one of the new young families making the neighborhood what it is today.

The choice of Eagle Rock as a setting for this show is no afterthought. In a dramatic scene, Alex, a down-on-his-luck actor, packs up a moving truck in Hollywood and heads east to Brett’s house. The stability and realism of life in Eagle Rock serves as a stark contrast to the volatility of Hollywood, where people regularly see their dreams realized or crushed. In “Togetherness,” Eagle Rock is not only a place where the Piersons live and choose to raise their family; it is a statement about contemporary life in Los Angeles.

“Togetherness” airs Sunday nights at 9:30 p.m. on HBO