Welcome to Role Call, where we call up TV’s leading ladies to talk about their most vital, memorable, and feminist episodes.
Instagram models. Anyone who’s been on the social media app knows what they look like (sun-kissed and gorgeous), what they do (look sun-kissed on gorgeous in various locales), and where they live (New York, Los Angeles, or the Bachelor mansion). These professionally stunning women and their stunning aesthetics have integrated themselves into any ‘gram dweller’s daily life — and Freeform’s brand-new comedy Alone Together knows it. The Los Angeles-set BFF sitcom’s Wednesday night premiere perfectly scrutinizes the social media phenomenon while still casting a loving eye at the “Hot Girl” trope we're all literally following. Together only manages that feat by living as the brainchild of creator-star Esther Povitsky, a comedian who understands the agonies and ecstasies of the world’s most aspirational beings.
When we first meet Povitsky’s televised avatar Esther, completely inspired by the real-life version, the fictionalized comedian is heading home after a hookup. One of the first things she says to best friend Benji (co-creator Benji Aflalo) is that sleeping with bigger guys makes her “feel pretty and skinny like Rachel McAdams.” In the next scene she’s laser-focused on figuring out the mysteries of spirulina crips, the “hot girl food’ she spots in an L.A. cold-pressed juice shop. “What are those? Is that what hot girls eat? Will they make me glow?” she asks the cashier, named Syd (Ashley Moore), who herself looks like she walked out of an old American Apparel ad.
While Syd appears to be enviable, she’s actually just mean, admitting she traffics in both fat-shaming and height-shaming. Together recognizes how Syd can exist on both levels of terrible and aspirational, and that’s because Povitsky can see both sides.
“When I first moved [to L.A.], I was surrounded by beautiful women and beautiful people. I really felt desperate to be a part of it,” she admitted during a phone call with Refinery29, adding she became “obsessed” with the routines of the beautiful hordes of L.A. “[It was] like, ‘What do hot girls eat? What do hot girls drink? What do they do in the morning? How do they fall asleep at night?’ Anything a model or a pretty person did, I felt like if I could do it, I could be just like them.’”
Alone Together's Esther goes on that same journey, as the comedy introduces Benji’s sister Alia (Ginger Gonzaga), who owns the kind of Instagram-ruling fashion brand we’ve all seen while scrolling through the photo-heavy app. “I heard about a girl uglier than me who got a job working for her. Now she’s hot with 30,000 followers,” Esther tells Benji. This is supposed to sound as awful and inappropriate as it does. Things only get worse when Esther meets Alia and her model friends, whom our heroine uses an entirely new, improv class-shopped personality on. It doesn’t even work on Benji’s older sister.
In its first 12 minutes, this is what Together wants us to understand about its purposefully imperfect leading lady.
“I really feel like that’s a part of who I am and that’s a part of my journey, and so I felt like that was a really important first thing to portray about myself is like, ‘Oh, I want to do what the cool, pretty girls are doing,’” Povitsky, who also stars on CW musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, explained. “It’s almost like you’re that dork in high school who’s trying to do what the cool kids do.”
The siren call of the “hot girl” ratchets up to its most extreme conclusion as Esther joins an escort app to feel desirable and make money. While sex work might be an unfortunately dangerous profession in real life, TV Esther is only focused on the thin fantasy peddled by the likes of Pretty Woman and Chéri, where impossibly beautiful women receive impossibly large piles of cash from men simply for the honor of being in their presence. In essence, those caricatures of sex work are the ultimate form of the “hot girl,” Povitsky agreed.
“This character is really desperate and really wants attention and really wants to be loved. That also can be pretty naive,” the actress said. “I don’t want to pretend that fantasy is all a good thing.”
Fantasies not really being the best thing is what Alone Together’s pilot comes down to. After Esther tries to get Alia to like her enough to hand over a job and a man named Warren (Parks & Recreation’s Jim O'Heir) to pay her as an escort, the comedian ends up accepting the fact she’s simply her regular degular shmegular self — a young woman from Illinois accidentally dressed like an 11-year-old.
Despite Esther’s desperate attempts to crib the secrets of social media “hots girls,” it’s unlikely she will ever make the jump. “She wants to be a successful comedian and a famous Instagram model and somehow a famous fashion designer,” Povitsky explained, confirming she’s never even imagined her TV alter-ego as such a wild success since “she’s never going to put in the effort to get those things.”
Although Esther will never turn into a fashion influencer-stand up-spon-con queen, she will always have Benji and those leftover spirulina crisps. And, that’s okay.
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