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Little Voice Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Creators: Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson
Stars: Brittany O’Grady, Sean Teale, Colton Ryan
Little Voice was created by veteran writer, director and producer Jesse Nelson, and produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions; Sara Bareilles, also an EP, wrote all the original songs for the series. Despite taking place in pre-pandemic New York, there is a light, almost Hallmarkian tone to the show about a young woman who is trying to find her artistic voice. Does it work?
Opening Shot: A sheet of paper with the words “I don’t know” floats to the ground, as we see a young woman walking a bunch of dogs.
The Gist: Bess King (Brittany O’Grady) is constantly writing songs, jotting lyrics in a notebook or on her hand while she’s doing one of her many gigs. She also sings covers at bar mitzvahs, but she has the talent to make it big as a recording artist. Only problem? She’s finding that she just can’t bring herself to debut her songs in front of an audience.
She lives in the West Village in Manhattan, and music is all around her, from the guy drumming a bucket in Washington Square Park to people playing in the subway. Even her friend and roommate Prisha (Shalini Bathina) is in an all-female mariachi band. When she talks with Prisha, she still laments the time she did try to perform her work in front of an audience, and bombed. “You’re a benchwarmer!” Prisha tells Bess in the blunt but loving way friends do.
While she’s writing in her private space, a storage locker-turned-practice studio, she’s surprised by Ethan (Sean Teale), a filmmaker who happens to edit his films in the storage locker next door. She’s resistant that someone has invaded her private space, but she warms up to Ethan and admits (via Scrabble) that she’s a “mess”. But from what he’s heard, he thinks she’s selling herself short.
There are other things going on in her life, like when she’s called away from the storage unit to retrieve her brother Louie (Kevin Valdez) a Broadway obsessive who broke curfew at the group home where he lives with other autistic adults to get the autograph of an ensemble player he likes. She brings him back and the woman who runs the home (Becky Ann Baker) tells Louie that Bess can’t move back with him because they’re both trying to be independent.
At the bar where she works, she’s encouraged by Benny (Philip Johnson Richardson), a coworker and Ethan, who came to watch her, to bound on stage when the headlining act stormed out over a romantic fight. She does, and over the objections of the bar owner, starts to sing her originals, then chickens out and sings covers. On the way home, she runs into her father Percy (Chuck Cooper) singing with his a cappella group in the subway; he also tells her to get back out there. When she says how effortless he looks singing in public, he says, “Do you know how much effort it takes to look effortless?”
Our Take: The series has the vibe of a Hallmark film, with all of its light conflict and extreme earnestness, but certainly is a little grittier than your average Hallmark film or series, what with its pre-pandemic New York setting and liberal cursing. Still, the grittiness can’t tamp down the earnestness, and that’s the part that makes us wonder where this show fits in people’s already-jammed viewing schedules.
Don’t get us wrong: We think O’Grady is fantastic as Bess. She plays the prototypical New York 20-something in this day and age, bursting with ability but just not sure how and where to apply it. Even old farts like me can understand that feeling, even if I’m not a millennial or a zoomer; I went well into my thirties trying to figure out who I was, even while working a stable, career-oriented job. So someone with the ability and ambition of Bess letting her insecurities get the better of her is relatable as hell.
But she also seems to be walking around in a version of New York that exists only in pie-in-the-sky shows and movies, where everyone is an artist and the city embraces ambitious creative types instead of grounding them to a pulp. Just the idea that the storage locker she uses is in a building with other storage lockers where people do more than just store boxes made us roll our eyes. Little Voice isn’t as twee as, say Pushing Daisies was, but there’s enough tweeness in the mix to make the show feel like a candy-colored version of the show it could have been.
Then again, the scenes where she’s interacting with her brother and father make us understand Bess better; she’s got a lot more to deal with than just fear of failure. If that’s all there was, Little Voice would feel like a “so what?” kind of show. But, her family issues, combined with her romantic entanglements and growing music prospects, should make for an interesting, albeit light, dramedy to watch.
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