Amazon released its new batch of pilots today, most of which are unremarkable. The far-and-away standout among them is Tig Notaro’s autobiographical One Mississippi, which you can watch right now for free. Bring tissues; you will cry. You will cry a lot. But you will also see a beautiful show that’s thoughtful and gentle and special.
One Mississippi is classified as a comedy, but so is Transparent, and Mississippi is even more emotionally raw than its Amazon predecessor. (The two shows go well together. In an ancient broadcast model, they’d be good lead-ins and lead-outs for one another.) There’s plenty of humor in it, but the show doesn’t seem particularly motivated by laughter. The pilot finds an ailing Tig — recovering from a double-mastectomy and severely weakened by an intestinal disease — returning home to take her mother off life support. Tig’s flanked by her stilted stepfather (John Rothman) and her slightly doofy brother (Noah Harpster). Later, her girlfriend (Casey Wilson) shows up for support, too. There are moments of dreamy surrealism and a few lines that poke fun at Californians, but plenty of moments where Tig’s stricken stare tells the whole story.
One Mississippi is low-key and understated, but it’s also still beautifully deliberate. The dialogue has a frank elegance to it, hitting these big emotional truths squarely and surely, yet tenderly. Tig’s girlfriend, Brooke, arrives unexpectedly, and is a little hurt that Tig’s not happier to see her. “It’s not that I’m not happy to see you,” Tig says. “I’m just not happy.” “I’m just not happy” is such a simple line, and such a simple idea — but it’s also one you don’t actually hear very often. This is said without glibness or cruelty; the entire show radiates decency and thoughtfulness without a trace of nastiness, even when people disagree or are angry. As they lie in bed the night before Tig’s mother’s funeral, Brooke notes (kindly) that “tomorrow’s a big day.” No, Tig says. “Tomorrow’s actually a very small day, because my mother’s not in it.” Every day will be smaller, she says. “I’m smaller.” (I’m crying typing this.) “Good night,” says Brooke. “Bad night,” Tig corrects her. There’s a poetic candor to many of the interactions, and not because the characters are trying to shock or shame each other but because they’re simply beyond point of pretense.
For something that’s only 26 minutes, Mississippi is impressively sure of itself and manages to have plenty to say, perhaps thanks to its pedigree. The show’s executive producers include Diablo Cody (who co-wrote the script with Notaro), Louis C.K., longtime Louie producer M. Blair Breard, and Nicole Holofcener, who also directed the pilot. Rare is the show, heck, rare is the anything that knows how to be moving but not mawkish, honest but kind, credibly sad but not dreary or depressing. Pilots almost never feel this whole, this actualized. Amazon ostensibly waits for votes to roll in to decide which pilots to pick up to series, but they’d be stupid not to just green-light this series right now. They should have green-lighted it several months ago so we could watch all the episodes already, but we all make mistakes.