"Togetherness," the new HBO comedy from brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, takes place in a neighborhood I know very well: Eagle Rock. Speaking at the recent TV Critics Association press tour, the Duplass brothers wanted to make it clear that, despite the usual cliche of calling a setting a "character" on a show, Eagle Rock is not a character on "Togetherness." It just happens to be where these characters live.
Nonetheless, Eagle Rock serves a major symbol for explaining where these couples currently stand in life:
“Eagle Rock is on the fringe of Los Angeles,” Jay Duplass said. “It’s often said that it’s a place where hipsters go to die or go to have children. It’s like a weigh station and our characters have one foot in Los Angeles and one foot out. They’re not sure if they fit in, not sure what they’re doing. It was important to set the show in that particular neighborhood.”
Added Mark Duplass, “The location is representative of how we see the world. How we strive to be closer to our family, kids and friends. But as soon as we get that, we want to eject and be on a trip by ourselves. It’s sad and funny. When we started cooking up the show, that’s the core of what we wanted to make.”
After the session, I asked Jay Duplass to expand on why he lives in Eagle Rock -- and where he tends to hang out.
"I'll just say this, Eagle Rock is perfect," he told me. "I walk a lot. I just listen to music and try to think about my stories, so I walk three or four miles a day. It is the best walking neighborhood ever. Ther are hills, there's flatland, it's urban, there are beautiful houses, it's got everything. It's maintained a little bit of a sense of a small town.
"It was a town, it was eaten up by Los Angeles, but it's maintained its character. It's in its own little valley and pocket, and that's what makes it special. I actually just moved Saturday, and I just moved four blocks from my old house. And I know five or six other families who, same as me, when their kids got bigger and they couldn't fit in their tiny little 2-bedroom Craftsman anymore, moved into a bigger house because they loved the neighborhood."
Fans of "Togetherness" from Eagle Rock will notice several familiar spots, including Peekaboo Playland and Cafe Beaujolais.
"Cafe Beaujolais is a French restaurant that is extremely reasonably priced," he says. "It is just unbelievable French food, and it's where a lot of French ex-pats actually come, drive out to Eagle Rock for French food. It's right next to Casa Bianca, the Italian place that everybody knows and half of LA think it has the best pizza."
Uh-oh, now things are getting real. I love Casa Bianca. I asked Duplass for his opinion. He was careful not to criticize.
"I don't want to diss a wonderful restaurant in my neighborhood but I actually like Brownstone down the street. It's more New York traditional street pizza. That's just my preference.
"It's all going to be about food. Spitz is Lebanese, Middle Eastern mix. And The Oinkster is an obvious one, where you get your pastrami and your half-pound burger and you're never going to beat it."
And what about famed coffee shop Swork?
"I'll write at Swork, sometimes I will drive up to the Eagle Rock and write in my car. I used to write at Le Petit Beaujolais but that closed down. I spend all my time there."
Sounds like a man after my own heart. "Togetherness," which was recently renewed for a second season, airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on HBO.