One Mississippi

4 out of 5

Created by: Tig Notaro & Diablo Cody

covers seasons 1 and 2

By the opening credits and first scene of Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi, you’ll know whether or not the show will be a new love: playing a fictionalized version of herself, the actresses’ dry delivery of sarcasm to her father (John Rothman) and brother (Noah Harpster) at the bedside of her dying mother tells of the tone and style of humor; when her mother passes and a bleak, tearful question to a nurse turns into a bombastic comedy routine tells of the show’s willingness to go especially acerbic; seeing names like Nicole Holofcener and Diablo Cody in the credits immediately extend us into a (dis-) comfort zone of confessional style dramedy. A further Louis C.K. credit sets us in territory of Louie or Better Things, but Tig – as co-creator and occasional writer – has a different approach than C.K.’s or Pamela Adlon’s often more in-your-face stylings, and rather structures her show (along with the rest of the creative staff) to fit the format of the radio show her character hosts, in which personal stories are not denied their inherent comedy, but are also open about being okay with feeling something. That’s the interesting component of One Mississippi: similar dark comedy series often come at their emotions indirectly as part of the humor, but Notaro’s observational snipes are pretty upfront about things, and the stutter-step that can cause in any given interaction provides for a lot of equally weighty and amusing back-and-forths, while the comic’s slight smile manages to keep the show feel especially spry.

Tig finds a reason to stay on in Mississippi for a while, and learns things about her mother that recontextualize some of her experiences. This pings off of Rothman’s portrayal of Bill, a caring but taciturn stepfather, and Harpster’s Remy, whose ‘can’t we all get along’ approach is the obvious balance to Tig’s potential affrontery. At six half-hour episodes, the show doesn’t exactly expand on these characters – we experience events from Tig’s perspective – but from her POV, just as she comes to expand her understanding of her mother, this incorporates some emotional shifting amidst her remaining family as well.

Episodes are low-key hijinks – the family cat runs away; girlfriend woes – and an exploration of Tig’s surviving cancer and past traumas, and wondering how that connects to the past that she’s now revisiting. The humor occasional falls into that grey area where you’re making fun of something when it’s just as likely that your own behaviors are due that same criticism, and it gets a little “cute” sometimes with its dream sequence-esque comedy moments, and perhaps a bit too reliant on flashbacks to fill in narration, but these are sincerely minor blips on what was otherwise an often brilliantly subtle and affecting show.