Tell me if you have heard this one before. The premise of the TV show has a woman in her 30s with a dead-end job and dead-end boyfriend chucking it all in to return to her home town where she comes to terms with who she really is and what she wants from life.
The new Amy Schumer comedy Life & Beth is treading some pretty well-trod ground at this point, from both the premise of the series through to the low-fi vibe of the show. Your enjoyment of Life & Beth will be predicated on how much you, person who has seen this premise play out hundreds of times across film & TV throughout your life of watching, is willing to take another run at this sort of show. One could happily call this premise a genre at this point. Your enjoyment will also vary depending on your willingness to spend 10 episodes with Amy Schumer.
Putting my Schumer cards on the table, I was a big fan of Amy Schumer's sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer. It was a great, laugh-out-loud sketch comedy show which had some great pointed sketches. The third (and final) season was a bit of a dud - it felt undercooked, likely a result of Schumer having blown up and her attention pulled in competing directions. Since then, I haven't really connected with anything she's done. Trainwreck, her first feature, fell victim to director Judd Apatow's inability to be savage during editing - I don't mind the films he writes/directs being bloated, but it really hurt Trainwreck and the recent Pete Davidson starrer The King of Staten Island.
With Life & Beth, Schumer plays the titular Beth, a woman who is trapped by a world of her making. She's in an ill-suited relationship with an extrovert wine salesman that she also works with - his flash mob marriage proposal in the second episode does not go down as well as he may have envisioned. And she has a domineering mother who isn't able to get out of her own way, let alone her daughters when needed. When the mother dies unexpectedly, Beth returns home to Long Island to live near her sister for a few weeks as she battles memories of humiliations while also starting a relationship with an on-the-spectrum farmer played by Michael Cera.
The show works really well when playing off the eccentric and/or stuck-in-their-regional-Long-Island-ways characters. But when Schumer is left to carry the emotional heft on screen and convey a sense of internal struggle, the show tends to feel a little flat. You get the sense that Schumer took a lot about storytelling for the screen away from her experience with Judd Apatow, as the show has a very similar vibe of being inspired by real life experience as his films tend to.
Recently, Schumer married a real-life on-the-spectrum farmer, so the Michael Cera business all feels very real and close to Schumer's interests.
It isn't fair to call the show 'for the fans only', as there is an audience for this show that extends beyond those with a pre-existing fondness for Schumer. but the show never quite fizzes as much as it needs to despite the occasional moment of inspired relatable comedy.
Life & Beth is streaming now on Hulu in the US and Disney+ elsewhere. (But for some reason it is a 3-episode, then weekly release schedule on Disney+, but all episodes at once on Hulu... go figure).