It’s been nearly two years since the last season of Joe Pera Talks With You aired (and a year and a half since the 30-minute special episode “Relaxing Old Footage With Joe Pera”). During that time, Pera has remained committed to posting a tomato on his Instagram nearly every day, a bit he started when joining the site in 2015. A tomato a day hasn’t been quite the same as getting new episodes of his show every week, but it is a fitting representation of what those episodes offer us: something simple, natural, hearty, and wholesome that can be whatever you need it to be at any given time.
In the season-three premiere of Joe Pera Talks With You, Pera returns with his signature soothing storytelling, kicking things off in a furniture store trying to find the perfect retirement chair for his best friend Gene (Gene Kelly). The episode loudly declares that the year is 2018, adding an extra level of warmth to the already comforting series, allowing us to safely wade in and simply let the episodes wash over us without fear of the outside world penetrating the bubble that surrounds Joe Pera’s Marquette, Michigan.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t heavy themes at play. As with past seasons of the series, each episode title succinctly states exactly what you can expect to see on screen; it’s a naming convention Pera also used for his recently released book A Bathroom Book For People Not Pooping Or Peeing But Using The Bathroom As An Escape. But the suggestions that surround that single thing go much deeper. In “Joe Pera Sits With You,” yes, we see a lot of sitting, as Joe and Gene try out different recliners, but there’s also an implication that this will be the last recliner Gene will ever need to buy. Joe ponders the fleeting nature of life and wonders what kind of a legacy he and his loved ones are leaving behind. It’s a lot to ponder in 11-minute increments, but Joe Pera Talks With You manages to pack as much as it can into those short amounts of time at its own pace.
The show’s approach has subtly evolved over the course of three seasons. In season one, it was all about Joe letting us, the audience, in on his way of life and the singular way he does things, slowly introducing us to those he interacts with every day. Season two focused more on those interactions, how Joe Pera exists among the people in his life, the things he does for them. In season three, those closest to Joe, once just bit players in his world, now have fully expanded lives of their own, and slowly but surely the world of Marquette, Michigan, becomes more and more lush.
Storytelling duties are even handed off entirely in “Joe Pera Listens To Your Drunk Story.” In this episode, Joe’s girlfriend Sarah (Jo Firestone, ever a delight) relays the details of a wine night with new friends to Joe while he cooks her pierogies—it’s the first episode of the series that takes place in another character’s world, the first time we’re seeing something that Joe didn’t experience firsthand.
It’s important to note that the world in which Joe Pera lives isn’t an idealized one; we’re just seeing it through his rose-colored glasses. This expansion of perspective emphasizes that, and that culture clash between the characters and the actors’ masterful performances as they play off each other is where the humor lies. Joe’s foil throughout the series, Mike, is played by Conor O’Malley with his signature explosive energy and continues to play a big part in this season, bringing more members of his family deeper into the fold.
Sarah’s new wine friends are vulgar, horny suburbanites trying to crack Sarah out of her shell. The heartiest laughs come not just from those performances, expertly written subtle jokes, and some truly excellent sight gags, but also the moments of recognition in the mundane but universal experiences in the joy of making new friends, the agony of a hangover, and the pride of showing off your second fridge in the garage (the Midwesterners among us know).
It’s easy to want Joe Pera to dole out new episodes of his show at the same frequency with which he shares photos of tomatoes, but to grow and harvest television this good takes time, and it’s well worth the wait. The result is a charming, hilarious, and thoughtful bite-sized series that provides all the nourishment you need.