Aspiring writer Isobel isn't anywhere near where she'd hoped to be at the inglorious end of her 20s. Newly single — and with a rent too steep to manage without her ex boyfriend, Jamie — she's stuck in a dead-end job assisting an erratic mommy blogger, living without health insurance or a clue what to do next. But when her longterm relationship implodes after she cheats with a woman, Isobel is left to navigate an identity crossroads as immense as it is relatable. Unwilling to leave her Echo Park home, she decides to Airbnb the spare room, inviting an eccentric cast of renters, from disaffected Hollywood producers to sexually omnivorous newly-weds, across its threshold. As soon as the first tenants show up, the only thing that's clear about Isobel's life is that it'll never be the same again.
So begins Strangers — a quintessentially millennial dramedy from writer and director Mia Lidofsky, whose two seasons working on Girls will be immediately recognisable to survivors of Hannah Horvath-worthy quarter-life crises everywhere. Loosely based on Lidofsky's own experiences Airbnb-ing her West Village apartment before leaving New York to pursue life as full-time artist, Strangers feels like a sunnier, more playful take on the 20-something struggles that are quickly coming to define a generation. Led by Zoe Chao, who's slated to appear in Richard Linklater's 2018 film Where'd You Go Bernadette alongside Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig, the first season features a star-studded cast with cameos from Jemima Kirke, Veep alum Meredith Hagner, and Insecure's Langston Kerman, to name just a few.
But if Lidofsky's characters read as a quirky answer to Lena Dunham's iconic Brooklyn girl gang, their stories also make it clear that we shouldn't be blinded by all that dewy Southern California sunshine (for the record, it's absolutely glorious). At its heart, Strangers is radically empathetic journey through Isobel's budding bisexuality — her insatiable, magnetically endearing uncertainty about who she is and what she wants.
Leaning on her unapologetically out best friend, Cam, after her breakup with Jamie, Isobel is overwhelmed by the possibilities opened by her newfound desire for women. Things only get more confusing when, high on shrooms, she meets Hailey, played by Isabel McNally, at a 5Rhythms dance class. But in the wake of a truly blissed-out first date thanks to a chanting intersectional minister/renter played by Unreal's Shiri Appleby, Isobel's infatuation with Hailey starts to dredge up buried resentments in her bond to Cam, not to mention that whole battle to love fearlessly and un-self-consciously, even when you're not totally clear on your own sexual preferences. And while Hailey plunges into a relationship with Isobel, it's clear she can never trust her commitment to their love or the promise of a shared life. Add Cam's looming move to New York and a disastrous, love-sick interruption from Jamie, and Isobel's story is suddenly pulled in a flurry of dizzying directions — the perfect moment, in short, to remake everything about the person she once thought she was.
Strangers finds an irresistible ease in the often-painful work of growing up — a coolness-in-chaos achieved with a little help from the colourful tangle of lost young people who swerve through Isobel's narrative. And where other shows have worked to provide neat answers to early adulthood's many, messy twists, Lidofsky responds by asking more questions, embracing all the grey areas and unspoken anxieties that shape our most deeply held relationships. At the end of the first season, we're left with Isobel's joyful curiosity — and no idea what'll happen next.