Life & Beth: Season 1 Review – Amy Schumer’s new series is a warm and funny delight

Season 1

Season 2

Episode Guide

Life & Beth
We’re Grieving
Out on the Island
Kiss from a Rose


Life is never simple! One moment everything is going along just fine and then something happens to throw everything out of whack. Your boyfriend proposes to you via a flash mob; you start to become discontent with your job; a terrible tragedy occurs that causes you to consider your future.

These are the things that happen to Beth (Amy Schumer), the protagonist of Life & Beth which is currently streaming on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in the US. Admittedly, you might not relate to Beth’s unusual marriage proposal but if you have ever hated your job and lost somebody close to you, you might relate to the crises she goes through when trying to determine the next course of her life.

You shouldn’t expect this show to be overly-serious or maudlin however, despite the emotional predicaments Beth finds herself in. While much of the series is about Beth self-reflecting on her life, it’s still light and funny, as can be expected with Amy Schumer as the star. Her character is warmer and more grounded than her usual spiky persona, which will be good news to anybody who isn’t a fan of her stand-up comedy and her sometimes outrageous behaviour.

The character of Beth is a likeable one and as the series progresses, we get to experience her life and the various changes she decides to make along the way. In the opening episode, we follow Beth at the wine distributing company where she works and get to meet her infuriating boyfriend Matt (Kevin Kane) who works alongside her. We also get to meet Jane (Laura Benanti), Beth’s less-than-helpful mother, as well as her world-weary sister Ann (Susannah Flood).

The first episode ends in a tragedy that causes Beth to assess her life and this spills over into the next couple of episodes when she decides her future does not lie with Matt or the job that has caused her dissatisfaction. She quits her boyfriend and her job and moves back to her hometown of Long Island, where she meets a vineyard farmer called John (Michael Cera). She immediately falls for his blunt charm and they begin an odd-couple type of relationship that becomes the focus of the next few episodes.

As the series draws to a close, Beth experiences a health scare that causes her to confront her own mortality. And as she considers the future, we watch as she reflects on the present state of her life. Should she remain on Long Island? Is John the right person for her? Should she branch out with her own business? These are some of the questions Beth ponders and if you have become invested in her journey during the course of the series, you will want to know the answers as much as she does.

This is as much a comedy as it is a drama so you won’t get bogged down in Beth’s constant self-reflection. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments as the series runs its course, with Beth getting into all kinds of comical predicaments, even during situations that should be serious, such as an MRI scan that goes hilariously awry thanks to a trainee doctor (Phil Wang). The show’s sense of humour is what makes this so special as, without it, this could have become yet another ponderous and sentimental drama about one woman’s journey to escape trauma and better her life. Mercifully, this isn’t like that at all, and while this is largely thanks to the witty script, much credit has to go to Schumer, Cera, and the rest of the cast, who manage to give us reason to smile, despite the challenges their characters go through.

While much of the series is focused on Beth as an adult, we also get flashbacks to her teenage years. As she goes through the emotional traumas of adolescence, from parent breakup to high school bullying, Beth’s later life is given context and we are given extra reason to warm to her. Violet Young, who plays the teenage Beth, is a wonderful young actress, and she ably displays the same charm and wit that her older incarnation does. Flashback scenes sometimes get in the way of the main story in television programmes and as such, can be annoying to sit through. This isn’t the case in Life & Beth as young Beth is as enjoyable to watch as older Beth, due to the sparkling lines of dialogue, comical scenarios, and the emotional depth that she portrays.

Life & Beth is many things. It’s a charming love story, a chaotic comedy, a coming of age tale, and a teary drama. It is all these things and more and it’s to the credit of Schumer and the rest of the writing team that it works on all levels. When watching, there was never a moment when I got bored or wanted to fast-forward through one scene to get to another. The actors and the characters they play make every scene come alive and they are a joy to watch at nearly every moment.

Schumer is the biggest revelation here, perhaps. We already know that she can be funny but rarely has she portrayed such an emotionally complex character as Beth. She doesn’t lose her wacky charm but, with the possible exception of her role in the darkly comic The Humans,  she shows much more dramatic range than she has done before. Cera deserves to get a lot of credit too as John, the socially awkward farmer who provides much of the show’s heart and soul, despite his disarming bluntness.

Life & Beth is a passion project for Schumer and according to the star, the show is semi-autobiographical. Watching the series, there is the sense that Schumer is trying to work out her own life through the character of Beth, even if the events that happen to her are exaggerated versions of the actresses’ real-life experiences. This might be why the show is able to capture the complexity of human emotion, in all its different facets, and why, for many of us, it comes across as being relatable.

I wholeheartedly recommend the series if you haven’t yet seen it. It’s not the outrageous Amy Schumer comedy that you might be expecting and it’s not the schmaltzy Hallmark-type show you might assume it is after reading the program’s synopsis. It falls somewhere between the two but it is also its own thing that defies a neat characterization.

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  • Verdict - 8/10

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