‘Little Voice’ Is a Romantic, Hopeful, and Earnest Love Letter to Dreamers
The AppleTV+ original is low-stakes television, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that
Little Voice feels exactly like a Sara Bareilles song. Unsurprising, of course, since it’s the brainchild of Bareilles herself, and the series was named after a song she had shelved back in 2007. Her first studio album, named for that shelved song, was called Little Voice, too. It had come to her in a dream, she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It felt like my mission statement to myself about my first record: ‘I am here to listen to this little voice,” she added. In the AppleTV+ original created by Bareilles and Jessie Nelson, who worked on the Broadway musical Waitress together, that becomes the protagonist, Bess King’s ethos. It becomes her very reason for being.
Bess (Brittany O’Grady) is filled with misgivings about herself. She struggles with self-doubt while balancing multiple odd jobs—walking the dogs of wealthy families, teaching music to children and seniors, and tending the bar at a club in Brooklyn—but her real passion is music. She writes songs, but only for herself, never for anyone else to hear. It’s a story we’ve all heard and seen a thousand times, done to death on television and in film. But Little Voice takes that story and while it doubles down on not much else, it gathers all the love, hope, and earnestness that it can and envelopes the entire series with it. Some might see that as a weakness, but to me, it’s the show’s greatest strength.
Bess has a wonderful support system of people who believe in her—everyone from her dad, to her brother, to her friends, to her boss at the club. “You’re the last person you should listen to,” her roommate and emergency contact Prisha would say to her, because self-doubt is a hard thing to shake off, especially when you’re under layers and layers of it. It’s a romanticized way of looking at things, yes, but a romantic comedy-slash-drama—which I’m very much going to categorize Little Voice as!—has always required a suspension of disbelief, and the narratives present in this series make for no exception.
It has all the makings of a New York city romcom, after all: dreamy shots of the city, especially at night; two potential love interests, very different from each other; a tight-knit roommate with whom the protagonist shares an apartment, their space looking like something straight out of Pinterest; and a whole lot of feelings. O’Grady, most of all, is so easy to watch as Bess—she’s charming while still being believably full of self-doubt. The way her eyes depict vulnerability, and the moments in which she finds even just a glimmer of confidence in herself make you want to root for her, too.
A Sara Bareilles song can be brave and crass (“Sweet as Whole” calls people assholes and bitches), sweet and sentimental (in “The Light,” there’s an absolute surrender of trust and love), uplifting and hopeful (“Orpheus” reminds us not to give up on love), introspective and thoughtful (in concerts, hundreds or thousands of people clap in quick succession to imitate the sound of pouring rain for “Let The Rain.”) But mostly, a Sara Bareilles song looks at fear and self-doubt in the eye and tells it that it’s nothing against a woman shouting at the top of voice. It looks inward at herself, reflects, and grows. Little Voice is all of that while being a beautiful love letter to dreamers—or even to anyone who’s going through life with a complete lack of faith in themselves—and sometimes that’s all anyone needs on television, especially these days.
The first three episodes of Little Voice are available on AppleTV+.
Photos from Apple TV+