One more month to go, Los Angeles. (At least.) The extension of the city’s Safer at Home order is necessary, of course, but so is staying sane while sequestered, eating ice cream for breakfast, conversing with the dog, fantasizing about how great things used to be.
“I’d walk right into Trader Joe’s, Sparky, just like I owned the place. Pasta was plentiful, and toilet paper was free!”
Help is on the way. “Insecure” is back and not a moment too soon for stir-crazy Angelenos. The always sharp, always fresh HBO comedy, which returns Sunday for its Season 4 premiere, knows L.A. like few series do. (Amazon Prime’s “Bosch” is another show that traverses the city like a local, and serendipitously, it’s also back this month.)
The beauty of “Insecure’s” return? : COVID-19 hasn’t brought its version of the city to a screeching halt. In fact, the disease doesn’t even exist.
Quarantined viewers across the Southland can live vicariously through Issa (Issa Rae), Molly (Yvonne Orji), Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) and Tiffany (Amanda Seales) as they eat sumptuous meals in South La Brea’s Commerson bistro, drink pretty cocktails from pretty glasses at West Hollywood’s Gracias Madre and simply hang out in their living rooms, together, eating chips from the same bowl.
Watching Issa circle her Inglewood block for parking is enough to make folks from Canoga Park to Compton nostalgic for the overcrowding of pre-pandemic L.A. We were so innocent back then, and so too is the cast of “Insecure.” Face masks are still beauty treatments in their world, parties are still legal gatherings. “Corona” still means beer.
The new season is a joy to watch even without the nostalgia for a time when we actually left our homes.
The show’s four main characters continue to evolve through life challenges big and small. Issa must work with someone dating her ex, Lawrence (Jay Ellis), while striving to appear professional and “together.” Her conversations in front of the mirror, with herself, are some of the best moments of the new season. Molly’s judgmental, perfectionist nature is turning on her. Tiffany’s grappling with motherhood. And Kelli … she’s still defiantly weird.
Now, coupled with the familiar hilarity of watching them find their way is the transporting experience of visiting or revisiting places you never thought you’d miss: a random Wienerschnitzel hut, open for business, a shining beacon of hope; a fleeting shot of Burbank’s Donut Prince; Tiffany, and others, arriving to their destinations with a Porto’s bakery box in hand. It doesn’t matter what’s inside. The Cuban bakery is open in their alternate, Glendale universe.
Other outings that help transport us from the couch: Issa’s hike in Baldwin Hills (the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, perhaps), Molly’s date at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Spare Room, the dinosaur-like rigs of the Inglewood oil fields churning away as if it was 1972.
Since good news is hard to come by, it’s also worth mentioning there are three previous seasons of “Insecure” available for streaming. Go ahead. Sink into the L.A.-scape porn of Randy’s Donuts, a fully stocked Bristol Farms, Little Ethiopia, and dozens of spots south of the 10 Freeway that rarely made it to series TV before this comedy from Rae and co-creator Larry Wilmore debuted in 2016.
The City of Angels has always been a central player in “Insecure,” but now the show’s love, understanding, frustration and occasional contempt for the place strikes a new chord with fans who also happen to be Angelenos.
The city is still out there, even if we’re not. We’ll get through this and wind up back at Margarita’s Mexican Kitchen for dinner or drinking overpriced coffee in the shadow of Hollywood’s Capitol Records building. In the meantime, “Insecure” will take us there.