Little Voice is now streaming on Apple TV+.
By Greg Wheeler
AppleTV’s latest musical drama Little Voice hits a combination of sweet highs and cacophonic bum notes. It’s a series that half bakes a lot of its sub-plots and winds up under-cooking almost all of its characters. Simultaneously, it also manages to make Bess a narcissistic, spoilt, unlikable protagonist that seems to have the world handed to her with little room for tension or drama across the 9 episodes.
The story itself follows the career and life journey of Bess, a down-and-out singer who’s haunted by the memories of hecklers in a bar while performing in the past. As the series progresses, she starts to embrace her music with the help of several supporting characters including love interest Ethan, loyal friend Benny and fellow musician Samuel.
Unfortunately, all of the potential for depicting a gut-wrenching struggle and clawing your way to the top of this cut-throat business is undermined by the fact Bess never does any of the heavy lifting herself. Her friends are the ones who manage to bag her a lot of the opportunities that present themselves and for their efforts, she predominantly pushes them away and wallows in self-pity.
I’m really not sure why Bess was written in the way she was but throughout the series, she pushes everyone out of her life and becomes an increasingly difficult character to warm to. The advice she’s given by people working within the music industry are actually valid critiques but her arrogance in the wake of this feels like another nail in the proverbial coffin.
The other problem with this series comes from a distinct lack of tension and struggle, replaced instead by some contrived attempts to make the show more exciting. There is an under-cooked love triangle and familial issues that crop up along with several other minor problems too.
Perhaps the worst culprit here though comes from a frustratingly shallow plot about Bess’ best friend Prisha struggling to come clean to her parents about her sexuality. This should be an important and uplifting sub-plot but instead is never given the resolution or time it so desperately needs to blossom into something beautiful.
Much like Bess’s notebook of sporadic thoughts and lyrics, Little Voice is a bit all over the place. It’s something that has romance but isn’t very romantic, has music but isn’t very music-centric and has drama but isn’t very dramatic. It’s a show that can’t quite decide on a consistent direction and subsequently fails to please anyone.
There are definitely some standout moments here though (mostly featuring Bess’ charming brother Louie) but this glimmer of a bright spark is not enough to drown out the moody, melodramatic, and outright unlikable drama that follows it. This is one encore you won’t be sticking around for.
I give Little Voice a D.