“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
There’s a simple reason that the new Apple TV+ series Little America, which debuts on the streamer on Friday, has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critics score as of the time of this writing: It is absolutely fantastic. After watching this 8-episode anthology series, which uses each half-hour episode to dramatize events from the lives of actual immigrants and first-generation Americans, you might as well know right off the bat that the series packs a solid emotional wallop. There are stories like those of the single mother trying to make ends meet, a young African exchange student who idolizes American cowboys, children kept away from parents who’ve been caught up in the morass of US immigration bureaucracy — each episode tells a different story. The show’s timeliness should go without saying, but it also doesn’t beat you over the head with politics, either. If you let it, this series will put you through the wringer, you will be crushed and you will be uplifted (often within the same episode), and I’d go so far as to say the series might even justify paying for an Apple TV+ subscription all by itself.
The best part: The “coda” of each episode, when you see pictures of the main characters therein and briefly meet the real-life focus of the story you just watched.
Little America is written and executive produced by Lee Eisenberg, whose TV credits include a stint as a writer for The Office and who’s also the showrunner here. Joining him in creating the show is the husband-and-wife team of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, all of whom have drawn from a series of true stories featured in Epic Magazine (The show is also executive-produced by Master of None co-creator Alan Yang).
The show is heartfelt and thoughtful, and the decision to present it as an anthology of stories also feels like a much better choice than stretching out one narrative past the breaking point over too many episodes. The show isn’t for everyone, in the same way that something like NBC’s This Is Us isn’t for everyone — but which doesn’t take away from the fact that the latter is a critically acclaimed show with a passionate following.
As far as Little America goes, the early critical response has been that Apple has unquestionably hit a home run with this one.
From Rolling Stone: “It’s a great show — easily the best of Apple’s early output…”
CNN: “The subjects vary, but almost without exception, the stories are quirky yet resonant, emotional and relatable, with a sweet (or occasionally slightly bittersweet) payoff.”
RogerEbert.com: “Little America is smart, nuanced television.”
Apple is confident enough about the series that it’s already re-upped it for a second season. Standout episodes include The Manager, about a 12-year-old boy named Kabir who learns to run a motel in Utah on his own after his parents are deported; The Jaguar, about an undocumented teenager from Mexico named Marisol who discovers a love for competitive squash; and The Grand Prize Expo Winners, about a Singaporean single mother who wins an Alaskan cruise that turns into a trip of deep emotional catharsis.
It feels strange that something as prosaic as a TV show can bring forth the kind of thoughtfulness and grace so lacking in the real world counterpart to these individual stories. But that’s where we are, and that’s also why something like Little America feels like a tonic of sorts at this moment in time. It’s a reminder to those of us in journalism that there are people, lives lived, crushed dreams and hope and ambition and pain and love behind all the stories we write — stories that too often get reduced to statistics and political punching bags. There’s a little bit of the entirety of America captured in each of Little America’s stories.