On paper, Little America might sound like a dreary idea for a TV show. The anthology series, which first debuted on Apple TV+ as part of its launch slate of programming back in 2019, follows a single protagonist across each of its eight episodes, which dramatize the stories of real-life immigrants and their families — making this a show about assimilation, prejudice, nostalgia for a homeland, familial bonds, and the American dream. For many of the immigrants depicted here, life is hard, fraught, and joy is tough to come by. And yet, the slice-of-life vignettes in each of the episodes put Little America right up there with Ted Lasso as one of the most heartwarming and feel-good shows on Apple’s streamer.
And the just-released Season 2, I’m happy to report, not only keeps the magic going but, frankly, results in some of the most stirring TV of the year.
Little America: Another feel-good winner from Apple TV+
In the episode titled “Mr. Song,” a young Korean boy who’s urged to excel at school by his parents dreams of becoming an artist. In “The 9th Caller” (my personal favorite episode) a young woman from Sri Lanka competes in a radio call-in contest to win a new car from a Texas dealership.
And despite the contest’s ridiculous premise — the winner is whoever kisses the car the longest — it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful episode of television, made all the more so by weaving the girl’s relationship with her father throughout it.
I could go on, but I’d also argue that the best part of Little America is that while it’s a show about the immigrant experience, don’t be surprised to find yourself, too, throughout the series.
You don’t have to understand the language or the culture in an episode like “Mr. Song,” for example, but who among us hasn’t chafed at overbearing parents? If you’ve ever fallen in love or dreamed of a better life, resisted conformity, or struggled to find your place in the world — turn on Little America, and there you are.
“When you can have stories that are told through the lens of someone who doesn’t look like you — or who doesn’t sound like you, or who’s from a country you don’t know anything about, and when you start seeing pieces of yourself in it — that’s the way that stories can resonate,” Co-showrunner Lee Eisenberg told me. “That’s the way change happens.”
“These are all real slice-of-life stories from communities across the US, of people who are going through the same things we’re all going through. They want to fall in love. They want a better job. They want to reconcile with their parents.”
The rest of the team behind Little America includes Eisenberg’s fellow showrunner, Sian Heder (the director of Apple’s Oscar-winning film Coda), as well as executive producers Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, and Alan Yang.
Each of Little America Season 2’s eight episodes tells the story of a different real-life immigrant — often grappling with their own interpretation of the American dream. What actors depict in each episode is based on the immigrants’ lived experiences, while the emotional clincher always comes at the end via a brief postscript. It’s an extended denouement that includes photos of the real people that were depicted in each episode, along with a satisfying “where are they now” closing note.
As for the show itself, don’t be surprised to find yourself fighting back tears during an episode like “The 9th Caller,” particularly during the dream sequence toward the end of that episode. Watching the Sri Lankan dancers accompany the father who lip-synchs Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” to his daughter, I found myself once again returning to a thought that lingered throughout the marvelous new season: Seeing a world you thought was ordinary through someone else’s eyes can sometimes take your breath away.