Meet Bess King, a uniquely talented performer struggling to fulfill her dreams while handling rejection, dating drama, and family issues. Featuring original music by Sara Bareilles, this is a story about finding your authentic voice—and the courage to use it.
There’s not a lot of opportunity for me to wax poetic about my undying love for Sara Bareilles on this website, but before we go any further in this Stream It, I feel it’s only fair to let you know: I think she has an incredible voice, writes gorgeous songs, and has a kind soul. These facts will absolutely color my opinion of this show, which I’ll admit won’t blow your socks off with originality but WILL be totally cool with wrapping you up in a fuzzy blanket and stroking your hair while singing lullabies until you fall asleep.
Little Voice is what happens if Felicity Porter moved to New York City not to attend college, but to make it big as a singer. And I barely have to stretch to make the comparison between Bess and Felicity, because by their own admissions, co-writer Sara Bareilles and executive producer (and Felicity creator) JJ Abrams both agreed they were looking to evoke the “tone and sweetness of a messy young woman trying to find her way in New York City.”
The first episode takes its time quietly following Bess around—often pausing the narrative to linger on a close-up of a NYC street or a classic “city” moment—as she works her myriad of day jobs: dog-walker, singer at an old folks’ home, and bartender. Throughout it all, she jots down snippets of phrases and ideas that eventually turn into the episode’s guiding theme and Bess’s “song of the week” written from behind her monstrous electric keyboard. Add in a dash of family troubles, friends who are better than family, and a love triangle reminiscent of the Ben/Noel dramalama, and you’ve got a quiet, dreamily idealistic show that aims to leave you feeling more hopeful than when it found you.
Brittany has a lovely voice and does a great job holding her own against Sara’s songs while still making them her own. As an actress she’s unfamiliar to me, but she makes Bess, who can alternately be sweet and kind of prickly, believable.
Prisha is Bess’s roommate and sister from another mister. She plays in an all-female mariachi band—so fun!—and is love with that lady to her right in the photo above, except her very traditional Indian parents have no idea she’s gay.
Richardson has a such an infectious smile! He plays Bess’s bartender friend, Benny, who is her best cheerleader and supporter. I would love to see Benny get more of his own storyline in season two like Prisha, since we don’t know much about his internal life.
Bess feels very protective of her autistic older brother, Louie, who is living in a group home on his own for the first time as the show begins, because their parents are…not the greatest. As a fellow musical fan, I appreciated Louie’s intense adoration of all things Broadway and his impromptu bursts into song.
It looks like Sean has been in the most high-profile shows compared to everyone else (The Gifted, Reign, and Skins to name a few), but I’ve never watched any of those things, so he’s new to me! Ethan rents the storage unit next to Bess’s where they both indulge in their creative pursuits (he’s a videographer), and he’s immediately taken in by Bess’s voice and her beautiful face. She, in turn, is also smitten with HIS gorgeous face. I’m pretty sure Ethan is supposed to be the “Ben” because he’s the one Bess pines for, but I personally think he is so totally a Noel.
Colton is playing the role of Connor Murphy in the upcoming Dear Evan Hansen movie adaptation, so maybe he’ll be getting more recognition soon! Bess meets singer/guitarist Samuel onstage after she unexpectedly tries to get back on the performing horse. They begin collaborating together musically, and, surprise to no one, he also falls for Bess. But while he’s seemingly relegated to the Noel role, he is SO much the better man in this triangle. The way he looks at Bess when she sings… *fans self*
Couch-Sharing Capability: Low
I watched this by myself, though it would’ve been nice to have a friend who also likes this kind of show to watch with me so we could discuss it, because no one is really talking about it online (probably because so few have AppleTV+ compared to Hulu/Netflix).
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low, Then Chug
Whenever Bess gets on stage she is so nervous she gets the WORST verbal diarrhea, and, Reader, I cringed. It’s rare that secondhand embarrassment makes me feel so squirmy I get the urge to change the channel to save myself from the mess—in fact, I haven’t felt SUCH AWFUL AWKWARDNESS since I watched Felicity stick her foot in her mouth time and time again. Felicity and Bess = kindred spirits! So while you can teetotal for most of the series, I’d suggest having something mind-altering to chug during these moments to distract yourself.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Excellent
It greatly pleases me when I get a two-for-one—not only a TV show, but also an excellent cast soundtrack! Bess and Samuel singing together reminds me of Gunnar and Scarlett from Nashville, another show I adored in no small part because I loved getting new music every week (though the actual content of the show was a hot mess).
AND, much like how she did with the Waitress soundtrack, Bareilles ALSO recorded all the songs herself and released them as her own companion album, More Love. (Fun fact: Sara adapted the Waitress musical from a movie which Keri Russell also starred in. Apparently Keri is Sara’s muse!) I actually listened to Sara’s version of the songs before watching the show and didn’t really connect to them right way because it’s her musical style but really written for Bess’s younger character. But after watching, I appreciate the songs way more and like both versions (“More Love” and “Coming Back to You” are the most radio-friendly sounds if you only want to take a listen, though I also adore “In July” and prefer the emotional cast-version of “Simple and True”).
Who knows when we’ll get season two—freaking COVID—but season one does end in a way that if this is all you ever get, you can extrapolate a nice future for Bess and her friends, so kudos to a show that doesn’t end its season on a massive cliffhanger!