Of course, the two fall in (and out) of love, their romance couched in twenty-year-old fashions and mores. Investment bankers are villains not heroes in stories set in this decade, but Miguel is likable despite his profession—the outsider who’s smarter than his white peers but still the first to get scapegoated when something goes wrong.
As the show progresses, we get to know him and Lindsay better so that by the third episode of the season, they feel more like people than the types we met in the pilot. The songs also get better, no longer so achingly earnest and striving but rather expressing real human experiences like when Lindsay leans into her fantasy of what a rebel girl can and should be in the hilarious, “You Gotta Be You.”
The show suffers from a convention where the voices in Lindsay and Miguel’s heads—think caricatures of a nagging or praise-filled mother—follow them around, serving as a Greek chorus of sorts. It’s supposed to dramatize their thought process but mostly makes them seem unhinged, talking to themselves on the street and disassociating regularly from reality.
But “Up Here” does offer some useful insight into the creative process, both Lindsay’s as a writer and Miguel’s as an artist. The best of these bits comes when Lindsay meets Ted McGooch (Brian Stokes Mitchell), who’s playing a Dr. Seuss type. As the writer of children’s books full of whimsy, McGooch is not a man stuck in childhood but rather fully engaged with his adult life—including sex clubs and drawing upon LGBTQ performance art to find inspiration for his stories. In today’s climate of book banning and anti-drag legislation, McGooch is a nice touch, reminding us of just who creates our cultural touchstones and how.
Even after the highly-successful McGooch takes Lindsay under his wing, she still struggles professionally. “Up Here” smartly parallels her journey to know herself—who is she if she’s not trying to meet her mother’s ideal of a good girl?—with her work to discover herself as a writer. Over the course of the first season, she tries on various personas, usually tied to the man she’s dating in an effort to find her own voice. Thankfully, the show is crystal clear that she won’t find fulfillment until she learns to define herself for herself. It’s the tried-and-true feminist coming-of-age story and it works for a reason.