Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Little America’ Season 2 On Apple TV+, With More Heartwarming Stories About The Immigrant Experience In America

After almost two years, Little America returns with more heartwarming stories about immigrant experiences in the U.S. The stories are based on real-life immigrant tales, and even if they’re fictionalized a bit, the stories are rooted in reality, which includes conflict and struggle. The second season continues the feelgood vibe that the first one established right before the pandemic hit.


Opening Shot: A boy draws faces on the mannequin heads in the window of his mother’s hat shop in Detroit.

The Gist: In the first episode, “Mr. Song,” we get the mostly true story about Luke Song, a hat designer who designed the bow-laded chapeau that Aretha Franklin wore to Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. We first see a young Luke (Alan S. Kim) listening to gospel on the radio, specifically the show of Martha Jean “The Queen” (Phylicia Rashad). Even though his mother (Lee Jeong-eun) owns the shop and makes the hats, the shop is called “Mr. Song’s Hat Shop.”

Luke is practicing his cello outside the shop when Martha Jean recognizes the song he’s playing as one of the tunes she spun that day. She goes inside and Mrs. Song sells Norma Jean a well-fitting hat with feathers in the brim, perfect for her to show off at church that week. In appreciation, Martha Jean plugs the shop on her radio show, bringing the church-going women of Detroit in droves. When Martha Jean comes back, Mrs. Song offers her money for the plug, but Martha Jean refuses. She does offer Luke a dollar for the drawing he made of his mother.

We then see a grown-up Luke (Ki Hong Lee) in medical school, drawing when he should be taking notes. Still, he’s good at what he does. But when he comes home on a break, he’s knows med school isn’t for him, despite being only one semester away from finishing. After an inspirational talk with Martha Jean, he decides to quit and apply to art school, something both his parents, who sacrificed everything to come to America from Korea and bring him up in a nurturing environment, object to.

He gets a scholarship to Parsons School of Design in New York, but clashes with instructors who want him to connect more with his subject matter; he’s more inclined to let the people looking at his art connect to it on their own. So he drops out and works at the hat shop, which is where he finds his ultimate inspiration, especially after Martha Jean — who had a falling out with Mrs. Song over Luke dropping out of med school — comes back and asks them to build her a high Nefertiti hat.

Little America Season 2
Photo: Apple TV+

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Little America Season 1.

Our Take: Season 2 of Little America, produced by Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, Alan Yang and Lee Eisenberg, continues the feel-good vibe of Season 1 by emphasizing immigrant stories that aren’t just inspiring but are based on true events.

The show manages to accomplish this vibe without a lot of schmaltz, mainly because of the real-life roots each story has. Yes, there’s conflict in each story, as there should be. But the conflict is borne out of real human situations and emotions, not events that are contrived. That sense of reality is another reason why the show feels more grounded even as it’s telling its heartwarming stories.

It also helps when there are performances like the ones we got from Rashad, Lee Jong-hun and Ki Hong Lee in the first episode. We know that Rashad is an acting force of nature and has been for four decades, but both Lees more than hold her own in their scenes with her, and then in the scenes where mother and son are having emotional moments, they connect with each other and the audience pretty strongly.

As with most anthology series, the episodes will likely vary in quality, but if Season 1 is any indication, the warmth and inspiration will be a constant, which is enough to get us to watch.

Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.

Parting Shot: Luke and his mother listen to the inspirational music at Martha Jean’s church.

Sleeper Star: We liked Alan Kim as young Luke, mainly because he played Luke as precocious but not a smartass.

Most Pilot-y Line: It’s pretty painful when Mrs. Song tells Martha Jean “You’re just a customer!” when they argue about the advice Martha Jean gave Luke before he dropped out of med school.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Little America continues to give positive stories about the immigrant experience in the U.S. without glossing over problems or covering things over with a thick layer of sweetness. The stories are inspirational but grounded in reality, and the second season is as entertaining as the first.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.