In 2014, Berninger and Besser moved to Los Angeles with their four-year-old daughter, Isla, and bought a bungalow in Venice, not far from the ocean. Tom came along, too, and started working out of a guesthouse in the back yard. The three of them were developing a television series based loosely on Tom’s film about the National, but fictionalized. “The pitch was a show not unlike ‘The Monkees’, but more modern,” Berninger said. “A real, honest look at the music industry.” Berninger put together a band and called it Das Apes. He wrote new songs, some of which ended up on his first solo record, “Serpentine Prison” (2020). They filmed a pilot, scouted locations, took meetings with HBO. In the end, they spent nearly a decade working on the show. “It was this endless circle of excitement and failure, excitement and failure,” Tom told me. Berninger said, “We were sober about the chances of actually getting a TV show. But it felt like we got pretty close.”

Finally, in the spring of 2021, they gave up. “There was real, genuine heartbreak,” Berninger said. “A lot of it was connected to my brother. I felt responsible for pulling him along on a long climb toward something that wasn’t going to work out.”


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