'You're The Worst' Review: Promising Post-Modern Romance
Airing directly after Married, You’re the Worst seemed more likely to be the darker of the two series, both of which deal with modern relationships in Los Angeles. While Married turned out to be far darker and deeper than expected, You’re the Worst is actually somewhat sentimental. The trappings of a rom-com are present — two disaffected people accidentally fall in love — but like Married, this series is making an attempt to defy the convention and take a different route to the same ending.
Sex is the running theme in these two shows, though in You’re the Worst it might as well have been given a starring credit. It’s what the characters crave, what they talk about, and what they often use as leverage, currency or as a weapon. The pilot begins at a wedding, during the happy couple’s sappy speech about being together forever. Main character Jimmy (Chris Geere), the ex-boyfriend of the bride, is using the disposable cameras at every table to take pictures of his genitals. Things further degenerate/escalate as he shares a dance with the bride and their conversation turns very dark, very fast and illuminates the theme that the series posits: sex is disguised as love; love is a joke. After being thrown out, Jimmy meets Gretchen (Aya Cash), a friend of the family, who is stealing wedding gifts. They exchange punchy and self-aware dialogue, get drunk and have sex. They don’t particularly like each other; they think the other is awful, but they have a great deal of sexual chemistry, which they intend to explore until morning.
At first glance this show seems cut from the same cloth as Showtime’s Californication, just with a younger cast. These characters are younger and more jaded; they were introduced to sex and drugs and booze and success a little too early, and now, in their mid-twenties, they’re more akin to the apathetic stripped down vapidity of a Bret Easton Ellis cast.
The awkward morning after, Jimmy and Gretchen establish their careers — writer and publicist, respectively — and go their separate ways after an uncomfortable and funny back and forth. We also meet Jimmy’s roommate, Edgar (Desmin Borges), who is the voice of reason and likely breakout character. Edgar was Jimmy’s college drug dealer, who eventually went into the army, served in Iraq and now deals with severe PTSD. Edgar is severely damaged, so Jimmy invited him to live in his spacious apartment rent-free. Borges infuses Edgar with a jittery unpredictability and sad vulnerability.
The problem the series has is one that it shares with Californication, and, to an extent, Parenthood as well. It may, as the season progresses, become harder and harder to identify with affluent, attractive people who essentially make their own problems. Stephen Falk, series creator and writer, will need to focus on the broken aspects of the characters to continue to make the show work beyond the first few episodes. Edgar’s disaffection will need to be explored as well as Edgar’s mental health problems and Gretchen’s clearly self-destructive decisions. The fact that a great deal was spent establishing character over circumstance means Falk is likely aware of these potential problems, so it may be too early in the ride to look for cracks beneath the surface.
The raunchiness of the sexual acts and the dialogue are what FX’s promos focused on, though the show is deeper than that. It’s set up as a modern/unlikely love story between Jimmy and Gretchen, who have chemistry but don’t seem to like each other all that much. Californication has many of these themes; the debauchery lured you in but the characters were the true core of the show. Eventually, that switched and the spectacle and desire to one-up itself overtook Californiacation and its characters. You’re the Worst should take notes on that to keep it from repeating the same mistakes.
Since the central conceit of the story is the budding romance, progress, despite all appearances, has to be made between the characters. It’s contemporary to have Jimmy and Gretchen have sex before getting to know each other, so the series can’t really build to that moment the way The X-Files or Moonlighting did. However, the end of the pilot, despite having an interesting setup, was a little too easy with a “What’s the worst that can happen?” framework that is too trite and simple for a surprisingly self-aware series. We know, somehow, someway, these two characters will form some sort of relationship — there’s no need to telegraph it just to bookend the episode.
If the sudden burst of mawkishness is this series’ only problem — and so far it is — then You’re the Worst is still more than worth of a watch. FX’s comedies have been, outside of a select few, truly awful, so to have both this and Married airing on the network is a fond reminder of how shows with skewed vantages are welcome on Cable.
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