Airtime: February 19, Netflix
Episode: Season 1 (S01)
Tweetable Takeaway: Netflix’s #Love is as complex and awkward as the real thing
On Friday, Netflix released the first season of LOVE, a new series from Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Lesley Arfin. The announcement of its development came right around the time when rom-coms were TV’s latest trend: FX aired the first season of You’re The Worst, while A to Z (NBC) and Manhattan Love Story (ABC) were about to premiere. The network series were quickly cancelled, their schmaltzy attitudes not fitting in with audiences’ tastes, but You’re The Worst became a critical hit and cult favorite, hailed as a contemporary-Mad About You. So when word spread that Rust and Arfin were developing their take on the genre, I was skeptical. I love Rust and his co-star Gillian Jacobs, and Apatow has had a hand in more of my favorite films than most, but I had one major question: what, exactly, is this show going to be about? Having watched the entire first season, I still love Rust, Jacobs and Apatow. But I’m also still waiting for that question to be answered.
Let’s start here: this show is incredibly funny, with Rust and Jacobs playing the roles of Gus and Mickey to perfection. Gus is painfully awkward as the 31-year-old tutor to a spoiled child star, while Jacobs’s Mickey is equal parts cool-girl and trainwreck. They spend the entire 40-minute first episode completely apart as we learn who each of these people are before they meet in the final moments when a hungover Mickey fights with a convenience store cashier over a cup of coffee and Gus steps in to handle the bill. Mickey has spent the episode getting back together and breaking up with her addict ex-boyfriend, then finding a new roommate, Bertie, before almost getitng back with her ex once again. Gus has been in a monogamous relationship with a girl whom he breaks up with when he learns she’s been cheating on him. He’s not used to living on his own and spirals into sadness as he attempts to recover.
Where the pilot pops in over several months of the protagonists’ lives, the second episode takes place over the course of one day. We watch Mickey attempt to pay Gus back while finding her wallet, then getting stoned, then confronting Gus’s ex. Finally, Mickey takes Gus home, the stamp of each person clearly imprinted on the other. Initially, you wouldn’t think that these two characters would have such an easy chemistry, but when the show ramps up their banter, Rust and Jacbos knock it out of the park.
We should also take a moment to acknowledge how fantastic Claudia O’Doherty is as Mickey’s roommate Bertie. You could call her “clingy” but honestly, she’s just insecure because she’s new to town. And like Mickey and Gus she has her own arc over the course of the season. There are times when you wish the show would follow Bertie more, because with all of life’s depressing moments covered so thoroughly–realistically–between the main duo, Bertie’s more optimistic worldview would have been a welcome reprieve.
To binge a comedy is a different experience than binging a drama. With a drama, even if the structure isn’t airtight, a complex character or big reveal is enough to propel viewers into that next episode. Comedies, however, are supposed to make you laugh. So when you sit with Mickey and Gus non-stop, you’ll notice that you’re starting to miss some of these lighter moments as you fall down the rabbit hole of their shared depression.
Bingeing has also changed the nature of how show seasons are structured. This particular series has ten episodes that can easily be viewed as the ten sequences that comprise a traditional three-act structure. The end of the pilot gives us the moment when Mickey and Gus collide (Inciting Incident), the fifth episode depicts the almost-couple’s first kiss (Midpoint), with Mickey and Gus going on their official first date after having sex in episode 7 (False Climax), immediately followed by their break up when Mickey crashes Gus’s party (Low Point). Episodes 5-8 are also the series strongest. More jokes and, for the most part, shorter episodes (though even the great “Date” episode at 36 minutes could have used some tightening up).
Those first four episodes are entertaining, but the show hits its sweet spot in the last ten minutes of the fifth episode. Gus, while on a date with Bertie, realizes she’s not enjoying herself. Both Bertie and Gus pull out all the stops to make the date as big a bomb as possible while simultaneously texting Mickey who is trying to stay sober at home. The verbal sparring is big and fast. You almost wish the first part of the episode had shown a smoother date because sweet Bertie and Gus are seemingly great together when they want to be.
The last two episodes fall back into the pattern of the first few episodes, focusing on the sad part of Mickey and Gus’s lives and pulling away from the funnier moments. Now that we know how these two came together, as an audience, we’re forced to ask ourselves: Do we even want them together? Sure, being with Gus helped Mickey see that she needed to get sober, but Gus didn’t seem to enjoy hanging out with sober-Mickey all that much. She needs time to figure out life on her own before she’s ready for any kind of a relationship. As for Gus, Mickey made him more confident, but also self-destructive.
It should also be noted that the show has a third major character: Los Angeles. At least it wants us to believe that. The only thing trendier than the Silverlake/Echo Park/Hipsterdom area is setting your show in Silverlake/Echo Park/Hipsterdom. You’re The Worst is set specifically in this area and both loves and mocks the attitudes of the neighborhood so well (Love even jokes about the hipster-nature of Silverlake while sitting in a diner that YTW uses regularly along with a few other locations). There aren’t many 32-year-olds that own their own houses around that part of town, and if they rent, they likely have four roommates. Maybe this is the life that the creators have lived? It’s not one the majority of people in Los Angeles lead without making some serious financial success in their mid-20s – and certainly not Gus and Mickey. The age thing is an argument viewers have had to deal with since Monica and Rachel lived in their massive Greenwich Village apartment, but considering how hard this show is working to make us believe that these emotions are real, these characters are grounded, why wouldn’t they also follow through on this too?
The season ends with the door open for the series’ future. The first season didn’t even get Gus and Mickey to a point of monogamy, so… what is season two? We’ll find out this time next year, as Netflix has already given Love a second season order. The acting and jokes are fantastic and this first season is an excellent start to a comedic character piece – but structurally there’s room for improvement, while the world Gus and Mickey live in needs to match the realism the show is working so hard to construct.
Emily is a writer and television obsessor. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why the CW is her favorite channel, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed.
Emily J | Staff Writer