There’s no hard and fast rule to govern romantic comedy, which is why so many of them are average at best. The problem isn’t generally the casting or the concept of finding love, but the tropes that re-emerge over and over again. With that said, however, even the most predictable of rom-coms can still be stellar works of fiction. Take Amy Schumer and Bill Hader’s relationship within this summer’s hit, Trainwreck. At no point was there any doubt as to how that film would end, but the pathways the writers took those two characters through were off-beat, at times felt out of conventional order, and were satisfying respective to seeing the leads overcome the pitfalls in front of them.
Enter FXX’s You’re the Worst, which began its second season last night. Critics were sent the first two episodes of the 2015 campaign, and if you happened to miss the premiere, go ahead and make plans to find it on demand or on the network’s website. The response to the show originally varied, with some despising it off the top and coming around to it later, some bailing on it early, and some being in since day one. For me, it was the latter, but I didn’t get around to it until after the entire season was completed, so I was able to binge watch the series. It may have started a bit slow, but creator, writer, and executive producer Stephen Falk found the two perfect people to play these two highly imperfect roles and surrounded them with just a few other gems to remind the audience that You’re the Worst isn’t exactly about two pieces of cheese; it’s more aptly about three or four.
Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) is meticulously neat at home, with art and decor for miles, but he’s also a complete prick with a streak of narcissism that might even raise Trump’s toupee. He drinks, he engages in recreational drug use, he treats women like garbage, and he also believes himself to be a victim at virtually every turn, going back to his father overseas (oh yes, there are daddy issues) and the bookstore that won’t display his debut novel. He has feelings, but doesn’t understand (or care) about anyone else’s. He’s the kind of guy who jerks off when his girlfriend declines intercourse. As a matter of fact, he’s exactly that guy. It happens early in the first season. Geere, who has done several shows for the BBC and who you might remember from a minor role in Band of Brothers, really fits the Jimmy character with no frayed edges…or maybe it’s with all frayed edges.
He cheats on women, he acts above it all, drinks heavily and loves powder, and Chris Geere nails every small detail of it. He’s insufferable almost immediately, but there’s an occasional charm to the performance that ensures we’re still rooting for this jack wagon to grow up and find…
Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), who is a slob, despite being gorgeous. It’s almost unbelievable that this woman is as beautiful as she is, because everything about her character would tell you that she probably eats like a pig, lives in her own filth, and doesn’t take care of her body. Actually, every one of those descriptions is entirely accurate, but she must hit a gym off camera when we can’t see it. She yells a lot and has no respect for anybody or anything. Aya Cash has been around Hollywood and also New York for a minute. She was on the underrated FOX comedy, Traffic Light, a show whose cast was regularly better than the source material. That’s more of a compliment than it sounds, because in the back half of the show’s one season run, it was quite entertaining. She’s done plenty of theater work and she also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Somehow, Gretchen handles PR for major music acts, particularly those who exist in continuous instability. Without spoiling it, the main act we get to know, all three of them but particularly the front man â€“ absolutely hilarious. He’s also…the worst.
As for ole Gretch, she’s an insane liar, pessimistic to the highest possible degree, uncouth, and basically walks around as if the world should spin on her every whim and that someone else is responsible for…well…for being responsible. Her apartment is an assault on the senses and her demeanor makes her one of those women only describable in this phraseology: “I can’t stand that bitch.”
These two people suck, but the chemistry is apparent immediately. It’s an odd dynamic, because the pull between Jimmy and Gretchen needs to exist both continuously, but also spottily. The show wouldn’t work without a lot of arguing and a lot of “I can’t believe you just did that you douche” moments. Remember, they’re the worst, so they have to jack with each other from time to time as well, make mistakes far beyond what takes place in baseline relationships on screen or off, and still find their way back to one another. Here, Falk and his crew really found the sweet spot. These two can really act and they can for half-a-second be endearing and then be so repulsive it feels inappropriate to watch their fictional lives on a basic cable channel.
One thing that certainly caught me off guard originally was the reality that Gretchen and Jimmy weren’t SOLELY the worst. They were just the poster children for it. Jimmy’s live in roommate Edgar Quintero (Desmin Borges) is a formerly homeless war veteran. He deals with PTSD and occasional heroin cravings, doesn’t pay rent, but cooks and cleans as if he’s a butler. Unfortunately, his duties often don’t require pants. His motives aren’t generally pathetic, but he’s damaged and certainly wouldn’t be considered “the best.” Borges is really good here. The character has a John Turturro-style to it, which works very well juxtaposed with Jimmy.
He’s the best of the lead four though, because it’s arguable that Lindsay Jillian (Kether Donohue), sister to Jimmy’s ex, whose wedding is the setting for the series’ opening scene, is in fact the worst. This woman is an absolute travesty. She cheats on her husband as well, but she’s continually looking for strange. She calls hubby Paul “soft” when he finally leaves her, then goes nuts on chicken wings. She has major food issues and also enjoys cocaine. That’s a theme here. Nose candy is popular on You’re the Worst, even when it’s an outdated drug that gets Jimmy and Gretchen clowned by hipsters at a bar, as it did in last night’s premiere. Kether (and often her egregious, intentionally slutty cleavage) is great in the role, which consists of her being the single most dangerous person on earth for Gretchen Cutler to be friends with, because she’s “up for anything.” Guess what. She’s Gretchen’s closest friend.
The first two episodes of season two are both excellent, but they’re a bit loose and unfocused at times. I think it’s by design, because the last thing that Jimmy and Gretchen expected was to be living together. They’re in unfamiliar territory. There’s a sense of disarray to everything thus far this season that wasn’t as prevalent throughout much of last year. It’s not a bad thing, because the show is at its best when it’s wildly out of control. Moving in together became a necessity after Gretchen, and this is not a joke, burned down her apartment due to a short in her vibrator, which for some reason is always hanging out in the living room ready for use. Now they’ve taken the next step in this relationship that, as Gretchen states eloquently, isn’t going to conclude positively.
“Oh shit. We’re gonna do this. Even though we know there’s only one way this ends, whether in two weeks or 20 years, there is horrible sadness and pain coming and we’re inviting it.”
You’re the Worst might appear predictable, because it’s a rom-com at heart, but Falk throws curves and makes sure to gross us out whenever the moment is a little too sentimental. From a threesome that ends because Jimmy finishes before he’s even touched to…wait, let me back up a second. The threesome ends because Jimmy finished. He actually did so as the girls were on their way downstairs, and he finished himself off because he didn’t know what was to come. That’s what he said anyway, but just like Gretch, he’s pretty much a degenerate and he also lies, so maybe that was a CYA situation.
The dialogue is gritty, occasionally to a fault, but it’s also very funny. One thing You’re the Worst increasingly grasped last season, starting with “Sunday Funday” (Episode 5), is timing of the jokes and timing of the vile and timing of the heart. It can’t just be terrible all the time. The mix felt a bit off at the outset, but the show still had a draw. The balance is the key to everything, and You’re the Worst has mastered that formula for its own product. It’s like a Jimmy and Gretch Bloody Mary, but maybe without the carrot in place of the celery.
The cast balance, even outside the main four, is strong. These individuals play well together and the results are now officially “set your DVR” worthy. The pacing moves from frantic to dormant, but it matches the tonality. The cinematography is gritty, with camera shots that bounce and angles that display the seedy underbelly behind every conversation. I’m pretty sure we haven’t actually seen ejaculate yet, but I still have faith it’s coming. However, the writers get when they need to throw some “heart” in there with the dick jokes and the “she snorted coke off my vag” one-liners. The show is absolutely deplorable. It’s also become a can’t miss comedy.
Season 2 starts strong. Last night’s “The Sweater People” is all over the place, but the pieces fall into place. Next week’s “Crevasses” features some awesome physical comedy and a killer sequence where Gretchen is shopping-cart paralyzed as she has no idea how to purchase things for herself that she actually needs to live.
It would be so easy to write something calling You’re The Worst the exact opposite and just being so clichÃ© Jimmy Shive-Overly would firebomb my car, plus that might be a bit hyperbolic. Here’s the deal. This is a well-structured show that came into its own fairly quickly after an average start. You like/despise the characters and the talent behind these creations are wonderful. This, like any FX comedy, isn’t for the kids. Even Killian (Shane Francis Smith) shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it.
But if you want inappropriate laughs with thought and consequence behind them, You’re the Worst is gaining on the competition. It might not have been a home run in week one, but last season as a whole was a big success and at this point, I love this show. It’s become a weekly highlight. I usually need a shower afterward, but it’s a damn fun ride.
It definitely ain’t the worst.
You’re the Worst airs on FXX Wednesday nights at 10:30 ET/PT.
I’m @GuyNamedJason. Follow me there. As my grandma used to say, it’s only a walk of shame, if you’re capable of feeling shame.