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Friday, August 29, 2014

500,000 People Every Week Are Not the Worst; Why You're The Worst Is the Best

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Back in 2005, FX Networks premiered its first two original comedies in a one hour block. The lead-in was "Starved" a show about a support group for eating disorders. Starved was highly advertised and received plenty of controversy and attention before it ever aired. The second show didn't receive any attention at all. I watched both premieres. Starved was not funny, not good, and difficult to watch. The second show, however, was a completely different animal. Within five minutes, I had to get a Kleenex to wipe all the laughter-tears off my face. Not only that, but in just that tiny time frame, I connected with the show. I had to tell every around me how funny it was. I had to blog about it. Though that first season was low-rated, and essentially produced with a DIY budget, nine years, and 104 episodes in, it is still on the air. That show is "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia." Starved was cancelled after seven episodes.
It's happening again.
FX recently debuted a new hour-long block of original comedies. The first show in the two-show block was again heavily advertised. It is called "Married," stars the immensely likeable Judy Greer, and looked from the commercials to be a funny and insightful look into its title subject. Unfortunately, it is not. Married is not funny and not insightful. The events that take place are unrealistic and the characters are not believable. Worst of all, the show's attempts at dark humor are dark and not humorous. However...
The second show in the block, "You're the Worst" is excellent. You're the Worst was not heavily advertised, and the advertisement it received was awful. The commercials made the show out to be a shallow look at two completely unlikeable, nasty individuals who just roll around in a dirty room having cheap, meaningless sex. I don't know who decided to advertise this show that way, but they need to be fired. "You're the Worst" is a deep look at two very damaged, bitter human beings, who somehow find connection with one another. They are not good people, but they are real people. The show is also hilarious, and though it has its share of potty jokes, it also features quite a bit of sophisticated humor. A recent episode featured a running gag where the male lead, Jimmy (played by Chris Geere), attempts to force the female, Gretchen (Aya Cash), into declaring a favorite between Genesis vocalists, Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel. Jimmy is too proud, and has too much trouble communicating to make his metaphor explicit: he is Peter Gabriel, and his competitor for the female's hand is Phil Collins...probably. The duo's failed attempts at honest communication are one of the show's high-points. The supporting cast is another. Jimmy's roommate, Edgar (Desmin Borges), is an example of You're the Worst mining honest humor from a subject that should be dark (and, unlike Married, doing it successfully). Edgar is a war veteran suffering from a pretty bad case of PTSD, and You're the Worst respects and shows surprising sensitivity to Edgar's psychological issues. It also can still make the fact that sometimes Edgar wakes up in the morning holding a knife funny. Borges' nuanced portrayal of the character certainly helps.
The cast is rounded out by Gretchen's best and only friend, Lindsay (Kether Donohue). Lindsay is married to a boring, but high-grossing husband she can't stand. Eventually, Lindsay cheats with a kid she meets in a bar. On most shows, this would be portrayed as a victorious moment, but not on You're the Worst. Pre-sex, the young man, 19 at most, tell's Lindsay he has recently left Ohio in the family van to try his luck at breaking into the writing business in L.A., the show's setting (and a character all its own). He does not enjoy the van tryst, clearly disturbed by the fact that he is sleeping with a married woman. Lindsay does enjoy herself until she looks up to notice one of those annoying family lineup stickers on the van's back window. She is disturbed not only by the image of the person under her as just recently a kid next to his parents, but by the thought of the future family she is throwing away because of her current choices. You're the Worst is assured enough to leave this up to the viewer, instead of having Lindsay break down and explicitly say these things. Showrunner, Stephen Falk, has confidence in not only Donohue's acting abilities, but the audience's intelligence.
I'll review You're the Worst's first season in full when it ends next month. The last four episodes might all inexplicably be stinkers, but at this point, You're the Worst is a surprising delight. This is the kind of show that doesn't come around very often, and considering its ratings, may be short for this world. Do yourself a favor and check it out, while you can.

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