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Friday, October 03, 2014

You're the Worst -- Season One (Review)

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You're the Worst
2014 FX Networks
Season One
Score: 9/10

The above image essentially sums up FX's opening ad-campaign for the first season of their Thursday night comedy, You're the Worst--two gross people doing gross things. Look at these two sex-crazed sickos, lying drunk and naked for everyone to see. I'm not sure what kind of audience a show like that would appeal to. Thankfully, You're the Worst isn't that kind of show.
Gretchen and Jimmy meet at a wedding. The bride is Jimmy's ex-girlfriend, and he has a mind to ruin the ceremony. The bride is also Gretchen's best friend's sister. Gretchen has a mind to steal the most expensive present she can get her hands on. Gretchen's goals are achieved more successfully than Jimmy's. The two meet by chance outside after and decide to partake in a night of debauchery. In the morning, much to their consternation, they're still together. And then they're together again, and again. Sex becomes secondary. They become connected to each other. The initial night of sex with a stranger would make most feel icky. To Gretchen and Jimmy, it's far nastier that they seem to be falling in love. Sounds like bad romantic comedy fodder right? Katherine Heigl, here's your paycheck. Thankfully, it isn't. You're the Worst is about two very real, very damaged people, and two of their very real, very damaged friends (who end up being just as integral as the two leads). It's also possibly the most consistently funny show on television.
The Bad: I'll nearly have to settle for nitpicking here. This show is tightly constructed, and a minute without a laugh is rare. These are funny, whip-smart individuals. There are a few episodes around the middle of the 13-episode season that feel a little lightweight compared to the rest. One episode in particular seems like it exists solely to pay off a gag involving a Sandra Bernhard cardboard cutout--that payoff is so funny, though, the entire episode is worth it (I spit water all over the couch, and I think it's getting moldy).
The Good: You're the Worst's two greatest qualities are intertwined. The four major characters are extremely well-drawn and believable. Gretchen is a mess. Jimmy, a Brit ex-pat, is bitter and jaded, using "honesty" as a veil to be rude. Edgar, Jimmy's roommate, suffers from PTSD and just wants to feel normal again. Gretchen's best friend, Lindsey, doesn't know what she wants, but definitely doesn't want what she has. The latter two do not exist simply to serve the two leads. They are their own people, and live their own lives. Within the span of one episode, the viewer knows exactly who these characters are. This directly feeds into You're the Worst's humor. While the show is remarkably clever, the audience's deep knowledge of the characters makes each gag work even more. That's what I mean by intertwined. Some random jerk telling a manikin in a modern art display that it is "not art," is amusing, but coming from pompous, failing novelist Jimmy, it's hilarious.
Unlike many comedies, You're the Worst allows its characters to grow. Jimmy and Gretchen are not the same people in the finale that they are in the premiere.  For example: Gretchen goes from someone who steals a food processor out of spite, to someone who would actually use a food processor. Jimmy goes from using honesty as a weapon, to using honesty to express his devotion. I don't want to spoil You're the Worst's full character arcs, but I also want to fully convey that this is a show that rewards the time and emotion the viewer has invested.
Also, every minor detail and character in this show pays off. Anyone, from the goofy, but brilliant members of the rap-act that Gretchen publicizes, to Lindsey's kind husband and doofus brother-in-law, are fully-realized. Showrunner, Stephen Falk, has done a remarkable job creating a fully realized world on a shoestring budget in a 13-episode, 20-minute an episode television season. When Gretchen steals a cat, this would be a throwaway gag on any other show. On You're the Worst, the cat pops up at any opportune moment. Gretchen has a throwaway line in the first episode, mocking Jimmy for having a foot-fetish. The show never forgets that Jimmy has a foot fetish. When Jimmy is attempting to snoop on someone, he wears a ridiculous fake mustache...every time. When Jimmy wants to take someone down, he uses the same, Microsoft Word-formatted take-down list. This shows that You're the Worst cares about its viewers and values their intelligence. This is a rare quality in any show. This is a special season of television.
Finally, I began this piece referencing the picture at the top of the post. The scene it's taken from isn't about Jimmy and Gretchen at all. The second after this screenshot was taken, Edgar walks into the scene and covers Gretchen and Jimmy with a blanket. In a genre where supporting characters usually exist simply to obsess over the leads, You're the Worst takes a scene that could be a throwaway gag, and uses it to illustrate the sensitivity of a damaged war veteran who simply loves his friends, and doesn't want them to be publicly embarrassed. Tears.
One last note: THE SHOW HAS BEEN RENEWED FOR A SECOND SEASON! IT'S A MIRACLE! I think it says something that a show that only attracted 500,000 viewers can stir up enough positive emotion, the enthusiasm of that half-a-million people can keep the show on the air.

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