The summer television season used to be reserved for the ignoble combination of network miscalculations and obligatory burn offs as the Big Four reserved their more acclaimed pilots for the prestigious fall season. Luckily, the television landscape is slowly evolving. While the upcoming spate of new network sitcoms suggest that the low end of the dial may be clinging to the cozy confines of the familiar, FX’s freshman series You’re the Worst has embraced the allure of the unknown and, in the process, has quietly delivered the most entertaining comedy of the year.
Described as a “dark twist on the romantic comedy genre,” You’re the Worst follows the budding relationship between two professionals in the field of self-destruction: Jimmy, a misanthropic novelist, and Gretchen, a recreationally dishonest music publicist — both of whom, as you may have gleaned from the title, are somewhere near the vicinity of the worst.
YTW debuted this summer with a promising pilot, but fearlessly strutted into “double take” territory soon there after as the series began to exude a quality rarely seen in a rookie sitcom: poise. The series radiates confidence with an unflinching comprehension of its own unique point of view while defiantly refusing to pander to anything other than its own ethos. Sitcom chemistry may not be an exact science, but creator Stephen Falk and the casting department went straight up Louis Pasteur mode on You’re the Worst.
“FX let me cast the best actors I could find, rather than pressure me to go for ‘names’ or even anyone really recognizable,” Falk recently told TVGuide.com.
The results speak for themselves. Despite their duplicitous nature, Jimmy and Gretchen are inherently likable characters. Their flaws aren’t one-dimensional fodder for the sake of sitcom conflict — their shortcomings are rooted in that old relatable chestnut known as insecurity. Chris Geere and Aya Cash, the actors who portray Jimmy and Gretchen, nimbly oscillate between humor and heart with the nuanced depth typically reserved for the Sundance darling du jour.
Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue round out the ensemble as Edgar and Lindsay, respectively. There’s an old sitcom adage that “every character in an ensemble should be capable of being the lead in the show” — this is a principle YTW not only follows but subsumes. Edgar and Lindsay provide the requisite sounding board for their counterparts, but they contribute that function while being fully-developed characters, complete with their own independent issues. Every character that inhabits this universe, from recumbent bicycle enthusiast Paul to architecture aficionado Sam, is a three-dimensional character that refuses to be content to just occasionally occupy the same real estate as Gretchen and Jimmy.
I may not realistically want to be close friends with these characters, but I’d absolutely want to be casually acquainted with them. You don’t necessarily need people like this in your life, but you kind of want them around every now and again. Sometimes the straw that stirs the drink makes the cocktail that much more appetizing.
You’re the Worst’s charming combination of witty banter, anti-social rants, and idiosyncratic pop-culture diatribes is a key component to its success, but what makes this series truly unique is the way it deftly balances its acerbic edge with a stealthy optimistic soul. Gretchen and Jimmy are damaged not shattered. Bent not broken. Both characters, despite their plethora of interpersonal maladies, are battling against their own jaded nature in an attempt to make this relationship work. Love, in the absolute best and worst way possible, is both messy and absurd. YTW doesn’t inauthentically celebrate this notion as much as it realistically embraces it.
YTW is very much like the day drinking the series ever so reveres: a little dangerous, oddly exhilarating, and intoxicatingly unpredictable. To borrow a phrase from ‘90s R&B parlance, it’s straight up CrazySexyCool. The writer in me wants to commend this trenchant new series for its refusal to conform to traditional rom-com precepts, but the television fan at my core, the one who missed a birthday party to watch Salute Your Shorts and set his VCR to record Simpsons reruns while away at summer camp, just wants to nudge you in its direction and emphatically recommend this amazing series because in terms of sitcoms, you can’t do much better than You’re the Worst.
The season finale of You’re the Worst airs tonight at 10:30 pm on FX.