Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why 'You're the Worst' is the Best [Contributor: Ann]

First and foremost: Happy blog birthday, Jenn! You, like this show, are the absolute best.

I should preface by saying that I am one of the laziest and pickiest TV watchers ever. That isn’t to say that I don’t love and appreciate TV; it’s that I have a huge list of TV shows that I will never have the time or energy to watch, despite my appreciation and understanding of the show itself. Like House of Cards. I know what happens, but man, I am watching roughly one episode every six months right now. It is not easy for me to latch onto a TV show because my staple shows are so rewatchable that I kind of don’t see the point of adding new ones.

When there is a show that captivates me, then, I feel the need to aggressively tell everyone about it. This show tore down my walls. This show got me hooked when so many other shows couldn’t.

Hi, You’re the Worst.

Quick summary about what You’re the Worst is, for those of you—probably most of you—that have never heard of it. It is the love story between two people: Gretchen Cutler, a publicist kleptomaniac who dismisses relationships because she’s "scared of [that] shit" and Jimmy Shive-Overly, a mediocre novelist who does not believe in relationships, especially given his romantic past.

They meet at a wedding held by Jimmy’s ex Becca and have sex that night. “I’m not even attracted to you,” Gretchen says while they’re doing it, between chews of gum. “Does that really matter?” Jimmy counters. Gretchen shrugs.

It’s funny—actually, it is hilarious—but You’re the Worst is most distinguishable by the honesty and the realism of the situations that Gretchen, Jimmy, and their respective friends Lindsay and Edgar get into. As a show called You’re the Worst, there is no hesitation here in making the characters flawed, in less endearing ways than what is traditionally seen on television. Sometimes Gretchen and Jimmy treat each other badly for no better reason than that they are flawed people, and, as a flawed person myself, that is refreshing.

The romantic comedy and the love story is always my absolute favorite—I’m sure it is for so many people, given a fall pilot season that includes Manhattan Love Story and A to Z. Unlike those shows, though, You’re the Worst acts as if love is not the antidote that it has always been presented to be. Love betters, and love cures, but love is not necessarily s superhero. In a sense, this portrayal is better—love should not, in reality, be an end goal, nor should it be its own entity, because then it lends itself to becoming generic, trite, and stale. The best love stories are the ones that involve their characters and elevate how great they already are, and You’re the Worst succeeds for this reason. Jimmy and Gretchen are both fully fleshed-out characters before they start falling for each other, and they remain fleshed out throughout the entire season. Love does not consume them or the story, which is refreshing! These people have lives to live, after all.

Speaking of, the two side characters—Gretchen’s friend Lindsay and Jimmy’s friend Edgar—are not treated, by the creators or within the show, as mere sidekicks. Both Lindsay and Edgar are given seasonal arcs that are separate from the main action, and at no point are they merely existing to prop up the lead characters. They’re real people, too, with conflicts that exist both with and without their friends. And because Lindsay and Edgar's lives do not revolve around Gretchen and Jimmy, their plots are more interesting — they are respected and have real opportunities for character development rather than serving as props or "best friend" tropes.

So, I love the characters. In part, that is because of the deft pacing of the first season. With only 10, 22-or-so minute episodes, there’s not a lot of time to pack a punch, and none of that time is wasted. The showrunner, Stephen Falk—who I have a major writing crush on—describes to the AV Club how he divided the 9 episodes post-pilot into three acts (each with its own director), as if it were a romantic comedy film. And the season comes across that way, as each episode can work individually, within its group of 3, or as one part of the major arc. This is true for the Gretchen/Jimmy story, Gretchen’s story, Jimmy’s story, Lindsay’s story, Edgar’s story, and everything in-between. The show is presented as an accurate portrayal of life, but that doesn’t mean it disrespects the structure of storytelling. In one of my favorite quotes ever, Stephen Falk says:
I pay a lot of attention to structure in television. What I love about shows like Breaking Bad is that they’re so good at making the audience feel like they’re in safe hands. In other words, if you introduce something, it’ll be used, it’s going to have an arc, and it’s going to come to fruition. So I was very careful to make sure that if I’m introducing something, for the most part, there’s an arc to it.
What a breath of fresh air, and extremely true, both in the development in characters and in the most minor of details, too.

If I have not yet sold you on this show—this hilarious, lovely, beautiful show—let me provide some Netflix-like “If You Like This” comparisons to try to hook you in.

If you like The Mindy Project, you will like You’re the Worst. There’s no shortage of "heart eyes" (actually, both Aya Cash and Chris Geere, acting-wise, nail it in every respect) or sweet romantic situations despite what Jimmy and Gretchen insist.

If you like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Archer, you will like You’re the Worst. These people are endearingly ‘the worst’. (Not as much as It’s Always Sunny—I don’t know if that limit exists…) The humor accompanies its characters—equally fearless in refusing to smooth its edges, and all the better for it.

If you like How I Met Your Mother or New Girl, you will like You’re the Worst. There is nothing like shows about people hanging out in elaborate ways, drinking a lot, and basically being silly.

If you like (500) Days of Summer, you will like You’re the Worst. Stylistically, You’re the Worst is reminiscent of the film, often using a split screen to capture the reactions of its leads. It also is a celebration of city life—to me, You’re the Worst takes place in a richly detailed and distinct setting, capturing the mood of—well, I’ve never been to LA, but assumedly it, or at least its fictional counterpart.

If you like Hello Ladies, you will like You’re the Worst. Obscure romantic-comedy shows with a handsome, albeit douchey, British male lead that takes place in LA? Wow, what a fit.

You’re the Worst is a success to me. I love the leads, I love the supporting cast, I love the world that Stephen Falk has created in only ten episodes. I love that its season has an arc that is both satisfying and realistic—that is, functional and thematically aware, but not 100% resolved. It is a remarkable piece of work that deserves more awareness for all that it has accomplished—by that I mean, sure, that it provided a new and fresh spin, but also that it got me into a new TV show. Talk about a lifetime achievement.


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