You’re the Worst certainly lives up to its name, or so I thought after viewing the pilot episode. The premise of the show, a half hour rom-com on FX, is that two vile people: Jimmy (played with equal parts snark and Britishness by Chris Geere) and Gretchen (the feisty Aya Cash) meet at a friend’s wedding, go home together and end up becoming more than a one-night stand. Sounds innocuous enough but this is FX, a channel incapable of producing a show that doesn’t push the boundaries of what can and can not be seen or heard on basic cable. Despite already knowing this I was still a bit surprised at how graphic the non-graphic sex got (go watch Nip/Tuck if you don’t quite get what I mean by that description). And what they couldn’t show, they made up for by talking about:
Gretchen: You just spit on it?
Gretchen: You just spit on my vagina.
Gretchen: Why don’t spit on my vagina?
Jimmy: It’s saliva. It’s gonna get there anyway.
My first impression of You’re the Worst was definitely that of a raunchy, gross-out comedy trying desperately to shock in an era where everything and anything can be seen online, and commercial free at that. Thankfully I gave it another shot (it’s in my nature to second guess myself) because by last Thursday’s season finale, You’re the Worst had become my favorite show of 2014, hands down. That’s saying a lot when put up against some of this year’s other contenders like Fargo and IFC’s brilliant new Garfunkel and Oates. I’m sorry, True what? True Detective? Look, I don’t have HBO, okay Richie Rich? If you’d like to come pay my cable bill then we can talk Game of Thrones and True Detective, OK? What made me stick around was how well the show’s protagonists are written. Jimmy and Gretchen are the most three dimensional characters I have ever seen on a sitcom. They are horrible, vile, jaded, wounded, sweet, damaged, sympathetic people. If some of those adjectives sound contradictory, they are, and it’s awesome.
I didn’t realize when viewing the pilot that Jimmy and Gretchen’s horrible side is just that, a side. I think I can be forgiven for assuming that given the shallow emotional pool that most sitcoms draw from, the characters in You’re the Worst—and by extension the series itself—were going to be a one-trick pony. Instead I have been pleasantly surprised week after week by a show with the setup and execution of a sitcom but the depth and feeling of an indie flick.
Somehow You’re the Worst manages to take a popular rom-com conceit as of late: friends with benefits who end up actually in love, and make it seem fresh. Jimmy and Gretchen are like When Harry Met Sally filtered through one of Bad Santa‘s shot glasses. They are two people who are so bad no one could love them but each other. They drink constantly, smoke constantly, and just seem like all-around shitty people, in other words: perfect for each other.
The writers make sure however, that no matter how close they skirt it, Jimmy and Gretchen never cross over into caricature territory. At the (black) heart of You’re the Worst is an emotional core. It may be buried under a box of stroke mags, a half- empty bottle of Jim Beam, and a few cigarette butts but it is there. Jimmy and Gretchen are certainly off-putting but they aren’t monsters. Take Jimmy’s roommate Edgar for instance. A veteran of the Afghanistan war with a bad case of PTSD, Jimmy lets him stay at his house rent free in exchange for cooking and cleaning, despite the fact that (as we find out in the finale) Jimmy could charge a boarder $1,200 for his room. And Gretchen … I think she tells her friend Lindsay not to cheat on her husband once or twice, or at least looks at her discouragingly. Hey, I didn’t say they were saints.
I haven’t seen a lot of mainstream buzz about the show and I’m hoping that that’s mainly because I don’t know where to look and not because people aren’t watching it. However, just in case it’s the latter, I’m willing to shill hard for You’re the Worst in hopes of a second season. With that in mind, I urge you for my own selfish reasons to check out You’re the Worst if you haven’t done so already. Even though the first season is over, several episodes can be watched On Demand if you have Comcast and individual episodes can be
illegally torrented purchased on Amazon. What’s that? Are they free to watch with Amazon Prime? Are you the same imaginary reader that I already chastised for giving me crap about True Detective? I don’t know because I don’t have Prime, okay John D. Rockefeller?
Bottom line: If you want to watch a romantic comedy but you don’t want a sickly sweet, saccharine mess, then You’re the Worst just may be the acrid, cyanide-laced black coffee you’re looking for.