I have not experienced the hubbub and fuss that is a relationship or true love. For society’s sake, that’s probably for the best. I’ve observed them on the sidelines and heard more good than bad, so I wonder how we can let the human mind can come up with something as insipid as love.
But what is love? Something that happens a long time? An emotional mine field? Do you find the person attractive? What about moving in together? Do you eventually want kids? Do you prefer constant communication, the occasional text or, heaven forbid, a phone call? You remember, back when we used our phones as phones. My point is that, without having any personal experience, I’m guessing that there is a lot to relationships.
So why do I mention all of this?
In the summer of 2014, FX debuted two, well-written comedic gems that took the romantic comedy genre, turned it on its side, and then held it up to a cracked mirror. The first of which is Married, which focused on a hapless, married couple, but I intend to focus on the other title- a title about two cynics that abhor traditional love, down to the point where they blanch at terms like boyfriend, girlfriend, and relationship.
However, their casual sexual relationship ends up becoming something more. Simple premise, made better by pointing out the flaws of conventional relationships through having two unlikable people with toxic personalities somehow manage to get together. More than that, we see why falling in love is so damn hard.
Comedy is in the eye of the beholder, but I will say this now: this was the funniest comedy that I watched in 2014. Better than Californication, better than Veep, Silicon Valley, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Archer, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…dare I say just as good, if not better, than Parks and Recreation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you FX’s You’re the Worst.
The series begins, appropriately, with the marriage of Vernon, played by Todd Robert Anderson, and Becca, played by Janet Varney. Everyone is happy to come together and witness this joyous occasion of matrimony. There’s a lot of talk of love in the room and the atmosphere is very celebratory.
But these aren’t our main characters. In the middle of this happiness is Jimmy, played by Chris Geere. Jimmy is making his mark by taking pictures of his cock with all of the disposable cameras. Classic move. Jimmy is actually Becca’s ex. He’s glad to be at the wedding…for the moment.
His less than pleasant words about comparing Becca’s marriage to a burning home creates a scene, but it’s what he follows that up with that gets him thrown out of the ceremony. What does he say? That will become more important later. Not now, but later.
Here, we’re introduced to our other protagonist: Gretchen, played by Aya Cash. Gretchen knows Becca through her sister, Lindsay. The two acknowledge that this marriage is a sham. Though not intentional or for any romantic reason, the two connect through their cynicism and distaste for relationships.
This leads to the two having sex and even swapping secrets, but there’s no emotional attachment at all. They both realize that this won’t mean anything the next morning, yet instead of going to bed and forgetting all about it, they have sex more than once. There’s something very raw about their sex.
There aren’t any over the top groans and it doesn’t feel like the show is trying to show you every little detail. This is just two people having sex. In fact, though things get steamy, they come to a screeching halt when Jimmy spits on Gretchen’s vagina while going down her. She doesn’t like that, but Jimmy points out that saliva will get down there anyway. She consents.
The next morning, we’re introduced to Jimmy’s roommate, Edgar, played by Desmin Borges, who whips up a mean breakfast, occasionally wants to do heroin, and is a war veteran that has nightmares, PTSD, and mild psychosis. These two met when Jimmy was in college and bought drugs from Edgar.
We also learn that Jimmy is an author, but sales on his book didn’t go as expected, and he spent a ton of money on the house that he and Edgar live in. Edgar, though he doesn’t say it, is thrilled at the idea of Jimmy bringing a woman over and she actually stayed the night.
As Gretchen doesn’t have a ride to work, she gets a lift from Lindsay, played by Kether Donohue. She can’t believe that Gretchen slept with Becca’s ex on the night of her wedding, though Gretchen doesn’t think much of it. She does already know that she doesn’t plan to see him again, though. The two had wild and crazy adventures until Lindsay ruined it by getting married. How dare she!
Anyway, we then learn what it is that Gretchen does: she’s a publicist for an Odd Future-esque group: Sam Dresden, played by Brandon Smith, Shit Stain, played by Darrell Brit Gibson, and Honey Nutz, played by Allen Maldonado. They trashed a stadium and Gretchen wasn’t there. Though the three come off as Black stereotypes, not only do they seem to be in on the joke, they know more than one would give them credit for.
Gretchen returns to Jimmy’s place just to pick up her purse. Jimmy uses this as an opportunity to call their encounter amateur hour and wonder aloud why Gretchen would even stay. There’s no kiss and make up here. Gretchen cuts her prepared speech, but then lays into Jimmy for attacking a bride at her wedding night and even saying that she would have gone home with anyone, so no need for either of them to make something of their one night stand.
Oh, but Jimmy’s not off the hook yet. That evening, he plays video games with the neighbor boy, Killian, played by Shane Francis Smith. Edgar, instead of just using his words to tell Jimmy to pursue Gretchen, forces him into a headlock and reminds him that Gretchen staying means something.
Jimmy doesn’t think much of Edgar’s advice, given his state of mind. Edgar, however, states that he was defending his country. And this leads to one of the best exchanges of the premiere.
“You weren’t defending anything except for the business interests of evil men.”
“Jimmy, our country is the business interests of evil men!”
“…that may be the most intelligent thing you’ve ever said.”
Nonetheless, Jimmy can’t go and drink the night away because Gretchen’s made off with his car. She took his keys when she came for her purse.
Gretchen’s day isn’t much better. She visits an old director pal, Ty, played by Stephen Schneider, and they have sex, but the difference is that even though there was no emotional connection between her and Jimmy, she at least had a good time and could have a fun conversation with him.
Here, however, there’s no interest whatsoever. The director says things like “You’re a marvel,” “That’s delicious,” and “That’s terrific,” but when Gretchen spits on his cock, he’s so turned off by it that Gretchen takes a break so she can go snort cocaine. It’s amazing what we’re able to get away with on television these days.
The premiere comes to a close with Jimmy calling Gretchen. He knows that she stole her car, but he doesn’t tell her to apologize for calling him the worst or for her speech, even if it was a tad bit mean. His favorite kind. She tells him about setting her school on fire, and while the director was aghast at it, Jimmy finds it quite funny.
Though Jimmy admits that he lied to Gretchen: he does have a foot fetish. He denied it before. He can’t find the right porn to masturbate to, so Gretchen tries her luck. Gretchen then gets honest: she’s scared of what could happen between the two of them. She doesn’t like it. But hey, if they both know that it can’t work, then there’s no harm.
This is just how the show begins. I think it’s a strong way to introduce the tone of the program and sets up how these people really are, in fact, the worst. These people are big kids. They don’t know yet what they want in life, but want some certainty when they see their friends leading successful lives. But is that success real or just a front? Jimmy tells Gretchen early on that getting married doesn’t remove you from the burden of being a human being.
Jimmy and Gretchen see themselves as more authentic than everyone around them because they have nothing to hide. People may not like them, but as long as they’re staying true to themselves, they’re still happy. Jimmy and Gretchen would be the flies in the ointment: they’re cynical, crass, don’t pull any punches with their words, and aren’t all that attentive to their respective best friends.
Gretchen is jealous of Lindsay for growing up and getting responsibilities. She even threatens to stab Lindsay in the tits if she happens to get her real estate license. A great friend. Growing up is scary and we don’t want to be alone forever, but we don’t want to just get with someone for the sake of having a companion. That’s the kind of life that Jimmy and Gretchen want to avoid.
I like to think of Jimmy and Gretchen as the anti-couple. They share a few things in common with your average couple, but with an added dash of cynicism. The first time they have sex, Gretchen says aloud that she doesn’t even find Jimmy attractive.
Jimmy’s response is “What does that have to do with anything?” Hell, she’s not even looking at him- she’s staring off to the side while munching gum. She stays the night not because she wants to or has grown close to Jimmy: she’s just lazy and prefers to leave in the morning.
And yet, from the way they stare into each other’s eyes or find comfort in talking to one another do you realize that these two are made for one another, even if that goes against their natural instincts. They’re afraid of commitment, but they’d be hard pressed to find anyone else that’s compatible.
Gretchen grows bored with the director because he’s a dullard, but Jimmy, crass and sarcastic as he might be, is a breath of fresh air. It also helps that the two bounce off of each other well. For every sarcastic, smartass remark that one has, the other is ready with a counterattack. Jimmy himself revels in being able to see people for what they really are- a perfect match for someone like Gretchen.
A lot of the conventional tropes we’ve come to expect from romantic comedies are turned on their side here. There’s also no instant spark between Jimmy and Gretchen, who both admit that they don’t do relationships. The sex just sort of happens. When Jimmy calls Gretchen pretty, rather than her falling for him in one swoop or paying him back a compliment, she responds “Thanks?” as if she’s unsure how to react.
Though Jimmy didn’t seem to call her pretty with the expectation of getting something in return- he just made an observation. Instead of Edgar giving an impassioned speech about how Jimmy needs to go get the girl, he strangles him to make him understand that Gretchen staying the night meant something.
And we don’t end on an “I love you,” “I love you too” moment, but instead, Gretchen plays up Jimmy’s foot fetish to help him get to sleep. I haven’t spoken a lot about the performances yet, but Chris Geere and Aya Cash are excellent in their portrayals of a pair of hapless cynics.
Very little seems to satisfy Gretchen and Jimmy aside from just talking to one another, but they’re looking to avoid commitment. The fact that the two believe nothing can come of their ‘thing’ already clues you into to how this season will end. But let’s take our time and move on.