Tuesday, March 28, 2023
March 28, 2023

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‘You’re the Worst’ walks TV tightrope

FXX’s romantic comedy is for those who hate genre


To sum up Stephen Falk’s “You’re The Worst,” which wraps up its fifth and final season on Wednesday, look no further than the second season, in which Jimmy suspects his girlfriend, Gretchen, is cheating.

She’s taken to mysteriously disappearing for long stretches at night, so one evening he plops on a fake mustache, hops in his car and follows her through the hills of Los Angeles. He finally finds her parked at the edge of a cliff overlooking the city, where she’s crying while holding a flip phone. Jimmy approaches her, leading to this exchange:

Jimmy: What are you doing?

Gretchen: Nothing, just crying in my car.

Jimmy: Is it something I did? So you’re not sleeping with someone else?

Gretchen: No, Jimmy. We’re fine.

Jimmy: Should I leave you alone then?

Gretchen: Yeah, probably.

Jimmy: OK, see ya. So why’d you bring the phone?

Gretchen: I like to play Snake while I cry.

Jimmy: That’s a classic game.

Jimmy (Chris Geere), now armed with the knowledge that Gretchen (Aya Cash) doesn’t have a paramour, just drives away — not really curious as to why Gretchen is crying. The reason, we later learn, is that she has clinical depression.

The rest of Season 2 follows Gretchen spiraling deeper into depression — at one point taking a handful of pills while drinking constantly and calling her friends “an emotional black hole” — as Jimmy tries to “fix her.”

At one point, Gretchen spits out, “Maybe you can understand this. I feel nothing. About anything. Dogs. Candy. Old Blondie records. Nachos. You. Us. Nothing.” Eventually, even selfish Jimmy learns to just be there for her, that she doesn’t require fixing. A plotline that begins so coldly ends extremely tenderly.

“When I first read the first few scripts, I was really excited about what seemed like a constant switch of tone,” Geere, who portrays Jimmy, told The Washington Post. “The tone shifted all over the place, which is quite exciting, so we could be big and broad and over-the-top in some bits and then quite heartfelt and somber in others.”

The FXX show, centered on Jimmy and Gretchen’s on-again, off-again relationship, is the romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies. It’s a story about two deeply cynical, often terrible people falling in love despite actively not wanting to — and thus it’s about two people who seem awful accidentally learning, through each other, how to not be awful.

At the same time, the show delves into real issues including depression, addiction, abortion, the difficulties of marriage and the PTSD that combat veterans can face. Meanwhile, the characters are almost objectively presented as, well, let’s just say people who require a lot of work.

As a result, the show is certainly not for everyone. Geere acknowledged this, saying that the show’s audience “wants to see things that are relatable, different and a bit dark and dirty.”

Despite the emotional entry fee demanded by the show, it has lasted for five seasons, following Jimmy and Gretchen from wanting a no-strings-attached, one-night stand to grudgingly entering a relationship to preparing for their wedding.

“Every season, we got toward the end and were like, ‘I have no idea if we’re going to get picked up, but it would be a real shame if we can’t keep telling this great story,'” Geere said. “I think it’s incredibly rare these days to actually finish on our terms and actually get to close off the tale we’ve been telling for five years, rather than finding out on Twitter that we’ve been canceled.”

One of the reasons for his fear is that the show, particularly when it debuted in 2014, was unlike anything on television.

Sure, shows in which the characters were objectively terrible people existed, such as “Seinfeld” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but you weren’t supposed to root for the gang. On the other hand, a show such as “Friends” presented its characters as empathetic from the jump. But “You’re The Worst” had to earn its emotional stakes by looking at why the characters acted so badly at times.

In other words, Jimmy seems to be a real person. So does Gretchen. And that’s the brilliance of “You’re the Worst”: the acknowledgment that, sometimes, everyone is the worst. And that, sometimes, no one is.