You don’t often see rom-coms on television, apart from side plots like Ross & Rachel of Friends. Perhaps because of the uncertainty of how long the show would last, or the challenge of keeping regular relationship drama interesting, no one has taken a soup-to-nuts approach to a single relationship the way Hollywood does with its endless rom-coms.
You’re the Worst follows Jimmy and Gretchen, a pair of terrible people who fall for each other. Jimmy is cold, curmudgeonly, and English, while Gretchen is a foul-mouthed wild-child who refuses to follow the rules. An instant attraction sparks their relationship, and Season 1 follows its development as they try to understand what being in a relationship means in an era of hookups and hangups.
Apart from the core couple, there are a host of other characters that decorate the show. Jimmy’s roommate Edgar is a Mexican-American war vet with PTSD and an earnest sense of his own mental health. Linsey is Gretchen’s best friend and terrible wife to boring banker Paul. She pouts and mistreats him to the point where even poor Paul starts to notice. Becca and Vernon also serve as the couple from hell, with Becca’s holier-than-thou attitude matched only by Vernon’s dad-joke corniness.
Despite such an awful mix of personalities, somehow they all just click. The jokes are light and truly funny, giving each of the characters enough of a heart makes you root for them even as they’re making everyone’s life hell.
The show is striking in its realism of relationship dramas, rendering them both believable and completely ridiculous: when is a relationship exclusive, how much sex is too much, how to keep the honeymoon vibe even when you just want to cuddle at home. Each hurdle is climbed with hilarious detail and several mishaps along the way, and the show is surprisingly graphic for regular cable.
Hilariously raunchy scenes range from discussions of saliva during oral sex, what to do when your lover has her period (‘play through?’ Jimmy asks quizzically), a friendly recommendation to ‘get dressed up and do butt stuff’, even coining the term ‘cockaholism’.
Also unusual for a comedy show is how it treats mental illness. Depression and PTSD are along for the ride, with a deep exploration of just how debilitating mental illness can be. Unfortunately, it wraps up these storylines a bit prematurely, perhaps leaving the audience to believe that indeed it simply dissipates overnight on its own. The reality is far more bleak.
While most of the characters are white, Edgar is the only person of color in the core ensemble. With no trace of an accent (and a throwaway comment that he doesn’t speak Spanish), he is free from many of the stereotypical portrayals of Latinos onscreen. Unfortunately, the entourage of African American rappers who form Gretchen’s clients do not escape the trap of stereotypes: Sam is loud, rude, and over-enthused about the rapper lifestyle, using obscenities to address everyone in sight. The actor (Brandon Mychal Smith) is brilliant and his elocution is priceless, but I wish the character was fleshed out along far less stereotypical lines. LGBT characters are absent from the show, but I hope that they’ll include them soon.
You’re the Worst is easily one of the best TV shows on the air.