FX has a track record of thinking outside the box when it comes to comedies. Louie, Archer, Wilfred, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia all take a different stance on what it means to be a comedy. The networks two new offers, Married and You’re the Next, seem to find their own niche in a slate of counterprogramming, each of which has potential to be fine offers to watch weekly.
Married treads familiar ground, but it does so in a way that hasn’t quite translated to the small screen before. The pilot is essentially the same old, tired joke about how married life with children usually spells the end for the sexual relationship between husband and wife, to the husband’s dismay. It’s approached in a much more real sense than your usual punchline that you would see in something like Everybody Loves Raymond. Instead, it’s used as the setup for what would transpire.
Nat Faxon and Judy Greer play the Bowmans, and both actors are long overdue to become household names. Faxon owns an Oscar (Best Original Screenplay, The Descendants) and really brought something special to the criminally underrated, long forgotten Ben & Kate, while Judy Greer has played second fiddle to A-list actresses for years (27 Dresses) and has become a stalwart in television comedies (Arrested Development, Archer). Here, they play a married couple raising three girls and stuck in a sexless rut that Russ (Faxon) would rather not be in.
After failed attempts to spark something with his wife, Russ vents his frustration to her. Offhandedly, she suggests that he find someone else to take care of his needs, whether that means a hooker or a sidepiece is unclear, or for that matter, if she really believes he’d follow through with it. Almost reluctantly (and somewhat prodded by his friends, played by Jenny Slate and Brett Gelman), he stumbles through an attempt to pick up a waxing technician. He does all right for himself, managing to get into her bedroom with the help of buying her a $400 dog, but things don’t materialize past kissing and heavy petting.
Without divulging too much of the full plot, the dog is the subject of a great payoff, one which you’d suspect from a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Overall, it’s not a bad pilot. It has a certain realism that you rarely get from a sitcom, which I guess this is, but only by default. It’s not usually laugh-out-loud comedic, but it’s also not missing a lot of the time, either.
You’re the Worst
Most romantic comedies revolve around two excruciatingly likable, eternally perfect mannequins that you can’t help but root for, all of this in spite of the fact that the lead characters are vessels for impressively banal personalities. You’re the Worst takes your expectations for a spin, as it follows a couple of damaged people falling into a relationship they both expect to fail miserably.
This isn’t the sort of damaged that makes you describe a character as quirky, though; not in the way you’re used to in these sorts of stories. They’re damaged in the way that makes one spit in the face of bride at her own wedding or steal the car of a sexual partner in order to score cocaine for a client. These are the actions of the main characters of You’re the Worst, and it’s things like this that make their coupling less of a meet-cute and more of a full-fledged car crash.
Virtual unknowns Aya Cash and Chris Geere play leads Gretchen and Jimmy, respectively. After hooking up after a mutal friend’s wedding, malcontent Jimmy and slightly unhinged Gretchen can’t help but get under each other’s skin; at the same time, they find themselves drawn to each other, despite their better intentions. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a carnal attraction, as they seem to meet at a sexual eye-to-eye, but it’s interesting to see a push-and-pull in this sort of story that doesn’t revolve around the inevitable “will-they-or-won’t-they” scenario, that has played itself out more times worth counting.
A strong part of what makes the show, or at least the pilot, work is the chemistry between the two leads. Part of this may be the fact that the two actors aren’t exactly familiar faces; had one been more famous than the other, it may not work as convincingly. Regardless of the reason, the actors are able to strike an interesting balance that has them playing both love interests and antagonists. Aya Cash especially shines as Gretchen, who manages to really show vulnerability that just makes you root for her to get it all figured out.
Like Married, there are very few laugh-out-loud moments in the episode, but that would only be a detriment had this been a traditional sitcom. Similar to FX’s Louie, this show is not for everyone; some may tap out due to the lack of jokes and others may find the characters a bit too raw for their tastes, but for this viewer, You’re the Worst has potential to be an enjoyable watch for quite some time.