Judd Apatow returns to TV (sort of) with a new show that takes a “down-to-earth look at dating”.
In March 2016, Netflix released all of the second season of a little show called Daredevil for your binge-watching pleasure. Welshy has reviewed it here and picked out all the references you might have missed, while Dan had a few questions about what happens next. However there were two other shows released recently as well, to slightly less fanfare – on this side of the pond anyway. I reviewed Will Arnett’s new show Flaked here, but in this review I’ll be looking at the new show from Judd Apatow Love, starring Gillain Jacobs and Paul Rust.
These two new shows are slightly similar, and almost ended up in the same article. The both deal with relationships (although Love is more focused on the world of dating than Flaked), both have characters dealing with sobriety (Flaked is based around an AA group, whereas Love only has the one character), and both feature not a single real job among the whole cast. Both seasons take a while to get going, feature some interesting guest stars, but get better in the latter half of the season, so here we are with two articles about two shows.
Love is a show about two characters who are clearly going to fall in love – Community’s very own Gillian Jacobs plays Mickey, and co-creater Paul Rust as Gus – and tells the story of how they get there. If you ever saw the show Love Soup with Tasmin Greig and Michael Landes, which showed two characters in the run up to them eventually meeting, it has a very similar premise. The idea is that we get to see the trials and tribulations that both of the people go through when it comes to dating, rather than the usual rom-com, where one character chases their perfect partner before living happily ever after.
The show sets this up from the very beginning, with Gus ordering a rug with his long term girlfriend for their shared house, while Mickey is in a destructive, casual relationship with a cocaine addict. Both relationships break up by the end of the first episode, Mickey because as she says “he loved cocaine more than me”, and Gus’ girlfriend admits to cheating on him. We see both characters hit rock bottom at the end of the first episode, leading to their very first meeting.
But the first episode also highlights some of the issues I have with this show, at least the basic premise. One of the prominent taglines for the show was “taking a down to earth look at dating”, but the characters live in a very unreal world. Gus is an
on-set tutor teacher for a TV show called Wichita (a Charmed like show aimed more at teens), and Mickey is a producer at a radio station, not exactly salt of the earth, regular joes. But that wouldn’t be an issue if relationships and sexual encounters were portrayed realistically, but in the first episode, awkward, nice guy Gus ends up in a threesome with two girls a decade younger than him. It’s a strange choice to make when still trying to set up the character. It is more like Two And A Half Men than real life. We also have his girlfriend calling his “fake nice” when he tries to cut her out of his life, and we don’t know if she is right or not. The line is repeated later on, but in a very similar situation, and we still don’t know if Gus is a real nice guy or not.
Mickey isn’t exempt from some jarringly unrealistic actions as well. Her boss, love advice DJ and seemingly the station owner Dr Greg Colter (Brett Gelman) makes a pass at her, and Mickey has sex with him, so that he can’t fire her – which she admits to him mid-coitus. A pretty unrealistic turn of events (even though Dr Greg is an oaf, he would surely see how uninterested Mickey is in him during all of their interatctions) and one that also has no implications for either of them in the rest of the season.
However, these first episodes are still at least enjoyable. There’s plenty of very funny moments, but the show seems to be missing some bite. We know that Gus and Mickey are going to get together, and since they meet up very early on, we know this isn’t going to be two totally separate stories that eventually intercept (like the aforementioned Love Soup). Maybe the characters aren’t totally “likable” but they are entertaining. Gus has a group of friends that get together and make up theme songs for films (The Perfect Storm and Carlito’s Way) that – for me anyway – is really funny. And collecting, and then throwing away, his Blu Rays collection is one of the highlights.
We also have Gus and Mickey’s housemate Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty) go on one of the best dates I’ve ever seen put on TV. And when I say best, I mean worst. I’ve had some terrible first dates (I took a vegan to a steak house once), but this one takes the biscuit when both start tanking the date, deliberately. It’s a really good episode of TV, and a bit like the spa trip of Flaked, feels like it could come from a more tradition, network TV sitcom.
There’s also a fantastic episode with Andy Dick (guest starring as himself) and Mickey going on a drug-enhanced subway trip. This is also the episode that makes Mickey confront her sobriety issues (she is lying about her drinking to her AA group, another link to Flaked) and surprisingly it leads into the some of the most real emotional moments
This leads to the best episode in the season, directed by Steve Buscemi (remember he has directed episodes of The Sopranos and 30 Rock), where the Mickey and Gus go on a proper date together. And SPOILERS (although we know there will be a second season so the story has more time to play out, but skip to the end of this paragraph if you want no details): it just doesn’t work. Not in the over the top, comedic way that Gus and Bertie’s date ends, just in the way that these two people just aren’t good together. I hate revealing spoilers, so I’ll just say the couple go to an event that Gus feels really passionate for, and Mickey simply doesn’t take it seriously. Eventually this annoys Gus, and we realise that maybe Gus and Mickey aren’t totally compatible… at least at this point.
The show takes another slight detour into male-fantasy wish fulfillment in the last couple of episodes, but we get a “I’m not the cool girl” speech that reminded me of a similar one Britta gave in Community about Jeff and Annie (the “I’m not Juno” speech), and that’s always a good thing.
I like Love, and feel like it got better as it went along. I’m surprised at how much I am looking forward to a second season. Love was funny, not as sentimental as some of Apatow’s work, and although not actually realistic like it claimed, I definitely enjoyed it.
Recommended for fans of: 40 Year Old Virgin, Freaks and Geeks, Master Of None (in which Aziz Ansari really sets the bar for shows looking at modern dating and relationships).
Love is available on Netflix now.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s the best of Britta from Community:
Eurgh, she’s the worst.