Girl meets boy. Girl and boy have a lot of issues. Girl and boy treat each other like crap for a while and dance around their feelings. Maybe girl and/or boy learns something from this dysfunctional experience. This formula is more and more apparent in modern day television (and, unfortunately, modern day relationships). You’re the Worst and Master of None, both of which I have written about, also fit most of the criteria described above. Created by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Lesley Arfin, Love debuted on Netflix in February with a 10-episode first season. Starring Rust and Community‘s Gillian Jacobs, Love follows Gus, an aspiring TV writer and current on-set tutor of child actors, and Mickey, a program manager at a radio station, who meet randomly in a gas station and end up entwined in each other’s lives.
In many ways, Love is to Los Angeles as Master of None is to New York City, but, to me, with one glaring difference—I did not like Gus and Mickey. I understand they are realistic human beings—I have certainly met people like them in Los Angeles—but I found them both so incredibly frustrating to watch that I finished the season unsure of how I felt about any of it. Even when they end up in entertaining situations, such as a trip to the Magic Castle, they both handle things horribly to the point where it sucks all the fun out of watching it.
Let’s look at the Magic Castle episode as an example. After 6 episodes of dancing around it, Gus and Mickey finally go on a formal date—well, to be fair, first they have sex for the first time, and then they go on the date. Gus is excited about the surprising night he has planned for her, which he reveals includes a trip to the Magic Castle, where he is a member. It is important to note that to everyone I have ever met in LA, going to the Magic Castle is a coveted, sought-after experience (and, having been myself, it is freaking awesome). Before they even arrive, Mickey immediately starts complaining about how she doesn’t “get” magic and it’s not her thing. Gus has plenty of instances throughout the show where he is in the wrong, one of which we’ll discuss in a bit, but in this case, I really think he meant well—99% of people would consider the night he planned a really cool date. When they arrive, Mickey continues to be incredibly negative at every turn, Gus continues to try to force his opinions down her throat, and they are kicked out over a dress code technicality (very believable, they are very strict there). The car ride home is incredibly awkward—Gus is furious that she embarrassed him at a place he loves, and she is annoyed that he tried to make her like something she doesn’t like. And I wanted to slap both of them.
What I will say about Mickey is that when she’s being the worst, she’s typically pretty aware of it. When the season begins, she’s the one who’s a complete mess, whereas Gus seems to have it pretty together. Thanks to her self-awareness, she has some important realizations by the end of the season and seems ready to seek help for some of her more serious issues. Gus, meanwhile, torpedoes his own life over the course of the season through a complete lack of self-awareness and an ego the size of Jupiter.
Gus is the on-set tutor on a TV show called Witchita, which is my favorite made-up show I’ve seen in a long time, but, of course, he has also written a spec script of the show to have handy for the lucky day when the right person asks about his career goals. Now, I had a major logic problem with this storyline, because people who work on a specific TV show are not allowed to read spec scripts for that show for legal reasons, something those who made Love should know. But in this world, Gus not only gets one of the writers to read his spec, but they like a major idea in it so much that they buy it from him and invite him into the writers’ room. This is when his behavior goes from mildly cringeworthy to absolutely deplorable. Upon realizing he is receiving only a “story by” credit and the episode produced will not resemble his work outside of the one idea, he throws a tantrum, including yelling at the writers’ assistant and throwing a laptop. He effectively gets himself fired both from his temporary writing job and his actual tutor job (which he is also terrible at, by the way), until the show’s child star (played by Iris Apatow), who likes him for some reason, convinces the showrunner (Tracie Thoms) to keep him around.
My frustrations with the characters aside, both Rust and Jacobs give fantastic performances. Although it is technically a comedy, I rarely laughed out loud—the humor here is much more drawn from discomfort, a la The Office, than from things actually being funny. This all goes back to the fact that Mickey’s and Gus’s lives are usually more sad than humorous. Eventually, though, I became so frustrated with both of them individually that I decided I was fine with their budding relationship because they probably deserve each other.
All 10 episodes of Love are available on Netflix. It has been renewed for a second season that will premiere in 2017.