The 2014 television season saw networks take a dizzying number of swings at romantic-comedies. While love has always been at the center of sitcoms, there has been an increased focus in recent memory to make love the story. Shows like A to Z hinged entirely on the romantic entanglement of the title characters and, much to the dismay of television execs, failed miserably. But there was one show that captured the eye of critics, a show that refused to cover up the ugliness that often comes with love and allowed its characters to, in a throng of ways, live up to the show’s title.
FXX’s You’re the Worst was distinct in every way from its counterparts and quickly became the best romantic-comedy on television. But, last night, with the excellent “The Sweater People,” YTW affirmed that it has no business being labeled the best rom-com on TV. It wants to be the best comedy, period.
“The Sweater People” was a wicked smart half-hour that wasted little time picking up where YTW left us at the end of its first season. Jimmy and Gretchen are living together and doing their best to keep from becoming normalized, housebroken adults. To combat the gravity-like pull toward routine, the two love-vultures dive deep into partying, stretching and stringing each other out as thin as they can. Meanwhile Edgar, the wonderful Desmin Borges as Jimmy’s PTSD-suffering/heroin addicted roommate, remains the best person among the quartet of mostly-awful human beings that populate the show. But, with his sights set on courting Lindsay (who, rightfully, won Entertainment Weekly’s inaugural “Worstie” rankings) dark(er) times could be ahead.
Few shows are able to elicit genuine laughs as easily as You’re the Worst, and it’s clear that creator Stephen Falk and his writing team haven’t lost a beat from the comfortable stride they hit in the first season. “The Sweater People” was, as the best YTW episodes are, exceptionally quick, with every moment being used to enhance the comedy unfolding on-screen. This show has an undeniably effective rhythm that engulfs viewers for 30 minutes at a time, refusing to let up until the credits roll. It’s an absolute rush, no doubt aided by the fact that these characters give the viewer a kind of vicarious thrill (haven’t we all wanted to take an obscure Belgian drug from hipsters and steal a Google Street View car?). In what would normally equate to an extraordinarily short timespan of our day, just half an hour, You’re the Worst showed us Jimmy and Gretchen indulge in an amount of alcohol and drugs that can only be described as whale-sized which, naturally, led them to finally admit they needed a break from all the partying, an admission that scared them right back to the bar. Lindsay, spiraling into villainess territory attempted to reconcile with Paul, a plan that crumbled as quickly as it was built. Luckily Edgar, poor sweet Edgar, was there to pick up the pieces. All this, and Falk still found time to sneak in the scene-stealing Brandon Mychal Smith as rap-star Sam Dresden who delivered perhaps my favorite line of the night with: “Do I look like a Fitbit? I don’t give a shit about your sleep!”
All the vulgarity and lewdness, despite being phenomenally written and acted, works, though, because underneath the mountain of cocaine, the characters of You’re the Worst are unquestionably relatable. Jimmy and Gretchen are attempting, in this episode and others, to avoid stagnation. They don’t want their lives to become predictable. Lindsay, although bordering on lunacy, is fighting the dichotomy between the vigor of youth and the maturation we’re all supposed to endure as we age. Though they are certainly the most outlying outliers that any of us would hypothetically encounter in the real world, they are combating the same obstacles the rest of us have, or will.
?It’s this depth that elevates a comedy like You’re the Worst into an echelon of the very best shows on television. Season Two is supposed to be dark and wicked, which has me frightened for everyone involved, especially Edgar, but when the writing is as superb as it was in the season premiere, all you can do is hang on and enjoy the ride.
Eric Walters is a New York-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.