It used to be a truism that once you set up good comic-romantic tension between a couple in a TV series, it’s a bad idea to let them get together. The oft-cited example is David (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) in the 1980s series Moonlighting, who were always better flirt-fighting than they were smooching. This sentiment extends into a current network show, New Girl. There’s strong fan sentiment that Jess and Nick should not be together. Will the new season of You’re the Worst, premiering Wednesday night on FXX, prove another example of sparks being doused when two people finally say, “I love you”?
On the basis of the two episodes made available for review, I’d have to say that series creator Stephen Falk knows all about the history of disastrous sitcom couplings and invites that disaster into his show with gusto. The third season finds our antiheroes, novelist Jimmy (Chris Geere) and music publicist Gretchen (Aya Cash), having settled into their coupledom, the “I love you” still an awkward but definitely uttered phrase. Last season, the show dealt with a notable straightforwardness with Gretchen’s clinical depression, and now she’s seeing a therapist about it. (The therapist is played with an appealing directness by Orange Is the New Black’s Samira Wiley.)
You might think a less listless, more motivated Gretchen would re-infuse Worst with fresh energy, yet the show putters along at a meandering pace, the better to allow comic riffs on Gretchen’s reasoning for not washing her legs (she kinda makes a good argument) and a funny-sad scene in which the pair’s pal Edgar (Desmin Borges) helps homeless men rewrite their cardboard signs so that they might beg more effectively.
What’s become clear, however, is that Worst is just as interested in being a drama as it is a comedy, and if you read that and say, “Who cares about genre labels?,” well, watch and see if you enjoy the season premiere as much as you have other Worst episodes. Falk really wants to push viewers into extreme reactions by having his characters do extreme things: From the opening sex scene to the closing moment when pregnant pal Lindsay (Kether Donohue) acts out about her dissatisfaction with her newly restored conventional marriage to Paul (Allan McLeod), extremes are pursued with a vengeance. A vengeance you might find moving or funny or sour or unbelievable. I have to hand it to Falk and company — they really go for it, whatever “it” it is they intend.
I’m still completely engaged by the show, and it’s great that Worst has managed to take Edgar, who in a lesser show would have become a Kramer-like, slapstick figure, and continue to evolve him into someone whose new relationship with the charming and complex Dorothy (Collette Wolfe) is engrossing. But viewers will decide whether the coupling of Gretchen and Jimmy was a good idea, or if the result as it’s playing out here is off-putting. I’m intrigued, if not quite sold.
You’re the Worst airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FXX.