Critical darling You’re the Worst is a modern-day romantic dramedy currently in its fourth season on FXX.
In A Nutshell
You’re the Worst follows the romantic, professional, and substance-abuse exploits of four 20-something L.A.-ers: Gretchen, Jimmy, Lindsay, and Edgar. They are all kind of “the worst” in their own way. The show draws on the general concept of predecessors like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The New Girl. However, it is darker, edgier, sexier, and often a lot smarter. It’s also hella funny.
Meet the Characters
Gretchen Cutler is a publicist for up-and-coming musical acts. While she is passably good at her job, she’s terrible at life in general. Her world occasionally intersects with L.A.’s rich and famous, yet she resides in a crappy apartment on the east side. She does not know how to adult very well, and her chronic ambivalence about maturity is painfully relatable. Her quest to strike a balance between being a responsible grown-up and not being tied to restrictive social conventions is all too real.
Jimmy Shive-Overly is a British ex-pat and professional novelist, whose first book performed poorly. He is a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, about romance especially so. While this sounds (and is) quite cliché, the show doesn’t subvert the trope so much as find what’s deeply human in it. Jimmy regularly vacillates between obnoxious arrogance, and debilitating insecurity. He is the type of person who likes to tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong, so he doesn’t have to face his own short-comings. And while he can be insightful about many things, he is often painfully clueless when it counts.
Lindsay Jillian is a former party-girl turned bored housewife. She is Gretchen’s best friend and frequent partner in exploiting free food samples. Ditzy and shallow, but with a sincere love for her bestie, Lindsay struggles against the social expectations of being the wife of an investment banker with whom she has nothing in common. She particularly struggles to be sexually faithful in her marriage. Her continuing need to sow wild oats with men who are not her husband form much of her arc for the first three seasons.
Edgar Quintero is a veteran with PTSD who lives with Jimmy rent-free. He makes himself domestically useful in lieu of holding down a ‘real’ job. Jimmy often complains about Edgar’s freeloading, but he also depends on him for practical help and emotional support. (Think Todd and Bojack of Bojack Horseman, but not quite as dysfunctional). Edgar is sweet, and unduly optimistic despite his objectively deprived circumstances. Watching him struggle with his military past, while attempting to move on from it and not be defined by it, is a highlight of the series.
A Brief History of You’re the Worst: The When, Where, and How
You’re the Worst debuted on FX in July of 2014, shifting over to sister network FXX in 2015. It is the brainchild of Stephen Falk, whose previous writing/producing gigs include Orange is the New Black and Weeds. The show has been a consistent critical success across its first three seasons, all of which are on Hulu. It is currently airing its fourth season Wednesday nights at 10pm.
Why It’s So Awesome
For starters, it is just incredibly well-written and consistently hilarious. I laugh out loud multiple times every single episode. Witty banter is my comedic sweet spot and if it is yours as well, put this show at the top of your list.
It is also an astute meditation on the struggle to grow up without becoming boring, or just another cog in the machine. While the immaturity of these characters does sometimes make them “the worst,” the fear lurking behind their childish impulses is legitimate. It deserves the nuanced contemplation the show gives it.
The frank engagement with sex is also a reliable delight. For a series awash in adult immaturity, sex is probably the topic it is most mature about. Yes, sexual scenarios often are sources of humor here. But how sex is depicted and talked about is never done in that disingenuous way so typical of Hollywood. Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship largely revolves around sex, and the casual, authentic way they talk about it is endlessly refreshing.
Finally, this show is that rare breed of comedy that can explore very serious topics with humor, honesty, and subtlety. Between the sex, drugs, and “Sunday Funday” shenanigans, our anti-heroes grapple with mental illness, PTSD, and emotionally abusive families. The series tackles these topics in ways that feel real, and do justice to the lived complexity of those experiences.
There are a lot of adages about the relationship between comedy and tragedy. Comedy is tragedy plus time (Mark Twain). Comedy is a tragedy that happens to someone else (W.C. Fields). Comedy is a tragedy with a different soundtrack (someone on the internet). You’re the Worst is a masterclass in melding the two together, and showing that each is best served with a healthy dollop of the other.