Oh, Judd Apatow, what would we do without you?
The super-producer behind Girls, Trainwreck and Anchorman (just to name a few) is at it again with his first series for Netflix, Love. Starring Paul Rust and Community’s Gillian Jacobs, the first season of Love is ostensibly the opening stages of a love story between Rust’s and Jacobs’ characters. Almost immediately though, it becomes apparent that, for the most part, this is Gillian Jacobs’ show, and everyone else is just along for the ride.
Fresh out of their respective breakups, Gus (Rust), an on-set tutor for child actors, and Mickey (Jacobs), a program manager for a psychologist’s call-in radio show, have a chance meeting at a convenience store, and go from there. The tightly wound Gus quickly develops a crush on the more free-spirited Mickey. Early on, the show flirts dangerously with some Manic Pixie Dream Girl tropes, as Gus starts embracing life more in Mickey’s company. Thankfully, Love avoids the worst of them, as Mickey’s shown not to be a shallow muse for someone else, and her inner life gets laid increasingly bare as the series progresses.
And this is when the show really hits it stride. Through the twists and turns of their courtship that get explored throughout the middle of the series, we get a deeper look into Mickey’s psyche. Her boss psychoanalyses her, and others start calling her out for the bad decisions she’s making. Mickey ends up being another product of Apatow’s recent trend of giving depth to characters that would have been shallow if made during his most prolific period in the mid-to-late ‘00s. This deeper look into Mickey, often through the eyes of those around her, is often the show’s most affecting element, as she works through issues with alcohol, drugs, and relationships.
Speaking of those around Mickey, it ends up being the supporting cast that holds much of this show together. Claudia O’Doherty, a stand up comedian from Sydney, is particularly delightful as Mickey’s Australian roommate Bertie. She actually ends up being one-half of the series’ comedic high point in episode five, “The Date”, when she and Gus end up on an incredibly awkward date. A tired premise, yes, but played out in a clever fashion, as both try to out-awful the other, when they realise how poorly the date is going.
Pair this with amusing spots from Brett Gelman as the psychologist Mickey works for, and from Jordan Rock, younger brother of Chris, as Gus’ confidante on set, and a fleshed out, funny world of Love really starts to engage the viewer. Particularly of note is an appearance from Andy Dick as himself. Though problematic due to his off-screen issues, Dick’s cameo is nonetheless equal parts and amusing and poignant, as he and Mickey bond over their issues with alcohol and with life, while completely off their faces.
Unfortunately, the show falls off significantly towards the end of the season. Our main characters seem to change their personalities completely in the seventh and eighth episodes, and undo much of the goodwill the show had stored up. Disappointingly, the laughs dry up around this point as well, though not for want of trying. The previously awkward, but funny and good-hearted Gus suddenly becomes callous and mean-spirited, while Mickey becomes a clingy ball of neuroses overnight. Though these changes in character arc aren’t bad or unbelievable in and of themselves, the rapidity of the changes is off-putting and does the show a disservice. In hindsight, a couple more episodes to flesh this out would’ve been appreciated.
If you’re into romantic comedies with a hint of an edge though, you’ll probably enjoy Love. It’s not breaking any new ground, and it’s not always as funny as it thinks it is, but Gus and Mickey are interesting enough in how dramatically different they are to pull you through the rough patches. And if that doesn’t do it for you, a tremendous alternative and indie soundtrack permeates the whole thing, and makes even the credits worth watching/listening to.
Plus Claudia O’Doherty, in explaining Aussie drinking habits, sings “Here’s to Bertie, she’s true blue/She’s a pisspot through and through”. Is it weird to be proud that that song is being exposed to a worldwide audience?
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