Last season saw the demise (or the move to Hulu) of many televised romantic comedies, but against the odds, one very twisted comedy about dating in Los Angeles managed to grow a niche fanbase.
“You’re the Worst,” which is ostensibly about the relationship of so-wrong-for-each-other-they’re-right Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash), gets to heart of 21st century romance. Ahead of the show’s Season 2 premiere — and move from FX to FXX — creator Stephen Falk talked to Variety about what his former boss, “Weeds” and “Orange is the New Black” creator Jenji Kohan, taught him about good writing, and why he thinks rom-coms need an update.
“You’re the Worst’s” theme song suggests that the couple will eventually break up …
One of them is going to have to leave the other in the end or I’m a liar. I don’t know. I love that song. It’s this small little band called Slothrust that I found on Tumblr.
I was thinking about that the other day. I think in general, that’s an inherent fear that we never lose — even if we’re married or have kids — that we’re going to become unlovable.
What I think makes Jimmy and Gretchen a sweet and wish fulfillment-y couple is all of their garbage is on the table right from the beginning: all their damage and weird foot fetishes and unpleasantness to customer service people. Because I think at the end of the day, all us are afraid that our partner is going to see something that makes them run.
If anything, Jimmy and Gretchen are afraid that if they show vulnerability the other will run. But that’s kind of it.
The first episode of Season 2 shows how afraid they are of cohabiting.
They don’t want to become disgusting normals. They would rather drink themselves to death than go to bed before 10. I have that fear. I think Jimmy says it at at some point: Once you settle, it’s death. You begin the slow march to that.
Brain studies show that the more habitual our lives become, the quicker it goes. Because our brain in imprinting on less events, there’s nothing new or surprising for your brain. I think it’s a very real fear.
The secondary characters Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges) are fan favorites. Are we going to see more of that relationship this year?
We’re very cognizant, as a writing staff, of following through on things. I hate when shows introduce something and you can tell it didn’t get traction with the audience or with the network and they just got bored with it and let it die. So pretty much anything you see on our show, whether it’s an object that we use a lot or a phrase that’s repeated or a character will have a full story: a beginning, a middle and an end, hopefully with a conflict and a payoff and a resolution.
We will certainly follow through with what happens with them. Whether it goes all the way, I can’t say. I mean, he was infatuated with her when she was singing Kate Bush [in the Season 1 finale] — as was I. She was great.
It’s pretty much just the four of them. Are they going to have more friends?
The are four lead characters. Paul (Allan McLeod) and Vernon (Todd Robert Anderson) and Becca (Janet Varney) have big roles this season. We also meet Paul’s girlfriend. And Justin Kirk, who was on “Weeds,” he comes in. I wrote an episode especially for him.
Jimmy is struggling to make money because he is struggling to keep that house above the Silver Lake Reservoir that he shouldn’t have bought after he sold his book. One of the things he’s trying is to novelize a television show. Assaf Cohen is one of his studio executives.
Last year, we saw so many romantic comedies try and fail on TV. What makes your dark, messed up comedy about dating work?
It’s just better than those shows. [Laughs.]
I think romantic comedies were one very specific thing for the people who are the age now that they were selling and writing about. I think that thing just got played out. I think the Louis Armstrong song over the credits and the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks of it all are fantastic. I love them, I grew up on them. But I don’t think they resonate with the reality of how messy and f–ked up [people’s love lives’ are].
I could easily have gone down that road if I hadn’t had a gross and surprising divorce in my thirties that then led me back into the gross and disgusting dating scene that made me realize how truly awful it all is.
I may have made one of those shows that we won’t mention by name. But instead, I got back in touch with how really creepy it is out there. And also, I got lucky in working with Jenji Kohan, who taught me how to make television but also not to hold sacrosanct any of television. She gleefully moons any convention because she thinks it’s bullsh–. She has the strongest bullsh–ometer I’ve ever met — and I equally have a strong bullsh–ometer — in terms of human behavior, in terms of how people talk, in terms of how people talk on television.
I created another show that was, at heart, bullsh– (“Next Caller,” a Dane Cook comedy that never aired) and it didn’t work. In doing this, I just was not going to sacrifice anything and I didn’t care if it worked or not. I think the only way to do anything good is to 100% do what feels right and what feels honest and what feels entertaining to to you.
You have to then be lucky enough to be paired up with a network that feels the same way about it. And I got lucky to meet FX and John Landgraf and his team who are as fearless and have as strong bullsh–ometers as Jenji.
Do you think this show could have been made on broadcast?
I think now, it might. I think at this point they’re getting desperate and they’re realizing — I hope — that if they want to compete, they’re going to need to be bold or they’re going to decline as they march toward obsolescence.
I’d like to think that while our show was on the air for the first season, that the writers in some of the writers’ rooms were watching it and going “oh f—.” I hope we made their experience a little hollow just because we were allowed to do things, and we were bold enough to do things, that maybe felt a little real. I hope that with their next show, they will try to say more true and honest and then maybe the networks act in time. I’m not saying all network shows are bullsh–, but in terms of romantic comedies and in terms of relationships, they’re few and far between.
Variety interviewed Chris Geere a few weeks ago and he mentioned some of the things that are going on for Season 2. Does your writing staff just have a Google Alert for obnoxious Los Angeles stuff?
I have the coolest writing staff. There are just four of them, two guys and two girls. They’re super hip and super tuned in. We’re all hipsters. No one will admit we’re hipsters, but we are. Two of them belong to a foodie group called the Culineers where they go to San Gabriel and eat duck embryos.
But no, my writing staff is just really tuned and plugged into culture: To not only Los Angeles culture, which allows to us to make a show that has a strong sense of place, but also to pop culture and the world around them to make our show feel like it’s taking place at a certain time. We do a lot of cultural mining. There’s a thing we found that’s a really obscure fetish called financial domination, which one of our characters gets into later.
Season 2 of “You’re the Worst” premieres at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 9 on FXX.