For its summer schedule, FX has rolled out two comedies (in name, if not exactly in execution) about couples desperate to break from the conventional. In Married, Lina (Judy Greer) and Russ Bowman (Nat Faxon) find life to be dull and stressful, as they raise three girls and struggle to pay bills and keep an invigorated intimate life. The Bowman’s situation is the worst nightmare for Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash), the stars of You’re the Worst, who claim to have allergic reactions to the idea of relationships at all. Hit the jump to find out when the comedy kicks in, and if it does.
Married‘s pilot kicks off in familiar “marriage is the worst” territory, from an overtired point of view. Russ doesn’t think he and Lina are having enough sex, and all of his friends assure him he’s right. It sets Lina up as a shrew, but both partners mock and belittle each other, and end up proving that they’re both self-absorbed. Neither is happy, but nothing seems to work in alleviating those doldrums except when they pretend they aren’t married. They’re both encouraged by Russ’ friends A.J. (Bregg Gelman), who is the most depressed of all, constantly complaining about his sadness over how his ex-wife has moved on, and Jess (Jenny Slate) who also constantly complains about her older sugar daddy “who lost his sugar.”
By the fourth episode though, there are glimmers of how and why Russ and Lina might have even gotten together in the first place, but yet, no real desire from either of them to make their relationship that close again, which flatlines any emotion. Still, there’s humor to be found here and there, like when Russ is given the green light to carry on an affair, but ends up buying the woman a puppy and never getting any sex. Later, he ends up as owner of the puppy, which in his own household, prevents him from having sex, as well (“the puppy is right here!”) Things mostly stall out elsewhere, but as the plot begins integrating financial woes and workplace problems, somehow, the show actually gets better.
“I don’t hate you, I just hate my life, and my life is you,” Lina tells Russ. That passes for flirtation in Married, and underlines the series insistence that marriage is boring, relationships are for suckers, and kids make it even worse. The reality though is that the Bowmans, and their friends, are just pretty dull creations that don’t seem to have much in the way of original thoughts or world views, which is what has always kept the excellent Louie from becoming too mired in its own darkness or cynicism (not to mention that series’ dedication to beautiful filmmaking).
The characters of You’re The Worst definitely agree with the idea that relationships are for suckers, because it’s on constant repeat from them both. Jimmy, a quasi-failed novelist, and Gretchen, a record label publicist, meet at a wedding, and spend the night together having sex and talking about what terrible people they are. They aren’t kidding — they’re both definitely assholes. But their constant insistence through the first two episodes that they “don’t do relationships” falls squarely into the realm of “thou doth protest too much.” We get it, relationships these days are more casual than in the past, and people don’t necessarily want to be tied down right away. But it’s not so revolutionary that there needs to be so much explanation of it. Especially because they clearly love each other.
You’re The Worst also rolls out a few comic foils, like Jimmy’s roommate Edgar (Desmin Borges), and Gretchen’s married best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue), both of whom are way too involved with Jimmy and Gretchen’s non-relationship to have developed personalities of their own (yet). Still, the show’s tone and pace overall are peppier than Married, and it also includes some actual character-building, point-of-view moments from both leads over such disparate topics as heroes and villains in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and menstrual cycles.
So far, both Married and You’re The Worst try too hard to be irreverent, and rely too heavily on the appeal of “bad behavior” (cocaine makes a lazy appearance in both series) and meanness to try and do anything they can to break out of narratives that might come too close to conventional romantic relationships. But there are other ways to achieve that, and You’re The Worst seems to more likely to work that out. Ultimately, both series can be defined by a monologue Jimmy spits out at a young neighbor kid: “I’m an adult. That means I’m beset upon at all times by a tsunami of complex thoughts and struggles, unceasingly aware of my own mortality, contemplating the futility of everything. And yet still raging at the dying of the light.” It’s just that when it comes to all of these particular characters and their struggles, there’s not much reason for viewers to care.
Married and You’re The Worst premiere back-to-back on Thursday, July 17th at 10 p.m. ET on FX.