Watching FX's new back-to-back comedies "You're the Worst" and "Married," it's difficult not to be a tiny bit concerned with the emotional state of its executives and the writers pitching them. What, for example, is the collective divorce rate at the network, and how messy were the breakups?
Something has to account for the jaundiced view of heterosexual love and marriage evinced by these two shows, which premiere Thursday.
"You're the Worst" may air second but in thematic terms it precedes "Married" in that it deals with two shockingly immature people as they meet and begin dating. Creator Stephen Falk begins with a promising concept: What if the worst boyfriend and worst girlfriend ever got together and fell in something approximating love (if either were capable of feeling a non-selfish emotion, which clearly they are not)?
Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) meet at the wedding of Jimmy's ex. Drawn to each other by a mutual smoking habit (that's how awful they are! they still smoke!) and hatred of everyone else at the wedding, the two wind up back at his place. There they engage in a joyless and graphic sex marathon that seems to light a flickering spark of something close to hope.
Cash and Geere are two talented performers selling this mess as best they can, but mostly the show suffocates under its own feeling of brashness. There are a few funny moments in which one or both characters send up irritating social trends or personal tics, but Falk apparently does not trust his audience enough to "get" his dark-to-the-point-of-"Curb Your Enthusiasm" take on romance. So he spends the first two episodes hammering the awfulness of the two main characters into our heads with such vigor that it's hard to care what happens as long as it ends soon.
"Married" is a little easier on the heart and the head. It also involves two terrific actors — Judy Greer, who illuminates everything she touches including those wacky phone commercials, and Nat Faxon from the still missed "Ben and Kate" — in a story not quite as smart and bold as it thinks it is.
Russ (Faxon) and Lina (Greer) are married with three kids and struggling to find a way to make "happily" describe that state. The answer Russ and series creator Andrew Gurland favor is: More sex.
Things have come to such a pass that when Russ begins to masturbate right next to her, Lina's response is irritation that he's shaking the bed. Russ, who, though lovable, apparently has nothing better to do, continues to whine until finally she suggests he find an outlet elsewhere.
Shaken, Russ takes counsel from friends A.J. (Brett Gelman) and Jess (Jenny Slate), drinking and smoking weed while trying to figure out why his wife is not the same madcap woman she was before they had three kids.
And here I must pause to slip a few peanuts to the elephant in the room. The problem with "Married" is not its man-child viewpoint — hey Russ, maybe you should explore why your wife is so exhausted all the time instead of drinking with friends, because the two things may be related — but its lack of parental obligations. Not only does Russ have tons of time to hang out with friends and get into scrapes, as the episodes unfold, so does Lina.
Obviously, aggrieved banter about parenting is way more fun to watch than the actual work involved, and Greer does give "Married" some very promising moments — "Well, hit her back," she snaps as one daughter interrupts a mommy-and-daddy conversation — but "Married" quickly becomes a show about How Becoming a Parent Changes Your Life, in which there are more scenes of drinking than actual parenting.
Still, it's hard not to hope. The supporting players of "Married" are just as fine as the leads, Gelman is sweetly weird as the recently divorced A.J., and Slate's Jess, married to an older man (played in later episodes by Paul Reiser), could easily sustain her own show.
And for every ridiculous plot twist (it's hard to imagine any wife offering infidelity as a solution before, you know, "get a job" or "empty the dishwasher once in a while"), there is a lovely flash of honesty. With a marital spat derailed by a shared joke or a child struggling to make it through a sleep-over, you see the show "Married" might become once it grows up, just a little.
When: 10 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-MA-LS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with advisories for coarse language and sex)
'You're the Worst'
When: 10:36 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-MA-LS (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with advisories for coarse language and sex)Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times