The following is a season review of Love, a Netflix Original show.
Love is the newest Netflix Original show, and it came with a lot of baggage and expectations. Netflix Original shows have mostly been pretty excellent, and the last romantic comedy to come from Netflix (Master of None) was one of the better comedy shows of 2015. Also, Judd Apatow is the co-creator of Love, and therefore I had high expectations. Love is some sort of mixture of HBO’s Girls and Trainwreck, but it isn’t as good as either of them. I definitely don’t love the first season.
Love follows the relationships of Gus (played by Paul Rust) and Mickey (played by Gillian Jacobs), two people that come across each other when one of them threatens to shoplift from a convenience store. Gus, a nerdy, needy, and ‘nice’ man in his thirties who works as a tutor for a young actress, just broke up with his girlfriend Natalie after having found out that she supposedly cheated on him. Mickey, a sloppy, somewhat addicted woman who works as an assistant at a radio station, is trying to deal with her life after her on-again off-again boyfriend Eric forced her to question what love truly is.
Judd Apatow and Gillian Jacobs – these are the people that kept this show on my radar. I like a lot of Apatow’s films and some of his shows, and I’m always intrigued by his next new thing. As for Gillian Jacobs? Well, I will watch anything with her in it. Gillian Jacobs’s role in Community was such a delight, and she is one of the many reasons why people should watch that NBC/Yahoo comedy gem.
The best episode of Love is episode five, called The Date, in which Gus goes on a date with Mickey’s roommate. It is an inspired take on disaster dates, yelp reviews, and emasculating date experiences. It is, by far, the best attempt at making you care. But if you don’t find the first four episodes to be that intriguing, inspiring, or any good, then I doubt this episode chock-full of adrenalin will make you watch the second half of the first season.
Both Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust give solid performances in Love, and you cannot say that they don’t play their characters the way they are written. They do a really good job here, but neither of them is the highlight of the show. Meet Bertie, Mickey’s new Australian roommate. Bertie is played excellently by Claudia O’Doherty, and she, along with Gillian Jacobs, is what kept me from turning off Love. But that’s the thing… While I really, really like Gillian Jacobs, and Claudia O’Doherty is a delight in Love, I cannot, in good faith, give this show a ‘ringing endorsement’.
Love doesn’t really have a set structure. Episodes vary in length from 30 minute episodes to full 40 minute episodes, and they don’t feel all that separate from each other. It’s just a five-to-six hour Apatow production. I was really surprised by the beginning of the show, but not in a good way. The first episode (“It Begins”) chronicles the downfall of both Gus and Mickey’s relationships with their significant others, and the time jumps feel odd as the content presented here would be enough for multiple episodes.
The opening episode rushes past the downfall of relationships, only to settle at Gus and Mickey’s meeting, whereafter you aren’t met with significant time jumps in any of the following episodes. When you then move on to the second episode (“One Long Day”), you continue right from the end of “It Begins”, and are presented with a short episode that feels too long all the same.
I have a really tough time wanting to like this show. I like romantic comedies, but this show feels like it’s trying to sell three things at once, with none of those values really being significantly different or unique. For one, the two main characters are flawed, which should be a positive thing for this show, but with Love I keep asking myself why I should cheer for them. While I really like the actors that play the parts, I fail to really attach myself to any character, seeing as their relatability is drowned out by the fact that they are too screwed up or unappealing for me to truly care for. At a certain point you stop relating to them, and start feeling sad for them.
Also, I just don’t find the show all that funny. This type of show should make you laugh over how you can relate with the problems of the main characters, but when these characters are in such a bad place as they are revealed to be in, then you just feel sorry for them instead. Only a few jokes really landed with me over the course of the ten episode season, and the dry wit never really got to me.
My last significant problem with the show is that it just doesn’t fare all that well in a comparative analysis. There are many shows that do what Love does much better, with more of a raw, relatable power than what is set up here. Apatow’s HBO production Girls is, when compared, in leaps and bounds a step above what Netflix has on its hands here.
At the time of writing, Netflix has already agreed to produce a second season of Love, and that does make me happy for Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, and Claudia O’Doherty, but I really need to see the show improve in its second season. Because, from what I’ve gathered from the first season, this show is a slow burn, and a mostly unromantic, rarely amusing comedy, which relies almost solely on the relatability of its characters. When a show is called Love, then you expect to love at least some parts of it. But I really don’t.
– I’m Jeffrey Rex