Earlier this year we saw the release of a new Netflix Original series, Love. The series is categorized as a comedy and you can probably guess by its title that it deals with romance and relationships–hardly a new combination in the world of TV shows, which makes it all the more difficult for Love to pull off a fresh take on the topic – or at least shed some fresh humour on it. I only watched the first three episodes because that was all I cared to watch, and I got a strong sense that Love does not present a fresh take on either relationships, romance, or humour.
The series was created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin and Paul Rust. Apatow is well known for directing films like The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and Knocked up (2007) and has worked on the show Girls, created by Lena Dunham. Arfin has also worked as a writer on Girls, and Paul Rust, who is a comedian, writer and musician, stars as the male lead, Gus, in Love. Given each of these creators’ background in romantic comedies and television, one would think between the three of them they would be able to come up with something fresher than Love, but the series is nothing more than your average, recycled character tropes and trying-too-hard-to-be-funny unfunny humour.
Love centres around Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs): two thirty-somethings living in L.A doing mediocre jobs who can’t seem to find love or have lasting, meaningful relationships. By chance, they meet at a gas station and from there a friendship forms. The premise is nothing we haven’t seen before and its simplicity is probably something that will endure for decades in television; the trick is creating unique writing and characters to fill the plot, but this is where Love fails.
Gus is your typical weak, hipster geek who lets everyone walk all over him and is clueless in the most innocent and ignorant of ways. “Adorkable” is, I believe, the trending word to describe this kind of character, who is ultimately rather one dimensional. Mickey’s character is even more clichéd. In fact, Mickey is very reminiscent of Britta Perry from Community, who is also incidentally played by the same actress, Gillian Jacobs. She’s sarcastic, unlikeable, and bitter to the point of having a “mad at the world” sort of vibe. Her quirkiness and short temper is, I guess, supposed to be funny or endearing in some kind of way–how can you not love her vulgar ranting one minute and her down-to-earth “Let’s get high” attitude the next? Mickey makes for a seemingly complex character, but only in the most stereotypical of ways. That is to say, she’s not very complex and comes off as more of a caricature than anything else.
Recycled plot lines paired with clichéd characters makes for a rather disappointing viewing and I was hoping perhaps the writing would make up for that, but it doesn’t. Three episodes later and I forgot I was even watching a comedy. The humour is essentially nonexistent. I’m not sure what it is that makes this comedy. The major overuse of the words ‘fuck,’ ‘fucking’ and ‘motherfucker’ did not add comedic value; it was just plain vulgarity to the point where I was embarrassed for the actors for having to say some of the dialogue. The attempt at comedy feels lazy as Love seems to (try to) draw its humour from un-lovely things: angry, judgmental and touchy people and hateful situations, such as Mickey aggressively having sex with her boss because she thinks if she doesn’t he will fire her. It’s like anger and rants are somehow the new stand up comedy, except minus the punch line and laughter.
Given Apatow and Arfin’s involvement with Girls, it’s expected that some of that would carry over into Love – and it does – but not in a good way. Love is the ugly half cousin twice removed from Girls; the feel of the show is similar as is the content and attempt at humour, but Love remains too caricatured and poorly written to carry any actual wit or originality while Girls presents itself as being more unique in its brashness and overall more realistic and relatable content. Even though Girls probably has even more unlikeable characters than Love, at least Girls actually finds humour amongst its characters and remains unpredictable in their actions and story lines.
However, despite the mediocre-ness of Love, its content is relevant and significant to our society; plenty of young people struggle at finding meaningful jobs and relationships that bring them happiness and success, and ultimately those are probably the most prevalent end goals among just about anyone you meet. Perhaps you may find sympathy for Gus and his unlucky streak of bad relationships, or Mickey and her poor relationship choices and never ending quest for love. Perhaps you can even relate to one of them. But unlike the nitty-gritty unique brazenness of Girls, Love is too aware of itself as a TV show to overcome its own Hollywood, cutesy vibe for it to be fresh or distinguished. This is one Netflix Original (though probably not the first) that is, unfortunately, not that original.