Written by Sooz Kempner

Arts

Why you should ❤️ Love

Caught up with Netflix’s Judd Apatow-helmed sitcom yet? Then what, asks Sooz Kempner, are you playing at?

Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust). All photos: Netflix.

Not quite a meet-cute: Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust). All photos: Netflix.

One of Netflix’s latest original series, Love looks at dating in your 30s. There are 10 episodes and you can easily burn through them in a day on your couch. Why not team most of the episodes with Emmental cheese, like I did?

Like Girls (also produced by Judd Apatow), Love isn’t afraid to make its characters flawed and occasionally thoroughly unlikeable. Apatow created the series with Paul Rust, who also stars, and Lesley Arfin (Rust’s real-life wife who also wrote for Girls) so if you like the unflinching, watch-through-splayed-fingers nature of Girls you are going to be eating Love like I eat Emmental.

Our leads are Rust’s Gus, a beta-male wannabe-writer who tutors an obnoxious child star on Witchita, a terrible supernatural series about witches. Gus breaks up with his long-term girlfriend when she tells him she cheated on him early in the first episode. Meanwhile, Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), a wayward alcoholic, ends her relationship with her coke-addict boyfriend.

Eventually Mickey and Gus meet, opposites attract and they become the perfect, happy sitcom couple. Jokez, guys. Their courtship is funny, sad, excruciating and you’ll have so much fun fighting with yourself over whether you want them to end up living happily ever after or immediately cutting all contact with each other forever.

“The fact that she is beautiful hasn’t stopped Mickey being a mess. She’s an alcoholic, she makes terrible decisions, she can barely function in her own company.”

The slow-burn nature of the series brings an element of freshness to the boy-meets-girl format that is older than the moving image itself. I’m pretty sure cavemen painted will-they-won’t-they stories on walls, so Love isn’t a new story. Even the insertion of grime (there’s plenty of bad sex, awkward dates and even some mundane stalking) is nothing new – but that doesn’t make it any less of a riveting watch and it somehow manages to be both original and extremely contemporary.

I’ve seen criticism levelled at the show regarding its ‘trope’ of the ugly guy getting the hot girl. It’s a little unfair. For starters, Gus isn’t ugly. He’s a little nerdy, slightly awkward and doesn’t look like Brad Pitt, but the way I’ve heard him described by the series’ detractors you’d think he was a dog turd with sequins for eyes. He looks like your typical boy next door and seems a lot of fun to start with, if a little needy.

Reducing Mickey down to ‘the hot girl’ is pretty reductive too. The show’s MVP is definitely Gillian Jacobs who gives an unflinching, fearless performance throughout and the fact that she is beautiful hasn’t stopped Mickey being a mess. She’s an alcoholic, she makes terrible decisions, she can barely function in her own company. And it’s not presented as Mickey being a funny kook. Haha! She was texting while driving and drove in to the back of someone then drove away! That’s kooky and funny… right?

Well, at least someone's happy: Mickey's roommate Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty).

Well, at least someone’s happy: Mickey’s roommate Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty).

Love isn’t afraid to go dark. Surprisingly dark. The timeline of most of the series is no more than a few days and, without wishing to spoil anything, Mickey’s behaviour is worrying. And Gus is no one-note nice-guy geek; he’s selfish, he’s passive aggressive, he’s narcissistic. More than once he is told he’s not a nice guy, he’s just a guy pretending to be nice. This coupled with Mickey’s insecurities creates quite the storm and the show is clever in that you’re never sure whose side you’re on.

I think it’s unfair to label Love as a male fantasy. Sure, it’s slightly unbelievable that two girls would attempt a threesome with Gus but, as you’ll see, this does not end well for anyone involved.

The cast is fantastic with ace performances across the board. Even the smallest roles are impeccably cast. The stand-outs for me are comedian Claudia O’Doherty as Mickey’s upbeat roommate Bertie (her date with Gus in episode five is a cringeworthy masterpiece) and Briga Heelan as Heidi, an all-too-familiar ambitious actress.

Love is wonderful because it shows us behaviour we both totally recognise and completely abhor. Agonising over punctuation in text messages, driving yourself crazy over innocent Facebook posts and scoffing at magic on a date – we’ve all been there. I haven’t of course, I’m always completely rational. But you probably have. Watch Love.

@SoozUK

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Written by Sooz Kempner

Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.