It’s interesting to watch cable networks figure out who they are, especially when they aren’t networks that build their space with their name. Things like Syfy and ABC Family tell you where you are (though it doesn’t work as well for History or TLC – seriously, “Learning”), but a lot of other networks have to squirm around a bit to figure out what their skin really feels like. I’m sure that they have theories going in, but mostly they throw out a few shows, figure out which ones actually become popular, and then try to figure out more shows that “seem like they’d be on the same channel.” There’s a certain “radio station” mentality going on behind-the-scenes, because the people who run networks want people to be a fan of the network itself, not just a show or two.
This is how you get to a place where FX (and FXX, considered as one network) has its own flavor. The network that has It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, fits with the network that has The League, Louie, Archer, etc.
The whole thing is actually very strange, and a little insulting, if you think about it too much. Besides, the entire operation seems to be based around hoping that a certain percentage of the population will actively avoid a new show based on no more information than the network it’s on. Sure, you want the flip side of that as well, but that’s somehow a little easier.
You’re the Worst, which kicked off last year on FX, and begins its second season tonight (September 9th) on FXX, is basically what happens if you distill the FX brand down over and over again until you’re left with that little chunk of pure evil from Time Bandits.
The real difficulty with a show like You’re the Worst is that it comes with an expiration. The first season’s theory consists of Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) being in a relationship by virtue of not being in a relationship, while almost constantly relaying the evils of the entire idea of relationships, and that just can’t go on forever. If you want to really be honest with these characters, the show has to morph, probably more than once, and while it’s still about them, it has to be about something else.
As we hit season two, they’ve moved in together, which is already the result of some serious shifting, but at some point, things are going to get real. When you’re a pair of misanthropes, who are not only vehemently opposed to people in general, but pretty much every idea people have come up with, getting real looks a lot different.
When you’re mantra is an ever-swirling mix of vaguely-aimed hate – old sucks, the background theory of relationships sucks, staying home sucks, “normal” sucks, sweaters suck – getting real means coming to the realization that raging against the machine is bloody tiring. But, when you’ve spent a season putting forward a certain persona in order to not get close to someone, life itself becomes a gargantuan game of chicken, and Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t blink first people.
This all means that while season one was in some sense its own show that revolved around figuring out the specifics of the satisfied disinterest inherent in these two acquiescing to repeated viewings of another person, season two is really a new show that has to spend a lot of its time convincing the audience they can live together without dying. But, it has to do it while still being hilarious, and that’s a lot to fit into a TV show every week.
The show manages it in the only way that’s actually possible, and that is by truly getting lost in its characters. This is a show, now, that has to have its writers completely surprised by where this season ends, and needs four or five people whose only job is to almost constantly chime in with, “Gretchen wouldn’t say that.”
If you have any theory of where the show is going, it simply won’t be as good. It could still be a decent, very worthwhile show, but it won’t be the most brilliant thing on television, and right now, it is. You just can’t get there (wherever) from here. These aren’t those people. Which is why they’re wonderful.