Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

And so, It (the show Love and also this series of reviews) Begins

Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Love binge-watch. From Friday, February 19 through Sunday, February 21, A.V. Club contributor Shelby Fero will be watching and reviewing every episode of Netflix’s new romantic comedy. You can watch and comment along with her here, or chime in on the individual episode reviews. For those watching the show at a more moderate pace, reviews by Molly Eichel will run daily starting Monday, February 22.

“Love” is a loaded word. My own view of it vacillates between my parents solid 30-plus year marriage, in all of its glowing normalcy, and the one-sided, ”hooking up exclusively but we’re not labeling it” things that flourish in the city. Arfin, Rust, and Apatow strike out to parse through these conflicting ideals, and dig into the messy business that is “love.” What’s striking about “It Begins,” is how much time is dedicated to our two main leads before they even meet (the entire episode), proposing that the stage set for “love” is as important as what’s to follow.

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It’s not the least familiar ground: nice-guy Gus gets blindsided by the admission from his girlfriend (Milana Vayntrub) that she cheated on him–although it shouldn’t necessarily have been all that blind-siding. Not-so-nice girl Mickey backslides into a short-lived relationship with her coked up, over grown, mall rat ex-boyfriend (a manic, beardless Kyle Kinane). Their opposing relationships stand as two examples of the types of “love” we accept into our lives: boring, but familiar, monogamy, and toxic, but exciting, dalliances. These are two Hollywood-Adjacent, Not That Young Anymore White People dealing with life in all of its realistic, messy glory. If that is anywhere in the realm of “your thing,” you will enjoy Love tremendously.

As someone who lives and works in Los Angeles, Gus and Mickey’s day-to-day lives hit uncomfortably close to home (literally, in one shot I recognize my old street), and I can say that this show is pretty G-D accurate. The only unrealistic conversation is Charlene Yi’s character suggesting the “repressed, hostile nerds” live in Santa Monica, like they’re not all mobbing everywhere east of K-Town.

Arfin and Co. view Los Angeles through an affectionate lens; the city itself is a conspicuous backdrop. With Transparent and Love both set noticeably in the City of Angels, it seems that streaming TV tries hard to win us over to its side (you’ll never take me alive, Apatow!) There’s an enchanting grunge allowed in Los Angeles: A mother can live in an apartment complex with her young son, wear Converse, and freely dispense Ambien without anyone blinking an eye–she probably also drinks green juice and enrolls her son in the best Montessori school in Silverlake. And the guys at The Springwood (based wholly on the infamous, depressing Oakwood apartments) who have lived together for 18 years as “just best friends,” probably are just best friends, still trying to make it after a near two decades in Hollywood.

Mickey and Gus have parallel moments of clarity in their post-love lives, moments of “what the fuck am I doing?”–hers at a weird, late-night, love-based cult while on Ambien, his while having a maybe incestuous 3-way. They’re moments of realization, of “maybe I can’t survive like this anymore.” Speaking to the congregation of Bliss Hotel, a small-voiced Mickey opines about those Facebook friends who post ”pictures of their kids in little headbands,” asking “That can’t be it. Right?”

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Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe love doesn’t find us when we’ve learned to love ourselves, when we’ve sent enough karmic love out into the universe to earn some back; when we’ve turned our life into the perfect, “weathered Oak furniture” Pinterest board. Or, maybe love finds those “dipshits from highschool,” the ones posting all those picture that way. But for other people, maybe love finds you after one really, really bad night.

Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:

  • Apatow loves these one word shows huh?
  • Can child stars really talk like that? Am I allowed to talk like that??
  • Since I feel unnervingly close to the material, I’d be interested to know how Love appeals to, say, my older sister in Med school, or the friend who lives happily in Colorado with a stable job and family.
  • Woah! Iris Apatow really showed up to play. She kills it.
  • Woah! The Grubes is here! David Allen welcome back to my screen, it has been far too long.
  • Man I wish Witches of East End was still on
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