Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) are ostensibly the worst. Jimmy’s “commitment to honesty” gets him kicked out of his ex-girlfriend’s wedding after he loudly lambasts her for even inviting him. Gretchen steals a present from the same wedding because she believed it was a food processor (it was really a blender). They meet outside over cigarettes and bitch about how the marriage is doomed. They share a few snarky glances. They go back to Jimmy’s place and have sex. Gretchen stays over despite Jimmy’s reservations. She leaves in the morning, but later returns for her purse. They exchange cruel insults: Jimmy calls her an “amateur” for sleeping over and Gretchen attacks his assumption that she wanted to sleep with him in the first place. She steals his car. He calls her later to commend her for her honesty, and to tell her that he’s going to file a police report in the morning. After some half-hearted phone sex, they agree to see each other again. It’s the meet-cute for the cynical and sarcastic.
Creator and writer Stephen Falk could easily have written Jimmy and Gretchen as pure caricatures. On a worse show, Jimmy and Gretchen’s meanness would be endlessly celebrated and their harsh truths treated like gospel. Their respective characterizations would have been the sum total of their insults. But the real strength of the pilot comes from Falk’s unwillingness to let his two main characters off the hook while also grounding their bitterness in reality. Jimmy is a writer who rages against humanity because of a broken heart and his flat book sales. He clings to the misguided principle of valuing honesty above all else, but as Gretchen rightfully points out, chewing a bride out on her wedding day doesn’t suddenly make you the most honest person alive. In reality, Jimmy believes he’s the last bastion of truth but routinely lies to himself.
Meanwhile, Gretchen is technically a publicist but is really a glorified babysitter: She spends her day getting a rapper (Brandon Smith) and his entourage to apologize for destroying a photographer’s equipment, and then is later tasked to fetch them cocaine. After she sleeps with her film director friend (Stephen Schneider, or Jeremy from Broad City), she steals his cocaine and ends up doing some alone in his bathtub. One needs only a single static shot of her face as she sits in his tub high and alone to realize that no one needs to illustrate her problems to her. She’s acutely aware of them already, even if she isn’t doing anything about it.
Jimmy and Gretchen work as a couple because they’re two people whose lives aren’t exactly where they want them to be and they’re mad at the world because of it. They revel in telling each other the worst things they’ve done because they know the other won’t be horrified. They’re lost and lonely even if they will only allude to it in between trying to get each other off. It’s a testament to Geere and Cash’s natural chemistry that the coupling is completely believable, and plus it helps transcend the rom-com clichés inherent in their relationship—she’s scared of relationships, he doesn’t believe in them, both have clearly been hurt before, etc.
But while You’re the Worst’s pilot establishes Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship well enough, it doesn’t really do much else beyond blandly introducing the supporting cast. Jimmy’s roommate Edgar (Desmin Borges), a war veteran that suffers from PTSD, is a standout but isn’t given much to do yet except act strange and point out the obvious to Jimmy. Gretchen’s one-dimensional married friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) is barely a presence at all but for a single scene. And Killian (Shane Francis Smith) is solid as the stone-faced kid who lives across the street from Jimmy, but again, he doesn’t do much except take Jimmy’s disdain for him with good humor. These characters will surely be fleshed out in subsequent episodes, but for now, they exist purely as rom-com archetypes—the Best Friends and the Cute Kid.
The other main problem is that You’re the Worst is still trying to find its comedic voice. As of now, it’s more clever than funny as it alternates between writerly insults and raunchy humor. It tries to offset acerbity with intermittent sweetness, but occasionally ends up a little more sour than it intends to. Plus, it relies too heavily on the freedoms basic cable offers them, such as showcasing plenty of sex scenes just because it can. It’s difficult to tell if You’re the Worst will permanently lean into the realm of vulgar humor and titillating sex scenes or find that intelligently crass sweet spot, but it’s too early to write the series off completely because of this.
You’re the Worst can be forgiven for a few of these missteps because it nails the subtext of its premise: Jimmy and Gretchen may think they’re the worst, and they sometimes do things that earn that title, but in reality, they’re not so bad. They put up plenty of defenses because they’re bitter and scared, and they act toxically because their lives are filled with uncertainty, but that makes them more normal than they realize. Their folly is rooted in believing they’re alone in that struggle, which ultimately leads them into each other’s beds. Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t the worst, they’re just human. So far, anyway.
- Hello! My name is Vikram and I’ll be reviewing this series for the near future. Let’s collectively start our engines.
- Easily the most annoying thing about the pilot is its insistence on repeatedly saying “the worst,” as if people will forget the show’s title in the middle of the episode. I believe they said it upwards of six times, but I could be missing a couple.
- Geere is pretty good as Jimmy, but his dickishness can sometimes be a little grating. Meanwhile, Cash is fantastic from the get-go.
- Falk threads a very tight needle with Edgar as he allows his humor come from his eccentricity, which is a result of his PTSD, rather than the PTSD itself. Borges also sells the writing really well, especially his delivery of his “real problems” line: “Like, the nightmares, and the crying, and how I want to do heroin all the time.”
- Edgar and Jimmy have my favorite exchange in the pilot: “I was defending our country.” “Oh, please. You weren’t defending anything except for the business interests of evil men.” “Jimmy, our country is the business interests of evil men!”
- Jimmy’s rant to Killian about the difficulties of adulthood is pretty great: “I’m an adult. Do you know what that means? It means that I’m beset upon at all times by a tsunami of complex thoughts and struggles, unceasingly aware of my own mortality, and able to contemplate the futility of everything, and yet still rage against the dying of the light.”
- “Getting married doesn’t remove you from the burden of having to act like a human being.”