By now, viewers have come to expect nothing but high-quality, original programming from media giant Netflix. And with the premiere of the new show Love, Netflix is adding yet another fine show to its already impressive line up of well-casted, well-written original comedies, joining the likes of Master of None, BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. All 12 episodes of season one were released on the streaming site on Feb. 19, less than a week after Valentine’s Day.
Sometimes slow and messy, but often showing signs of promise, the show is best described as a rom-com with just enough rom to make you “aww,” yet just enough com to make you forget there was ever any rom in there to begin with.
Co-created by comedy bard Judd Apatow and writer and comedian Paul Rust, the series follows Mickey (Gillian Jacobs), a self-centered and self-destructive radio-show producer, and Gus (Rust), a nerdy on-set tutor for a TV show and an aspiring screenwriter, as they navigate the murky waters of dating, relationships, friendship and love in the flat metropolis of Los Angeles.
The two are polar opposites. Mickey is an addict in denial and Gus is a naïve people-pleaser. Each one is reeling from a recent breakup, and both find themselves lost and clueless as they try to figure out what to do next. In true romantic comedy fashion, Mickey and Gus meet under the most happenstance of situations: at a gas station mini mart while Mickey finds herself in need of coffee but without her wallet. It’s clear that the two have chemistry, and what follows is a series of events that take Mickey and Gus on a roller coaster of self-discovery as they try to figure out what they want from life, their careers, relationships and each other.
Judd Apatow — mostly known for his raunchy yet hilarious films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up — returns to his sitcom writing roots with Love, roots that go back to such comedy classics as The Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks and most recently, Girls. Apatow, Rust and friends all provide some insightful, honest and down-to-earth musings about love and romance in the 21st century, while still providing hilarious moments that would feel right at home in some of Apatow’s famous bro-mantic comedies. Throughout the series, the writers keep the viewer engaged as one episode segues perfectly into the next, each one picking up where the previous episode left off. It’s an increasingly popular storytelling model that lends itself well to streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, where viewers are more likely to binge on an entire series in a matter of days.
Jacobs sheds all remnants of Britta Perry from Community, and takes on the role of Mickey with full gusto. The Julliard-trained actress has a knack for playing morally flawed, emotionally stunted characters that are, at their core, well-meaning people. Rust is believable as the charmingly nerdy Gus, playing those nervous ticks and geeky mannerisms like a pro who’s seen his fair share of awkward moments.
But a rising star among the multi-talented cast is seen in Claudia O’Doherty as Mickey’s roommate Bertie. Bertie is the sweet, innocent Australian transplant who has unwittingly found herself in Mickey’s web of badassery, eventually getting caught up in some of Mickey and Gus’ hijinks.
In one standout episode — the fifth episode entitled “The Date,” written by Apatow and Rust — we see Gus and Bertie on a horrendous date after being set up by Mickey when she realizes the two friends are the nicest people she knows. Mickey’s decision to set the two up is ill-advised from the beginning. She does so to avoid her own feelings towards Gus and ignores that Gus and Bertie simply don’t share the chemistry she does with Gus.
The episode is jam-packed with everyone’s worst first date stories, fully realized in rapid fire succession. A mixed-up drink order, an annoyed and inattentive waiter and a poorly-worded statement or two all leave Gus and Bertie understandably annoyed. Gus doesn’t make things better when he wants to switch tables, which leads to an accidental text, a vulgar conversation about anal itchiness and someone choking and vomiting all over the restaurant floor. The scenes are peppered with moments of absurd dialogue and situations that bring Rust and O’Doherty’s comedic chops to the forefront.
The show is sweet and silly, raunchy and endearing, lovable and frustrating. It takes a while to find its footing, but it finds it quickly and delivers a story that is sure to grow on viewers. Fans of the Apatow brand or Netflix’s recent oeuvre of original comedies will not be disappointed. Love is as likeable as they come.