The romantic comedy genre is one that has been a staple of our screens for decades. In my view, most of them are predictable snooze fests that follow the same tired old clichéd tropes to tell frankly unrealistic love stories that just end up annoying me in the end. However, sometimes you get the odd one that manages to break free from the pack and tell a slightly more believable story and feature characters who actually feel like real people instead of stock characters that stand around looking handsome. One such series is the Netflix original series Love, a romantic comedy/drama (or dramedy if you prefer) that while falling into some clichéd areas, still manages to feel realistic and funny.
Gus and Mickey are two very different people, who following the painful ends of their respective relationships are inadvertently brought together and attempt to embark upon their own relationship, a relationship that will soon be fraught with laughter, pain and love.
Those going into Love expecting it to reinvent the wheel with regards to the romantic comedy genre might want to look elsewhere. Love does very little new or original with the genre as a whole, telling a fairly run of the mill “boy meets girl” story and the various familiar beats that those stories tend to follow. However, what makes this frankly overdone story feel watchable and fresh are the excellent performances from the cast.
Paul Rust (who also co-created the series) is an infuriating joy to watch as the nerdy Gus, with his every attempt to improve his lot in life, especially in his dreams to become a writer for TV and film, resulting in disaster as he continuously loses his temper and makes a fool of himself. You just find yourself wishing he’d keep his mouth shut for two minutes so he can actually achieve something, but it’s still very funny when he royally screws up his situation.
The real star of the show is Gillian Jacobs (a familiar face to fans of the excellent TV comedy Community) in a terrific performance as the emotionally damaged Mickey. Jacobs does much of the series dramatic heavy lifting, with her character providing many of the more moving and dramatic moments of the series as she attempts to control her various addictions to alcohol, drugs and sex, often with mixed results. Although excelling on the dramatic side of things I’ll give Jacobs credit on her comic skills, with her having lost none of the comic prowess that she displayed on Community. Her cross-eyed “I’m Betty Davis” routine in particularly is probably one of the funniest jokes of the whole series.
While the two stars are great on their own, the moments when they share the screen provide many of the show’s finest moments, especially in their initial meeting which consists of the two making funny back and forth wisecracks while sharing a nice bit of weed in Mickey’s car. The shows dramatic moments are probably when the two are at their best, as they tear into each other, exploiting each other’s flaws and laying bare their respective emotional issues that have ended past relationships and prevented them both from achieving true happiness, even perhaps with each other.
Aside from Rust and Jacob’s fine leading performances props have to be given to the supporting cast who, in my view, provide much of the funniest material in the show, while also offering some fine dramatic moments.
Iris Apatow is excellent as Arya, the bratty child star of cheesy TV show Witchita, whom Gus teaches as an onset tutor. Also excellent is Brett Gelman as Mickey’s colleague Dr Greg, a slightly maniacal radio psychiatrist who often provides brutal yet prophetic assessments of Mickey’s relationships with other people, including himself.
The best of the supporting cast in my view is easily Claudia O’Doherty as Bertie, Mickey’s lovable Australian roommate whose somewhat difficult attempts to navigate life in her own sunny, super positive, happy go lucky way make for many awkwardly funny moments. The subplot dealing with her own romantic relationship with Gus’s friend Randy makes for some great laughs, including a very awkward, but painfully funny break up scene, that only from bad to worse when Randy’s belligerent oddball brother enters the room.
Now I’ll be honest, this show isn’t the funniest comedy in the world and whether or not you will find it funny very much depends on your own preferences on comedy. Those who find near constant swearing and shouting will love the series, with the characters particularly Rust and Jacobs when they really get into things unleash a torrent of f**ks on each other, often to the point of overkill, those who dislike that sort of thing though will likely turn off within a few minutes.
However, while I’ll admit that many of the jokes didn’t land for me, I was still captivated by the shows more dramatic moments which I felt really allowed the actors to show their talents off. The primary reason that the show works despite being rather clichéd, is because the characters feel like real people, they are both highly flawed individuals burdened by their emotional baggage and various vices, they lie to each other, they cheat on each other and they break each other’s hearts more than once throughout the first two seasons.
While Love might rely on the very tried and tested romantic comedy formula, the stellar work of the cast, especially Jacobs standout performance as Mickey, the realistic and flawed characters, and the often funny exploits of the supporting cast make this a show worth watching. Not the most original show in the world, but still one that’s worth some love.
[rating=4] | Graeme Robertson
Comedy, Romance, Drama | 15 | Streaming Now | Netflix | Creator. Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Paul Rust | Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O’Doherty,