Judd Apatow’s very name inspires ideas of box office success and, of course, laughs, with his slew of rom-coms for adults packing the theaters and air waves since the days of Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up. His latest effort, the Netflix original show Love starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust, is a hilariously real and yet frustrating notch in his big belt.
Netflix, as per usual, releases all of its show’s episodes at once, allowing viewers to binge-watch said shows and then tweet about how ‘binge-worthy’ they are. And the streaming service has been pretty successful in this regards to original content — Orange Is the New Black, Daredevil, House of Cards and Jessica Jones, to name a few. You could say Netflix has been largely responsible for this so-called ‘golden era’ of television our generation is witnessing.
Case in point, with such a big name producing the project and a reputable medium backing it, Love should everything going for it. Unfortunately, the binge-system in place fails this genuinely funny and likable comedy. The pilot “It Begins” itself isn’t all that bad and is somewhat successful in what it’s trying to accomplish — that is, if we knew what the show was trying to accomplish.
Centering around two thirty-something screw-ups, anything-addict Mickey (Jacobs) and failed nerd-hipster Gus (Rust), the show’s broad topic of love in Los Angeles is an ode to the isolation many feel in the modern world. While one is a lackadaisical radio program manager determined to return to her own vomit like a dog, because what else is she going to do, the other is busy trying to make something of himself as a writer but fails to get past on-set tutor to a spoiled child actress.
Eventually, like all rom-coms, the two leads meet in a boy-meets-girl fashion, but their courtship is anything but romantic. After ditching her coked-up ex, Mickey has a hard time understanding Gus’ nice-guy routine. Being cheated on by his ex — only after nervously asking her to move in with him during cringe-worthy sex — has made Gus nothing short of a watered down version his former passive-aggressive self; just think, once his ex demanded he drop his ‘fake nice’ attitude, he admitted to wishing she’d be the victim of vehicular manslaughter. Does that sound like the kind of guy you’d want next to you while you sleep?
That’s not to say Mickey’s doing so hot either. Ditching her ex and getting a new Aussie roommate should have set this recovering addict on the right path, but by the time she meets up with our wimpy protagonist, she’s right back to her old destructive ways. But the pilot does gain sympathy for her where it fails Gus. At a ‘love and light’ kind of church meeting, which her ex now attends since he’s kind of fixed his life, the swimsuit wearer makes a speech while high on Ambien, in which she claims that asking the world for love hasn’t gotten her anything.
Despite these moments of brutal clarity, Love is ultimately like a cake batter recipe gone wrong: if you don’t measure everything just right, you get a crappy cake. And no one likes to eat a crappy cake, just like no one likes watching and wading through four episodes of aimless sludge before actually getting somewhere in the plot. It’s here that Apatow, and show writers-real married couple Rust and Lesley Arfin, makes a crucial error in stream-shows.
To assume that an audience will continue to watch all 10 episodes of a show simply because they’re all available at once is ludicrous and takes the audience and the medium for granted. If it had aired on network television in a strict 30-minute slot — unlike Apatow’s chosen free-form length — then it would be a reasonable assumption that each episode would have appeared tightly edited, much like a comedy should be. However, the opposite is also true. If Love was airing on television in it’s current form, we don’t think very many people would stick it out to the end. In that way, offering up all episodes at once did this new show a solid.
As it is, Love is actually a witty show that gets buried under bland filler that lasts for half a season. Fortunately it will get a chance to do better, seeing as how Netflix ordered a second season before anyone even had a chance to binge this one.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
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