Call me a romantic, but I like my comedies funny and feel-good. Love fits the bill of funny (well, sometimes), but overall leaves you feeling pretty bad about people and love in general.
Love tells the story of a man and a woman falling in love and the rough start of their relationship. “Rough start,” though, might be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written. We are introduced to Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust), our protagonists (but also antagonists, because they are their own worst enemies) as their lives fall into more of an abyss than usual. The first episode uses beautiful framing to depict their mirroring storylines leading up to their first encounter. Despite its shortcomings, Love excels in its presentation of storylines and seamless transitions that make Mickey and Gus’s stories feel intertwined and relevant even when Mickey and Gus are nowhere near each other.
Following their individual breakups, Gus and Mickey struggle to find themselves. They are both forced to deal with their own problems as they exit clearly toxic relationships and enter into a (not as obviously toxic) relationship with each other. Mickey is an addict who dates awful men whom she returns to after leaving. Gus is an almost too nice, nerdy guy who’s generally needy and constantly worrying. Mickey and Gus’s relationship basically adds up to Mickey trying to date a nice guy to make up for the jerks of her past, and Gus trying to date an honest, edgy girl to make up for his lying, but pretty compatible girlfriend. Throughout the relationship, Gus and Mickey switch roles, Mickey becoming needier and Gus, more detached.
Love effectively shows its central love story and Gus and Mickey’s transformations throughout, but its plot ultimately left me unfulfilled. Even though Gus and Mickey may not be incompatible for each other, they are definitely not healthy for each other. Mickey is self-destructive, selfish and rude to Gus and his friends, but Gus is too nice to call her out on her shit. This causes a destructive lack of communication that makes Mickey all the more desperate and Gus more detached.
It’s painful to watch the two stumble around their relationship because even if they were able to work past their problems, I still wouldn’t want to see them together. Mickey and Gus do not bring out the best in each other, but provide outlets for each other to fall back into harmful habits. The stress that they both feel in the relationship causes not only harm to themselves, but to those around them and their careers. Most of my favorite moments (which were also the funniest) came from the storylines outside of Mickey and Gus’s relationship. Gus’s work as a tutor on the set of TV show Wichita and Mickey’s roommate Birdy’s focus group provided lighthearted, fun contrast to the darker main plot.
Love didn’t live up to my expectations for a comedy. I watch comedies to feel good. I want to laugh and I want to feel optimistic about the state of the world. Love, like an increasing number of comedies these days, focuses more on portraying love and people honestly and accurately. This depiction, however, is almost too realistic.
I look to television to provide an escape from stress and work. Comedies don’t need to be cheerful all the time like the almost absurd 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. There is a way to balance entertaining and funny with honest and meaningful, like Scrubs does. Love leans too far to the dark side of the spectrum. Despite its title, Love does not paint love in such a positive light. It shows that love is messy and not perfect, but it emphasizes this to the point where you start wondering if what Mickey and Gus is share is love at all, and if it is, whether it’s worth it. With strong performances, Love is a quality show, but not one to watch if you’re already feeling down.
Brynn Richter is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.