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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Jimmy and Gretchen are on the run in the one-hour <i>You're The Worst </i>season premiere

Jimmy and Gretchen are on the run in the one-hour You're The Worst season premiere

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“It’s pathetic to live in anything but the truth,” Jimmy tells Bert (Raymond J. Berry), his crusty retiree friend, near the halfway point of the You’re The Worst hour-long fourth season premiere. That line scans as a clichéd quip you would read in a mediocre self-help book under the best circumstances, but coming from Jimmy, it reeks of hypocrisy. If there’s one thing that ties Jimmy and his now ex-girlfriend/fiancée Gretchen together, it’s that they run from the truth almost as soon as it sees the light. Sure, they’re works in progress, and a combination of therapy and a committed relationship did wonders for the both of them, but old habits die very hard. When shit hits the proverbial fan, it’s almost too predictable what both Jimmy and Gretchen will do next.

It’s been… three months since Jimmy proposed to Gretchen and then almost immediately abandoned her on a Los Angeles hilltop. In the interim, Jimmy left Los Angeles and has moved to a retirement motor home in the hills. He has adopted the life of an ascetic, forgoing all technology (save for a old TV) and living off the bare essentials. His phone gathers dust in the corner while he fiddles around with a digital clock and a landline. He occasionally fixes things for the other residents and watches old episodes of The Fall Guy on DVD with Bert, his grumpy companion and an obvious harbinger of Jimmy’s future if he doesn’t change.

Meanwhile, Gretchen drove to Lindsay’s new apartment as soon as Jimmy left and she hasn’t so much has set foot outside since. She’s somehow kept her job through some impressive lying (she’s told Sam, Shitstain, and HoneyNutz that she’s in Europe “scoping for new talent”) and is still on her meds, but she’s spiraling fast. She smokes weed (and occasionally crack) like there’s no tomorrow and performs desperate gestures like binge-listening Jack FM’s 90s block (“What a great decade for music! We were so lucky!”) and putting beads in her hair. She ran just like Jimmy, only not as far away.

The first part of “It’s Been” follows Jimmy’s time in the retirement community as he slowly realizes that he needs to re-enter civilization, and the second part tracks Gretchen as she deals with the fallout, along with Lindsay and Edgar who are thriving in their new jobs. Written and directed by Stephen Falk, the bifurcated premiere adopts a tone that fits both Jimmy and Gretchen; the first half has a measured pace, a la Jimmy’s lifestyle, and features more low-key humor and drama, while the second half is more manic and is jammed with jokes and scenes befitting Gretchen’s semi-manic state. It’s an interesting showcase for Falk as both halves allow him to exercise different sides of his brain: Jimmy’s section allows him to flex his visual sense, with the open landscape and the trailer interiors acting as an appropriate canvas to capture Jimmy’s loneliness, and Gretchen’s section is more writerly and features some of his snappiest scripts in the series so far.

Jimmy’s half suffers in comparison to Gretchen’s only because much of it depends on his interactions with a guest actor. Though Raymond J. Berry is always a welcome presence (his work on Justified is stellar), Jimmy’s interactions with him just don’t hold as much weight as Gretchen’s scenes with Lindsay or Lindsay’s scenes with Edgar because of the series’ history. It works nevertheless because of Geere and Berry’s performances, but there are times when it feels a bit generic, even with the deep-cut TV references (this might be the first time a reference to The Fall Guy has ever been at the center of a sitcom) and the on-point production design.

Essentially, Jimmy’s new friend Bert struggles with the reality that comes from aging. He refuses to give up his car even though he’s dangerous on the road, he’s cold to the other retirees because he doesn’t want to be associated with the elderly, and he makes outbursts in public that alienate children and adults alike. In short, he’s Jimmy without any friends or loved ones to keep him in check, and Falk does lean on that idea a little hard in spots. Jimmy tries to get him to accept his reality after a run-in with Gail, a retiree only trying to help him, and a close call on the road, but Bert reacts the way Jimmy would, by spewing harsh truths, and when Jimmy responds with cheap insults, he socks him in the jaw. Jimmy doesn’t listen because he doesn’t want to, and if there’s any one thing You’re The Worst has preached since the beginning, it’s that change must come from within.

Jimmy does leave the community after receiving a copy of his new book in the mail. In the most effective scene in the premiere, Jimmy finally turns on his phone (Geere literally blowing off the dust was a nice touch) and is showered in notifications. Falk closes in on his face as the iPhone notification noise swells in the mix, and you can almost read guilt and fear in Geere’s face as Jimmy realizes the people he’s left behind. He departs the next day for Los Angeles in Bert’s car, telling him that he sold his own BMW and for him to use the money to either purchase a plane ticket to see his friends or to buy a better TV.

In the second half, Gretchen flounders in Los Angeles while Lindsay thrives as first a part-time stylist’s assistant and then as a full-time stylist. The problem is that Lindsay actually has real work she cares about for the first time in her life and Gretchen won’t give her space, plying her with drugs and delivery food. Eventually, Lindsay finds out that Gretchen hasn’t left the apartment in three months and, after Edgar tells her that Jimmy hasn’t returned home either, she forces her to go outside. Of course, this leads to Gretchen bothering Lindsay at work, forcing Lindsay to put her foot down and telling her that she can’t come back to the apartment.

Though the second half is more conventional than the first, it also features the episode’s funniest material. Falk’s great script aside, Kether Donohue’s performance is stellar, especially when she’s playing off of Gretchen’s more fractured personality, and both Lindsay and Edgar really benefit from more structured personas. But Gretchen nails the episodes’ funniest scene when she sings the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” as a way to avoid talking about her breakup with Jimmy. Obviously, Aya Cash nails the song (especially the “Chalet Swiss” line), but the comedy almost entirely derives from the editing. In eight shots, You’re The Worst sells Gretchen’s commitment not to talking about Jimmy and Lindsay’s fear that she’s lost her friend without ever once losing the humor. It’s the little things that make it work, like the reaction shot of a cab driver silently watching the scene or Lindsay’s yelp as she runs away from Gretchen during her Canadian Rock assault.

It’s a good call on Falk’s part to spend much of Gretchen’s half on Lindsay and Edgar, who’s working away in the writer’s room at Doug Loves Sketches, because we’ve already been privy to Gretchen’s behavior when she falls into depressive states. He’s careful not to overload us with the same kind of material, relegating the most dramatic moments to brief outbursts or small responses. It’s devastating when Lindsay tells Gretchen she can’t be her “only person” and Gretchen asks, “Why not?” in a small voice, mostly because Falk is careful to make her attention-seeking behavior count. When she predictably ends up back in bed with Ty Wyland (Stephen Schneider), her douchebag filmmaker ex, it’s less of a typical cry for help and more of a desperate culmination of behavior we know too well.

But no escape can last forever. Gretchen receives a text from Jimmy mid-coitus that says, “Hey…”, but she chooses to ignore it and focus on the man in front of her. Only time will tell if these crazy kids get back together or if they go their separate ways, but something tells me Jimmy and Gretchen will find their way into each other’s toxic arms soon enough.

Stray observations

  • Hello, and welcome to You’re The Worst season four. I’m your host Vikram Murthi. I’ll be here for the next few weeks yet again.
  • Bert gets a nice ending: He accepts his place in the community and purchases a home projector so he and the other retirees can watch 80s TV under the stars.
  • I’m not sure how Edgar and Lindsay hooking up will play down the line, but I do like Edgar smugly talking about the idea of “friends with benefits” as if it’s a new thing.
  • In his time away from Los Angeles, Jimmy has gotten into karaoke. He sings songs like Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” to ease the heartbreak.
  • Gretchen’s tone-deaf cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” is a helluva season introduction.
  • Jimmy tries to sell Bert on watching L.A. Law: “It’s a bit dated, but there’s a satisfying Albee-esque bite if you can see past the mullets and the baggy suits.”
  • Other TV shows available at the library: House of Cards, The A-Team, Wonderfalls, Deadwood, Ugly Betty, and The Profiler.
  • HoneyNutz wasn’t on the Skype call with Gretchen because he’s getting a colonoscopy. “Well, he said it’s never too early to start, but come on. We all know the truth. Zachary craves any kind of human touch.”
  • Some of Edgar’s pitches for Doug Loves Sketches (“It’s about sketches. Doug loves them.”): “What if guns were puns?”; “Cat on a hot tin-tin roof”; “Blind bus driver”; “Baby Jurassic Park”; “7/11/9/11”; “1920s Seinfeld”; and my favorite: “Speed? Makes it safely but hits a ped at the end.”
  • “Yeah, you’re right the DVD selection is pathetic here. But what do you expect from a town whose tax money all goes to opioid treatment and bark beetle eradication.”
  • “You’re only 71? Jesus Christ. What were you, a Nepalese Sherpa? You look like a boat dock came to life.”
  • “Read these. They’re a good start for understanding my style philosophy, and influences, and probably the origins of my body dysmorphia, why I eat ice for lunch.”
  • “You’re listening to poor people radio, you have the bush of an old Italian man, you’re doing crack.”
  • “Not that Jack would care. That guy does not play like society’s rules.”
  • “I know. Let’s go kill someone.” “FOCUS.”

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.

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