Love (Season 1) ★★½

Gus (Paul Rust) is in his thirties, recently single and a homebody. He has dark curly hair, he wears glasses, and he says just a few too many words every time he speaks to the extent of stumbling and inducing awkwardness. After his breakup with Natalie (Milana Vayntrub), he realizes- in typical rom-com fashion- he needs to be “true to [himself]”, noting that ever since he was a child, he was expected to act like an adult. Now he needs to make up for lost time.

loveGus suffers from a case of arrested development and this is the one thing he shares in common with Mickey’s exes, two of which grace (disgrace?) the screen throughout the season. Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus are a world apart: opposite attract, absolutely. Mickey suffers from dependency on alcohol, drugs, and sex. She struggles to consider other’s emotions, frequently resorting to argument, and she strongly believes that people become obligated to her if she has sex with them. At first she isn’t interested in Gus and sets up her roommate, Bertie (Claudia O’Doherty), with him on a date. It isn’t until after this date fails and Gus confesses he is romantically interested in her that she realizes she has feelings for him. Their relationship teeters when she becomes infatuated with him and is sensitive. She over-worries about damaging their relationship since she has not had a stable relationship since college.

For work, Gus is an on-set tutor for child actors. He hopes to become a writer and he discusses this with Mickey in ‘One Long Day’, an episode in the same veins of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy in that the two walk and talk, joke, and drive against the backdrop of Los Angeles. A few of his students have brat-like qualities, most notably Arya (Iris Apatow) who tells Mickey to follow her on Instagram after meeting her. Ultimately, his students enjoy having him as a tutor, but the job isn’t as creatively fulfilling as that of a writer.

A rather geeky activity that Gus and his friends do in their evenings is creating title songs for movies that don’t have one. They generate clichés, simple guitar riffs, and drum patterns without effort. It’s kind of cute in a nerdy way. When Gus leaves for work after staying at Mickey’s place, he tells her that she is invited to come but she says it sounds boring. To his surprise, she shows up to his jam session and the ‘meeting the friends’ stage of their relationship turns out to be mired with conflict due to Mickey’s disconnect with Gus’s friends and the presence of Heidi (Briga Heelan), a bubbly actress from Gus’s work who flaunts her breasts in a low-cut dress in an attempt to gain Gus’s attention. In this scene, Love most surely perpetuates the attractiveness gap we see in countless films and TV episodes.

As a TV series, Love adopts a few staples of the romantic comedy genre such as unlikely encounters between Gus and Mickey that are all-too-convenient and the presence of eccentric characters for comic relief. However, these characters are often extraneous and archetypal; Gus’s coworker, Kevin (Jordan Rock), remarks himself that he is a black friend who offers advice that always seems to be present in movies. Apart from Gus and Mickey, Love’s other characters are one-dimensional, seemingly without their own lives and struggles outside of their interactions with the two. Gus himself remains a static character- he experiences a crisis in the first episode, ‘It Begins’, but doesn’t react to it other than wearing contacts instead of glasses one day, becoming “confident Gus” briefly.

Nonetheless, Gus’s relationship with Mickey thrives because of how different the two characters are. Maybe it’s for the better that Gus doesn’t just ‘become cool’ overnight. Somehow, some way, Gus wasn’t put off by Mickey cussing out a gas station cashier when the two first met. There is more to Apatow‘s, Rust’s, and Arfin‘s Love than focusing on the worst in everyone. It is providing a positive influence to each other by embracing their differences in character that Gus and Mickey discover is key to their relationship.

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