A new TV show called Love following the romantic endeavors of two individuals who are also drawn to each other screams of clichés, but when I saw that it would stream on Netflix (famous for streaming), star Gillian Jacobs (famous for Community), and was created by Judd Apatow (famous for everything), I decided to give it a shot. The 40-minute initial episode wholeheartedly did not disappoint.
The episode documented protagonist Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Jacobs) as they navigate their ways out of unhealthy relationships either by choice, as Mickey kicks out her going-nowhere-momma’s-boy-addict boyfriend, or by necessity, as Gus’ girlfriend has cheated on him. It’s an expository episode; in some ways it functions as a series prequel, showcasing how the two got to be where they are emotionally when they meet each other. That’s the other way it feels like a prequel – Mickey and Gus don’t actually meet each other until around the last two minutes of the episode. In my opinion, that’s a huge strength that fleshes the two characters out – develop them independently of each other so we familiarize ourselves with their personas before having them meet and constantly throw the “will they/won’t they” vibe in our faces.
The premiere works for a lot of reasons. You find the development of these characters compelling from the get-go. You’re suddenly invested not in their commonplace plot but in their drive and motivation because when we meet them they’re in the midst of turmoil. Jacobs is more than capable of carrying scenes on her back, and while I was uncertain of what to expect from Rust, I was beyond pleasantly surprised by how disarming his performance is; you expect him to have a timid and meek performance but then he ends up busting out several of the episode’s funniest lines.
But Love does start to teeter off. After their initial meeting, it’s not so much that the show drags on, it just lacks a necessary conviction in the following episodes to keep us invested in their story. There’s the push and pull of a “will they/won’t they” but without picking a particular direction to invest in for any given scene. Outside of direction, while I appreciate the show making use of its platform’s permission for certain activities and language that you wouldn’t typically find on broadcast television, the show dries up the expletive well – notably, a scene in the first half of the season where a special expletive is thrown around so many times, virtually in every sentence, that it stops feeling organic and instead forced, which is a terrible lens to view a series with this much potential through.
Love is probably not Netflix’s finest program; by no means is it a dud, though. Even when it isn’t hitting 100% it’s still up there in the mid-nineties. It’s a program worth watching because even though it has its dry spots, like real love, Love always finds a way to navigate through them.