I’ve always had a soft spot for the bad boys and girls. In literature (Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley). In movies (Marlene Dietrich) or TV (Larry David). In plays (almost any of Martin McDonagh’s characters). Or in real life (You know who you are).
While the rest of us walk on eggshells, fearful of saying or doing the wrong thing, these folks just barrel through life without a censor and when they’re on their game, it’s hard not to salute them.
I find most of the current crop of bad boys/girls on TV a bunch of bores, though, and in Charlie Sheen’s case, boors to boot. The characters of shows like “Girls” and “Shameless” — along with the writers of those shows — try too hard and seem overly self-satisfied with their off-center rebellions.
But Jimmy and Gretchen are my kind of transgressives, living up to the title of their new FX show, “You’re the Worst,” which begins at 10:30 tonight. Narcissism comes naturally to them. They don’t set out to go against social convention, they have no idea what social convention is. What they do have is wit, personality, beautiful sneers and just enough self-awareness for us to want to spend time in their company (unlike their counterparts on another new FX show, “Married,” at 10).
They meet cute — in the bad boy/girl definition of the term — early in the first episode. He’s been thrown out of a wedding for insulting the nerdy groom and bride (his ex); she’s stolen one of the bride’s presents but throws it away when it isn’t as good as she thought it was. She bums a cigarette from him. He objects that they’re expensive. They decide to go have meaningless sex. Lots of it. (FX shows get more graphic with each season. Not that I’m complaining.)
Chris Geere’s Jimmy Shive-Overly is the perfect anti-Hugh Jackman Brit. Never smiling. Always brusque. Misanthropic. Arsenic would melt in his mouth. He knows he’s a great writer, even if no one else does (except his loser roommate whom he can’t get rid of, try as he might). His poorly-reviewed new book is “Congratulations, You’re Dying.”
Aya Cash’s Gretchen Cutler isn’t far behind on the sneer-and-shrug scale but has more of a sense of humor, if less overt hyper-intelligence. She tells one lover that she burned her school down to get out of an exam and, when he’s shocked, tells him, “Kidding.” Of course when she tells Jimmy the same thing, he knows she’s his kind of girl. Which means he wants her out the door post-coitus.
Cash, who's terrific, says she's living vicariously through the character. I can relate.
Stephen Falk, the creator of the show, is obviously having a blast writing it. When his ex asks Jimmy if he’s having a good time at the wedding he says, “Sometimes you just want to witness the beginning of the disaster so when the house is engulfed in flames you can say ‘I was there when they installed the faulty wiring.’ ‘’ The look of the show is equally mischievous.
Can they keep it up? The second episode is not quite as enjoyable – making fun of a restaurant called Insouciance, particularly with two customers like Jimmy and Gretchen, should be funnier. Still, it has its laugh out loud moments. I’m not sure what we’re rooting for with these two — whether they'll be happy or miserable — but the main thing is that they continue to speak truth to puffery.