Of all the great things about television, the greatest is that it’s on every single day. TV history is being made, day in and day out, in ways big and small. In an effort to better appreciate this history, we’re taking a look back, every day, at one particular TV milestone.
IMPORTANT DATE IN TV HISTORY: July 17, 2014
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: There are few concepts that have gotten more of a workout in Hollywood than the meet cute. That’s when the two characters who the film or TV show have predetermined to get together meet for the first time, usually in some memorable way. Maybe she stumbles into his lap on the subway. Maybe he’s her new co-worker and accidentally takes her lunch from the fridge. Maybe he’s revving his motorcycles too loud in the driveway, and she comes out to yell at him and count all her kids for him. As many as there are stars in the sky are the different variations on the meet cute that we’ve gotten from Hollywood movies over the years. And as with any Hollywood trope that venerable, there have been quite a few movies and shows that have pushed back at the concept of the ideal meet cute.
One of the best has been FX’s You’re the Worst, which premiered three years ago today. The comedy has become a lot of things across its remarkably assured three seasons, but perhaps its first and most prominent motivating principle is you don’t need to have a prince and a princess for a meeting to seem fateful. Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) meet at a wedding. After Jimmy’s been thrown out for cursing out his ex-girlfriend. Who was the bride. And Gretchen was trying to make off with a blender from the pile of wedding gifts. Gretchen is friends with the bride’s sister, so she’s heard about Jimmy. What’s she heard exactly? “Just that you’re the worst,” she replies. Obviously these two are going to go home with each other.
What’s fun about You’re the Worst that gets reflected again and again in the pilot is that the show and the characters are all actively struggling with the idea of how much Jimmy and Gretchen should or should not be together. The audience gets to play in this one too. We’re watching a TV show, so we know the answer is that they should. But Jimmy and Gretchen both have a pathological aversion to doing what’s expected; they each have their moments of being annoyed by finding out they have a connection to each other. You’re the Worst would go on to investigate what’s really going on in these two damaged souls, but in the pilot it’s still mostly just a kneejerk aversion to falling into fairy tale tropes. Which is also what the show doesn’t want to do. It’s all very much a series of intertwined and often neurotic layers. But that moment when Gretchen tells Jimmy about how she started a fire at her high school so she wouldn’t have to take a math test and he laughs rather than acts horrified is a nice remember that, at its root, You’re the Worst is a show about finding that person who you can be your worst self with and still feel welcomed. It’s a dark truth if you take it to its logical extreme, but it’s a truth nonetheless.