Review: LOVE Season One

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2016 at 6:31 pm

[Originally written and published for Crossfader Magazine]

Judd Apatow’s foremost philosophies are fully on display with LOVE, while bringing great new voices into the limelight as well. He helps co-creators and spouses Paul Rust & Lesley Arfin bring unique perspective to modern romance in the details, despite feeling like another predominantly white and middle class drama. This is said with appreciation for shows like GIRLS and MASTER OF NONE, for even LOVE brings in quite a diverse and talented cast. The stories told on a personal level are moving, and stunningly real without fear of getting too dark. The laughs had are cute, though the show stands out for its existence as a “dramedy”, as it proves to be an interesting study of character and relationships.

One of the best services LOVE provides is bringing a merry gang of alternative LA-based comedians smack dab into the center of things. LOVE features Claudia O’Doherty, Kyle Kinane, Seth Morris, David Allen Gruber, Mike Mitchell (and other Birthday Boys), and many others in minor to prominent roles. This helps the show not only be hilarious, but establishes its world as subsequently lived-in, reminiscent of BROAD CITY’s sprawling random encounters and specificities. The environments here are radio offices, television production sets, and many house parties. The inhabitants are just as much absurd caricatures as they are indicative of human nature. The extensive brilliance of including crowds of unique and specific comedians lends to the varied populace of life forces; married, single, sober, always high, etc. LOVE sees all perspectives and philosophies in equal light, yet it always comes down to the cases of the individuals.

Co-star Gillian Jacobs has proven herself worthy in the past, and her role in LOVE is exceptionally well handled. Her dramas as an individual and as a partner are loaded and complex, and Jacobs handles it with engrossing expertise. In what feels long awaited, Paul Rust returns to the leading role position (remember I LOVE YOU BETH COOPER?). Rust takes on a familiar type with his own unique personality twists. He plays the nebbish dweeb quite well, toned down and more realistically anxious than he is as a comedian. In fact, what both of these normally comedic performers do best here is show the melting down of their respective characters. They build up their lives and personalities with subtlety and nuance, so that when things eventually break, it’s not only consistent, but inevitable, doubling the effect of the heartbreak.

Rust and Jacobs’ chemistry is great, almost like it’s existed forever, despite the characters starting the show as strangers. This feels heightened thanks to the great guest directors brought on board. Maggie Carey (THE TO-DO LIST), Joe Swanberg (DRINKING BUDDIES), Michael Showalter (WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER), and Steve Buscemi (SPY KIDS 2: ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS) are just a few to name. Episodes revolving around bad dates, nights out on the town, or even being stuck at work feel lively and vivid as a result. Plots remain simple, but personal details through actions speak millions, combining the successes of performance, writing, and directing in a wall of laser-focused, character-heavy storytelling.

Perhaps the most perplexing and distracting aspect of LOVE is the involvement of comedy dad Judd Apatow, who even here can’t help but remind the audience that he is, in fact, a dad, be it his penchant for esoteric entertainment jobs, conservative living and workaholic tendencies (and perhaps some condescension on behalf of specific characters), or even the fact that Iris Apatow plays a main character. His most interesting, and “best” choices, include hangout sequences with extended improvisation (perfect for this cast) and emotional confrontation without irony, helping take home LOVE’s most prescient and unique ambitions. Though he cannot escape his own obvious signature outside of the art, Judd Apatow’s inclusion in LOVE helps elevate it to the level that this wholeheartedly observational and thoughtful piece deserves to be at.

Right off the bat, LOVE seems very broad. Its title alone is generic enough to potentially skip. LOVE shares the same serio-comic verve that Apatow’s other modern show GIRLS equips, potentially being as visceral, if not more so, than Lena Dunham’s show. It does not shy away from confronting the harder aspects of living a love life, not to mention one’s own existence. LOVE feels like a, pardon the pun, love letter to the grind of slowly becoming an adult, and one’s own individual self. There’s never a clear-cut path or right way to do it; sometimes it feels like there isn’t a right way at all. But there’s merit to finding a path in general by spending life with others, whether hip-to-hip, or in being able to separate one’s own reflection from another’s. The broad title incidentally allows for a multi-faceted statement like “LOVE has sweet worth, conceptually and in practice” to be true all throughout.

Verdict: Recommend (and LOVED…yeah, sorry)

LOVE is available in its entirety on Netflix

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