It’s right there in the title. You’re the Worst lets the audience know from the very start that this is a series about selfish people who do petty things. When Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) first meet, Jimmy’s been thrown out of his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, from which Gretchen has just stolen a blender. What follows is a night of confessions of the worst things they’ve ever done. It’s just a one-night stand, so what could be the harm in being completely truthful?
It leads to the worst thing in the world: a loving relationship.
While spending time with these characters may seem off-putting, You’re the Worst is a surprisingly warm and empathetic show. Its leads are selfish, but they – and the show – are aware of it. Showrunner Stephen Falk’s television career began when he worked for on Weeds and Orange Is the New Black, two shows with similarly selfish protagonists that are more empathetic than they appear at first glance. Jimmy and Gretchen are self-centred, but they’re both so scared of forming meaningful relationships with other people that the way they act has become a defence mechanism. In the pilot, Jimmy and Gretchen are defiant in their disbelief in romantic relationships, however it is clear that they are both a lot more vulnerable than they’re willing to admit.
The show takes its time in revealing why Jimmy and Gretchen put up such a cold, unfeeling face to the world - don't expect all the answers in the first episode.
Jimmy’s a narcissistic novelist convinced that he’s the only person who sees the world, and the people in it, for what it truly is – and he’ll make sure that everyone knows it. We meet Jimmy at the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Becca (Janet Varney), who passive-aggressively invited him. As much as Jimmy claims to be (and probably is) over Becca, his face betrays how much the breakup hurt him.
Gretchen is a little more complicated, openly admitting that she’s afraid to open up to other people. Despite living what seems like a charmed Hollywood life, working as a publicist for a recording artist and having an on again off again relationship with famous director Ty Wyland (Stephen Schneider), but it's mostly facade. She’s not great at her job, and she doesn’t really like Ty that much. Gretchen’s biggest fear is being vulnerable – to the extent that she doesn’t tell Jimmy when it’s her birthday, and they date each other for nearly a month before she even shows him where she lives.
The not-so-typical friends
Jimmy and Gretchen are self-centred, but their close friendships are important to each of them. In most sitcoms, the friends of main characters are often stock characters with limited complexity, but in this show every character has rich, interior lives.
Lindsay (Kether Donohue) is Gretchen’s best friend and has a life beyond Gretchen’s relationship with Jimmy. Stuck in an unhappy marriage to a banker, Lindsay struggles with low self-esteem regarding her weight, living vicariously through Gretchen’s adventures only to distract from her own problems. Gretchen gripes about how Lindsay’s life became boring once she got married, but she can also see that her friend is unhappy and does what she can to help.
Edgar (Desmin Borges) is the You’re the Worst’s most sympathetic character. A war veteran with PTSD, Edgar was Jimmy’s weed dealer during college. Despite complaining about his free-loading nature, Jimmy lets Edgar live with him rent-free. He says that it’s just because Edgar cooks for him, but he appreciates the company and Edgar’s friendly nature. Edgar also forms a fast friendship with Gretchen, who berates Jimmy for the way he treats his friend.
You'll be hooked
You’re the Worst is a show about selfish people, but it treats its characters with empathy. Gretchen and Jimmy have each done some petty things, but that doesn’t make them awful people. You’re the Worst uses Jimmy and Gretchen’s self-centredness as an entry point for audiences, making it clear that their attitudes towards the world are blankets to prevent themselves from getting hurt. As they open themselves up to a relationship, their humanity shines through - even if they’re not willing to admit it. They're human, funny, and incredibly relatable.
Watch You’re the Worst every Monday at 10pm on SBS VICELAND, or stream all of Seasons 1-4 right now at SBS OnDemand.