WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Mickey (Gillian Jacobs, “Community”) is program manager for a self-help radio show, also a partyer and recovering alcoholic (and also recovering from a string of bad relationships). Gus (Paul Rust) is a “set teacher” who tutors the teenage lead of a lame-but-popular series about witches. He’s recovering from a string of bad relationships, too. Then, one fateful day, they meet. Series is produced by Judd Apatow, Rust and Lesley Arfin.
Not counting “Girls,” “Love” is Apatow’s first TV series in 15 years (“Undeclared”). There have been many movies in between — some good, some awful, all making a lot of money — but no TV until now (if you want to call Netflix “TV,” but why quibble?). That’s too bad, because TV is well suited to the Syosset-raised Apatow’s talents. “Girls” proved that, and “Love” proves it again. TV is intimate — not just a euphemism for Apatow’s well-established comedic interests in all matters carnal — and also exploratory. There’s plenty of time to set up a joke, and time to layer it. If the joke doesn’t work, no matter. The next one hopefully will, and in “Love,” the next one usually does.
TV, or at least Netflix, especially affords time to explore character, and “Love” needs every minute of the 10 episodes to fully explore these characters. Gus and Mickey initially seem like just another pair of cutouts from the Apatow playbook — maybe Andy (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) or Alison (“Knocked Up”) repurposed for the Netflix treatment. Superficially, they’re movie rom-com Harry-meets-Sally archetypes, their stories foretold, and oft-told.
That’s the superficial read. Gus and Mickey are better than that, or at least more interesting. Both oddballs and misfits, they’re an opposites-attract combo who presumably find common ground, and on that uncertain terrain, maybe even eventually love. They don’t immediately fall into each other’s arms but rather into each other’s orbit. She’s a commitmentphobe; he’s a commitment sponge. She’s fluent (to a fault) in the ways of the world. He’s fluent (also to a fault) in the ways of his native South Dakota. She’s sexually adventurous. He’s sexually timorous. (And just to answer your obvious question, “Love” isn’t just typical Apatow raunch either — although there is certainly some of that.) Both are also drifters in a city (Los Angeles) and industry (entertainment) that sometimes accommodates the rootless. That makes them funny and also — surprisingly — a bit poignant.
Fun comedy that takes time to warm up to.