If you don't have a passing knowledge/interest in romantic comedies, then I suggest you keep moving. While this show definitely injects doses of reality throughout, the basic premise is nothing more than your standard Rom-Com formula. But while the writing may feel cliché at times, there is also a strong sense of self-awareness, like when the male lead, Gus, throws out his Blu-ray collection of the most obvious, guilty-pleasure Rom-Coms from the past thirty years, criticizing them for their terrible relationship advice. Or like when Bertie, the female lead's Australian roommate, interrupts a studio tour to expound upon the genius of one of her favorite Rom-Coms, The Holiday. In both cases, it's obvious that the characters have an unhealthy relationship with the genre. This is an especially interesting commentary on Gus's character, who, later in the season, tries to encourage the writers of Witchita (the show for which he works) to step up their game, instead of relying on formulas. As Gus becomes completely unhinged during a writer's meeting, it becomes apparent that for all his enthusiasm and idealism, he's actually rather unperceptive. He may have stumbled upon a good idea, but he doesn't seem to understand why it's a good idea. One of the stars of Witchita, a child actor played by Apatow's youngest, nails it when she exclaims, "Why did you make him a writer? Every time he makes a suggestion, it's way off. He just doesn't understand the campy nature of the show." For this reason, I suspect Gus would have similar issues understanding the vibe of 'Love.' Not because he's an idiot, but because this show plays with a lot of subtle irony. Irony which, incidentally, the female lead, Mickey, revels in. Everything she says has a double meaning. When Gus takes her to the magic castle, she derives the most fun from watching the other spectators, an ironic, veiled criticism on magic-fans in general, which Gus takes personally, as he is, after all, one of the spectators for whom magic is a straightforward source of entertainment. Later, when Gus invites her to a party where the goal is to write theme songs for movies without theme songs, she keeps trying to find the second layer, assuming the point is to write sarcastically bad songs in order to make fun of bad movies. Of course, the biggest irony is when Mickey ends up turning into the clingy sort of girl you expected Gus to be, and Gus ends up being more of an asshole. While not entirely new ground, the whole thing about Gus being fake-nice felt refreshing, as it subverts the typical "I Love You Beth Cooper"* formula.
So while this show definitely relies heavily on a vast history of Rom-Com tropes, it engages with them in slightly ironic and often original ways. The title is another good example, as the show both lives up to its name, in that it deals constantly with the pursuit of love, while also reading as sarcastic, with there being very little actual love displayed by the characters (Bertie being the main exception). And yes, the characters are spoiled, materialistic, narcissistic screw-ups, but they also reminded me of people in my life, including myself. It's like the cast of a Rom-Com was dropped into real life, where all their vapid aspirations are suddenly revealed as such, and as a result the characters can actually evolve (for better or for worse), all the while still being subconsciously affected by the Hollywood Rom-Com machine. This technique works especially well for me, as the fusion of platitudes and realism makes the realism seem even more realistic by contrast. In fact, this is probably what I found most enjoyable about this show: the dose of realistic dialogue and acting in an otherwise familiar scene, such as the impromptu jam session at the otherwise typical Hollywood pool party, or the way the unrealistic mismatching of cool, hot chicks with dorky dudes is explained with authenticity by a group of women describing their phases of sleeping with only unattractive men. Unfortunately, for many people this just reads as adding shock value to a played-out scenario. Personally, I find this show more intelligent than that.
*Also starring Paul Rust
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