Tim Goodman: Why I Was Wrong About 'You're the Worst'

You're the Worst Cast Still - H 2015
Autumn De Wilde/FXX

You're the Worst Cast Still - H 2015

Well, there’s really no easy way to do this (and I’ve already done it in person, more on that later), but I was wrong — wildly, painfully and ultimately gallingly wrong — about the FX sitcom You’re the Worst, which begins its second season on sister channel FXX on Wednesday.

Not long ago it became one of my favorite comedies on television. And now, heading into season two, I’m as excited to see it evolve as any show out there. The first two episodes of the second season are exceptionally funny. I should know; I watched them twice. And I’m almost at the point of being one of those annoying preachers — the zeal of the converted and such.

Ah, but in the beginning? Yeah, I was kind of way off in my assessment.

As a critic, I’m a firm believer that when a show improves, you do what you can as soon as you can to note that for viewers. You don’t always get the chance. You may have read that we’re all drowning in television. But you try. The same goes for series that plummet, creatively, especially after well-received pilots.

Unfortunately, in this now well-documented era of Too Much TV, that’s not as easy as it sounds. And even when you get around to making whatever amends you might need, it’s often via Twitter or a tossed off remark on the radio or a podcast. It’s not always in the prestige slot in the magazine or a well-touted online form of a review.

But this time it will be, and I’m happy to admit to being wrong. But first, a short recap of where it all went sideways:

I didn’t particularly like the pilot of You’re the Worst but, truth be told, some of that was because I also didn’t like the pilot of Married, another FX series that debuted on the same night. I reviewed them together. I didn’t like the second episode of Married much either, but — and here’s where it gets a bit tricky — I did think the second episode of You’re the Worst was an improvement on the first. Yet that very barely came through in the review, which was only the beginning of the missteps.

Next I heard that series creator and writer Stephen Falk said, rather loudly to one of my co-workers, "F— Tim Goodman!" Not an uncommon reaction, surprisingly enough. And I’ve got thick skin so yada yada yada — on to the next day. Then, slowly at first, people started really liking You’re the Worst on my Twitter feed — other critics, followers, people I know and like. Then response turned into raves. It was becoming a thing. So I pledged to revisit the show. (Married, on the other hand, did not generate much second chance notices from anyone.) But the time had passed. I had abandoned both shows and was drowning in new stuff. Looking back now, of course, part of this is fallout from Too Much TV, part of it was watching four episodes of two series and not liking three of them — which unfortunately overshadowed the fourth episode of you know what. Later, at the Vancouver International Film Festival, it was relayed to me by someone meeting me for the first time that Falk noted I should be shot or punched on sight. Good times!

Who’s the worst now? Yes, still me. I know.

Anyway, fast-forward until lots of time had gone by and millions of TV series had passed across my eyes and there, in a very small window of opportunity, was a chance to binge watch You’re the Worst.

So I did.

And I laughed. And laughed. And watched and watched.

Then I had that awful realization of, wow, do I owe Stephen Falk an apology (for the record I said that stars Chris Geere and Aya Cash were "very, very good — they just need better material"). Upon further review (and yes, I pulled it up on my laptop right after I binged the shows), it was I who needed better material. Hell, I didn’t even use Falk’s name in the review. What I had done, clearly, was bang it out, half-assedly. (And yes, I should probably go rewatch Married while I’m at it.)

I started with the third episode and found out immediately, in the words of a famous comedy character from a series I loved more than any, I had made a huge mistake. Falk, it turned out, is a phenomenally gifted and funny writer. Each episode produced more laughs and more appreciation for his talent; there’s an earworm hilarity and precision to the way he crafts dialog between main characters Jimmy (Geere) and Gretchen (Cash), two mostly awful people who fall slowly and cautiously, with acid barbs — plus booze, drugs and wanton hedonism — into some semblance of love. Geere and Cash blossomed in their roles and became two vastly under-appreciated comedy actors. Kether Donohue (Lindsay) and Desmin Borges (Edgar), were — like all good supporting characters who get more material and time as the season goes — two people who validated Falk’s choices. Borges’s Edgar, in fact, was someone I really didn’t like in the pilot. And by the middle of the season he made that character pop — and make sense in a way I didn’t see early on.

These are the things that can happen with second chances. I think the jaded part of me would also like to add that, historically, when I’ve given extended second (and sometimes third) chances to shows, this is usually not how it turns out.

So, yes, this atonement becomes a feel-good story in the end. In large part this 180 turn was spearheaded by FX exec Nicole Clemens, who had helped shepherd the series. She was sick of me saying how much I’d read that it had gotten really good, saying “Then go watch it!” or words to that effect, with gratuitous swearing omitted. When I finally admitted that I watched and loved it, I couldn’t tell if she wanted to kill me or hug me. Several attempts by her to get Falk and I together at events didn’t work out until it finally did — and he stupidly took the high road and didn’t gloat in my face when it finally happened.

How does one hilariously twisted comedy about truly awful people (who you grow to love eventually, and see yourself in) end with me jokingly saying on Twitter that Falk and I are lovers now? Easy. Someone has to admit they were wrong.

And I’m fine with that — especially if I can get you to watch the second season starting at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, as it switches over to FXX. Yes, you can easily pick up in the second season and put the pieces together, fall for Falk’s searing, caustic and smart writing and the sharp interplay of the cast. Watch tonight, then you’ve got a week to binge the first season (advised).

You know, I could flip this story around and say that what it mostly documents is the difficulty the Platinum Age of TV places on critics to adequately absorb what’s coming at them and how rare second acts are in— no, no, nope. It’s way more simple: I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. And this is how I learned to love You’re the Worst.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine