All episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Of all the critiques one could level at Judd Apatow, a particularly commonplace complaint is that the guy just doesn’t know when to cut. From his directorial ventures (especially Funny People and This is 40) to projects that merely bear his mark (like The Five-Year Engagement and Get Him to the Greek), Apatow joints are near-chronically overlong and digressive.
At this point, he’s no doubt aware of such criticism. And with the unveiling of Love, a 10-episode Netflix series that he both created (alongside Girls‘ Lesley Arfin and star Paul Rust) and exec-produced (with Arfin, Rust, Dean Holland, and Brent Forrester), it appears that his response to it is of the middle-finger-salute variety.
With episode lengths ranging from 30 minutes to more than 45 (in the unfortunately exhausting pilot), and a full season to just begin telling the story of how two people very gradually start to fall for one another against the backdrop of East L.A., Love is Apatow at his most defiantly drawn-out. The theme song is a rocking guitar riff, but a certain Supremes tune about romance taking its sweet, sweet time might have been more appropriate.
But, on the other hand, a cutesy adornment like that would be out of step with Love‘s caustic take on modern dating. The ostensibly meant-to-be couple at the heart of this series are, in keeping with recent TV rom-com trends, the kind of fairly toxic twosome best side-stepped at a party.
31-year-old Gus (Rust) is an insecure, socially awkward oddball, who serves, albeit quite ineffectively, as a tutor to the overwhelmed child star (Apatow’s own daughter, Iris) of a supernatural campfest called Witchita. Steamrolled by his young charge (who’s glued to her phone) and co-workers (who laugh off his passion for screenwriting) at every turn, Gus still has more authority on the studio lot than he does off it.
When not at work, he’s living in an apartment – surrounded by much cooler twentysomethings – after being dumped by a long-time girlfriend. In other words, the guy could use a win. Love is a little too blatantly committed to making Gus an entertaining underdog, but it also never calls him a hero – beneath the quirks and bleeding heart, he’s painfully needy, self-centered, and occasionally vindictive, especially in matters of love.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Mickey (Gillian Jacobs, going even darker than she did on Girls with rich results) is a rough-around-the-edges addict, who hasn’t been kicked around by love so much as chewed up and spit out. Prone to compulsive behavior and downward spirals, she’s an active participant in her own destruction, leapfrogging from guy to guy, numbing the in-between periods by getting too high and far too drunk. Mickey’s nastiest habit, though, is her penchant for manipulation – her generally awful exes were almost all eventually cuckolded, and her bright-eyed, bushy-tailed roommate Bertie (the amazing Claudia O’Doherty) is swiftly re-purposed as both leaning post and human shield.
To their credit, Apatow, Rust, and Arfin don’t buy into the deleterious trope that Mickey’s just a wild child in need of a nice guy to domesticate her. The character is painfully aware of her own shortcomings, her self-loathing accentuated by an admission that, for all her sleeping around, she knows she’s not good for other people. As she and Gus finally prepare to go on their first date, well into the season, she confesses of her attempts to derail it, “I just wanted to save him from me.”