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'You're the Worst' separates Jimmy and Gretchen … for good?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Chris Gere as Jimmy in You’re the Worst. (Photo: Prashant Gupta/FXX)

There’s a one-hour season premiere of FXX’s You’re the Worst on Wednesday night, and the show needs every minute of it. In last season’s finale, Jimmy (Chris Gere) proposed to Gretchen (Aya Cash), and then panicked and zoomed out of town. Now, in the fourth-season premiere, they’re still apart, and show creator Stephen Falk keeps them that way — at least for the opener. Jimmy’s living in a trailer park for the elderly (you have to admit, that’s a clever idea if you want to hide from your semi-fiancée); his new best pal is played by Raymond J. Barry (Timothy Olyphant’s dad in Justified). Gretchen hasn’t hidden away so much as she has receded into herself: She hasn’t budged from the apartment she shares with Lindsay (Kether Donohue) in months.

The premiere, written and directed by Falk, follows these parallel storylines. Jimmy — who’s grown an amusingly pathetic beard — is enjoying drinking whiskey from the bottle, playing games and watching old episodes of The Fall Guy with his new, elderly pal. We notice quickly that he’s not working hard on that next novel, and he never mentions Gretchen to anyone in his new environment, but he’s certainly chipper. Gretchen, by contrast, is hollow-eyed and morose. She eats crackers out of the box and watches too much TV. The only excitement in her life occurs when it’s “Plinko” time on The Price Is Right. She lies to Lindsay about going to work every day. (She is doing no such thing.) Did I mention she’s into heavily addictive drugs?

Falk keeps his two protagonists in a perpetual state of agitation. No matter what’s going on on the surface of their lives, you can tell they have the abandoned relationship rattling around in the back of their minds. As a contrast to the main duo, their pals Lindsay and Edgar (Desmin Borges) have their acts together to a remarkable degree. This is one source of comedy here: The two characters who’ve never known what they want to do in life now have gainful employment and a notable degree of happiness. Also, they’re enjoying each other carnally, without feeling the need to commit to each other emotionally.

Ever since its first season, You’re the Worst has essentially abandoned the usual sitcom plot structures and joke punchlines. But it hasn’t become one of those sitcoms that treats humor like it’s uncool. It’s funny in a dry way, and dramatically engaging in a juicy way. Falk has made us care about the characters in a way that allows them to behave badly, even cruelly, without having the audience lose sympathy for them. You watch this hour premiere and wait eagerly to see what the heck is going to happen to Jimmy and Gretchen next week.

You’re the Worst airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FXX.

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