You're the Worst

FXX

Depression is not funny, and neither is PTSD, and neither are most divorces, but on You're the Worst, somehow that doesn't matter.

Halfway through its stellar second season, the FXX comedy is tackling these tough topics with a skill and finesse that most dramas would kill for, and somehow, we're still laughing (through our tears).

In case you've been living under a rock with a debilitating case of the head wigglies, You're the Worst follows Jimmy (Chris Geere), an English writer, and Gretchen (Aya Cash), who does PR for a rap group, as they find themselves in a relationship with each other, despite the fact that neither of them believes that they are relationship people. Meanwhile, Gretchen's best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) is dealing with growing up after a divorce, and Jimmy's friend/sort of servant Edgar (Desmin Borges) is a war vet just trying to live a normal life with his PTSD. All the makings of a hilarious comedy, right?

Creator Stephen Falk and his team of writers have a tough job to do, walking the line between drama and comedy, and a similar line between too much and just enough, particularly in terms of this season's major storyline, in which Gretchen is dealing with the return of her clinical depression and the fact that she is now living with Jimmy.  

Depression, along with mental health in general, is an issue that a lot of people are incredibly sensitive about, and it's one that's so easy to get wrong. There's no easy fix, no real cure, and so many people deal on a daily basis with trying and failing to communicate the why and how of it to the people around them. Some sufferers feel they can talk about it openly, and others still struggle with the stigma that any mental health issues are something to be ashamed of—a personality flaw, instead of a disease.

The challenge of portraying that well on the show, and of going deeper than the show had ever gone—past the initial premise of two non-relationship people in a relationship—was part of what attracted Falk to this storyline.

"I think it would have been really easy to tell a second season that would have been great, it would have been lovely, with Jimmy and Gretchen trying to figure out what living together means, but I think that I, for better or worse, had a feeling that I should challenge myself and my actors and our writers and the audience a little bit more than that," Falk tells E! News.

While season one was, by all accounts, fantastic, season two has taken the show to a whole new level. It went from being a fun and semi-relatable comedy about horrible people to being something almost uncomfortably real that remained hilarious at the same time. "So good it hurts," is a good way to describe it.

You're the Worst

FXX

"I think it seemed a little more interesting to tell a story about, OK, now it's the real relationship, and it's not all easy sailing from there," Falk tells us.

The depression storyline made a lot of sense both in terms of where the show was headed, and for the people who were responsible for making it.

"I think for us, it seemed like that would be very challenging, and once we in the writers' room settled on depression, which is something that affects all of us personally, and something that I think is endemic to a lot of creative people, we're like, well, we can't do that. How will we do that?" Falk says—and FX kind of agreed. "FX was very nervous when I told them this season was about depression. To their credit, they were like, 'Go for it but make sure it's interesting.' And that's really our job, to make sure it's watchable and that things are happening."

So how do you make depression watchable on a show that is generally supposed to be a comedy?

"It's something that one has to be constantly vigilant about," Falk says of balancing the funny and the serious. "There's no easy formula, and there's no scenario where you can just ignore that so I have to rely on my internal barometer for what the one of the show should be. A lot of times, we're breaking the story, writing the outline, writing the script, and then sitting back and going, no, I think that's too much."

Gretchen's "big reveal" to Jimmy is a perfect example of a moment that had to be scaled back. She had just been in tears as she admitted to Lindsay that her depression had returned, but when she went to talk to Jimmy, there was almost a smile on her face. She quickly and calmly explained that she was depressed and he shouldn't try to fix her and that was all.

"In the original construct, it ended way more dramatically, and I think at a certain point we went, well we don't want her f—king crying every episode. That's a bummer," Falk explains. "So we kind of stepped back and said, well, Gretchen would, in telling Jimmy, try to PR this thing. She would try to lay her depression out, try to manage how it was being perceived. She would try to brand it. I think that her doing that was even more sort of heartbreaking and very telling of the character even more than if she was just sort of sobbing."

That significant and semi-serious, or as Falk says, "claustrophobic," episode was followed by one consisting of ten minutes of the scariest haunted house we've ever imagined, and that's counting all five seasons of American Horror Story, and that episode is followed by the unexpectedly funny and heart-wrenching journey that unravels in tonight's episode as Gretchen becomes obsessed with a cool, slightly older couple, their toddler, and their dog (whose name is Sandwiches).

TV Halloween, 2015, You're the Worst

FXX

Neither of these are typical episodes of the series, but they make sense in terms of what Gretchen is going through. Last week, Jimmy was using the haunted house to try and make Gretchen happy. This week, Gretchen is using other people to try and make herself happy, and none of it works out quite the way these two want it to work. Falk warns that we should be very worried about Jimmy and Gretchen lasting as a couple, especially given how delighted Jimmy was to bond with that bartender who shared his interest in obscure British television.

While Gretchen's depression is a little more serious than the show has gone before, it's more of a natural progression than a big risk. From the pilot, You're the Worst established itself as something a little more than just a funny show, and since then, the characters have grown from characters to people who feel real and relatable. In particular, Lindsay and Edgar started out as "sidekicks" who were useful for a weird laugh or, in Edgar's case, an example of how "the worst" everyone else on the show could actually be. Now, their stories are just as significant as Jimmy and Gretchen's.

"I think it scared the network a lot actually, some of the juicier stuff, and some of the sillier characters," Falk says of the first season. "One of the most gratifying moments of this season was when early on, when we were delivering scripts, one of the executives said that last season, a certain character they had a big problem with. They thought it was just sort of over the top and silly, and they said, 'Look, you stuck to your guns, and this year, this character is all of our favorites, so whatever you're doing is working.'"

Like most of the best dramedies, You're the Worst feels real. It feels like we know or have been some facet of all of these people, and we've suffered at least some part of what they've suffered. While it doesn't do the same in terms of representation of all types of people as Orange is the New Black—on which Falk worked as a writer and producer—the two shows do have a similar feel in terms of emotions and allowing the characters to, as Lindsay advises, wear their stains on the outside of their clothes.

"People come with massive amounts of baggage. People are more than their feelings and relationships. People are more than their fear of commitment," Falk says, and we assume people are also more than their favorite TV show, but You're the Worst is one we'd be happy to have defining us.

You're the Worst airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on FXX.

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