FXX's Wednesday-night season premieres offer the weirdest love stories on TV. Yes, they feature people who show their love by having an online forum to mock each other more effectively. Or who try to keep the honeymoon phase of their relationship going by getting wasted and stealing a DVD kiosk.
Fantasy-football-themed The League (10 p.m. Wednesday) and (very) cracked romance You're the Worst (10:30 p.m. Wednesday) are those shows.
These aren't nice, frothy love stories, but love isn't always nice and frothy. Instead, they reflect oddball ways to show affection through friendship and romantic love.
The League is about fantasy football in the same way Friday Night Lights was about actual football: The game - with its mock drafts, obsessive lineup setting, and grabs for glory - is mostly a framework for a story about five friends who just happen to share a passion for pretending they are coaching a football team. There are jokes about football, but they're in the minority (granted, if you aren't aware of last year's Super Bowl, the season-opening scene featuring Marshawn Lynch won't make sense). The humor is mostly made at the expense of one another, and they all spend much of the football season torturing one another through pranks and trash talk in their own screwed-up version of camaraderie and bonding. It's all oddly sweet.
Wednesday's seventh-season premiere will be the last, and that's probably for the best. Many in the cast - including indie-film mogul Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll (whose Comedy Central sketch Kroll Show ended this year and who went dramatic in his film Adult Beginners), and Paul Scheer (who is helping to define alt-comedy on TV) - have gone on to bigger, better things since the show's 2009 debut. There are only so many jokes to be made at the expense of fedora-loving, trend-chasing plastic surgeon Andre (Scheer), who won last season's league trophy - called the Shiva - after outsourcing his team.
But the great thing about The League is that it feels entirely comfortable to return to. (Feeling left out? The first six seasons are streaming on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.) Over seven seasons, it has created its own vernacular out of callbacks and inside jokes - Eskimo brothers, vinegar strokes, yobogoya - that make you feel you are part of this group, adopting their language and mannerisms. Other shows have Easter eggs and callbacks, but just as those specifics can draw fans in, they can alienate new ones (NBC's Community had that problem). The League uses its fan service as a vocabulary. It's easy to understand the plot without this knowledge, but it's funnier if you get it.
In short, it's better to be in the league than out of it.
You're the Worst was one of the great surprises of last year, debuting solidly and getting even better with more exposure to each of the characters (catch the first season on Hulu - it's worth it, I promise). Call it the anti-rom-com: It's about two terrible people - Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) - who are in love and have utter contempt for everyone around them. Every time they look as though they are about to redeem themselves, they harshly critique a children's art show or make fun of their friend Edgar's (Desmin Borges) PTSD (the way You're the Worst deals with PTSD is, in itself, extraordinary, in that it is included in the conversation at all, along with talk of veterans' rights).
The second season opens after Jimmy and Gretchen have moved in together and are so terrified of becoming boring they push themselves beyond their capacity to party, subsequently concluding it's OK to be boring sometimes. Cut to them at a bar promising each other they'll drink only clear liquors. But, hey, just clear liquor is progress, right?
It all works. Jimmy and Gretchen are horrible people, but they are endearing in their congenital terribleness. They are unlovable, which makes them inherently lovable. In the first season, Gretchen told Jimmy about their screwed-up relationship, "I'm sick of comparing this to what normal people do." You're the Worst can't really be compared to anything else in its genre because Jimmy and Gretchen's relationship is not what normal people do. But normal is boring. Who needs normal? Getting away from normal is why we watch TV in the first place, isn't it?
10 p.m. Wednesday on FXX
You're the Worst
10:30 p.m. Wednesday on FXXEndText