Not to be confused with the even-more-sex-packed Gaspar Noé film of same name, Netflix’s Love is actually about all the mess that happens before anyone actually dares to say the “L” word. A rom-com without the romance, the Judd Apatow-produced series is messy, funny, heart-wrenching, and often uncomfortable—just like its namesake.
And that’s what makes it such a good time. Created by star Paul Rust, his wife Leslie Arfin, and Apatow, Love is a celebration of the fact that feelings and desires (and trying to act like you don’t care about those things) can turn anyone into a complete mess. That’s why its two main protagonists—Gus (Rust, the Ross of this show) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs, the Rachel)—spend most of the entire first season trying to date, dump, hump, and fake their way into getting what they think they want, even if its a terrible idea. Just like the rest of us.
Gus is awkward and lovable—imagine Coop from Wet Hot American Summer in his early 30s—and is recently single, having left his girlfriend after she cheated on him. (He also works as an on-set tutor for a teen-TV period drama about witches, which provides great workplace humor.) Mickey is a talk radio producer who is also recently single, having broken up with her on-again off-again boyfriend—a guy who still lived with his parents and has a penchant for cocaine and new-age religion.
What happens between Gus and Mickey over the course of 10 episodes is the kind of awkward, solipsistic comedy you’d expect from an Apatow-helmed show about thirtysomething Angelenos looking for love. Which means you’ll probably enjoy it—even if you hate yourself a little bit while watching. Here’s how to get through each wince-inducing moment in record time.
Number of Seasons: 1 (10 episodes)
Time Requirements: Its 10 episodes range from 27 to 40 minutes each, so this one can be easily consumed in a week. It can also be knocked out in a weekend or one very focused Sunday.
Where to Get Your Fix: Netflix
Best Character to Follow: Just as everyone who watched Friends knew if they gravitated toward Monica or Chandler, some people are Gus people while others are Mickey people. If you happen to like sarcastic stoners, stick with Mickey. If you like sweethearted nebbishes, Gus is your guy. If you’re here for comic relief, Claudia O’Doherty as Mickey’s roommate Bertie steals most scenes she shows up in.
Seasons/Episodes You Can Skip:
With such a short season, we wouldn’t recommend skipping any episodes (by the time you Google an episode synopsis to make sure not to miss plot points, you could’ve just watched the damn thing). That said, if you really only want to know the watercooler talk episodes, skip these and watch the rest.
Season 1: Episode 3, “Tested” This one mostly deals with Gus and Mikey’s workplace dynamics. Gus tries to get a child star (played by Apatow’s daughter Iris) to study, and Mickey thinks she has to respond to her boss’ advances to keep her job. There are a couple of good jokes and some brilliant work from Gus’ boss Susan Cheryl (the fantastic Tracie Thoms) and Mickey’s boss Greg (the ubiquitous Brett Gelman), but nothing major happens here.
Season 1: Episode 6, “Andy” This one is only a maybe skip. Almost half of it involves a weird bender that Mickey goes on with Andy Dick—which is funny and gives insight into Mickey as a person, but also gets old fast, just like Andy Dick. But the rest opens the door for Gus and Mickey’s weird friendship, and those glimmers of hope might just make the tedium worth it.
Seasons/Episodes You Can’t Skip:
Season 1: Episode 1, “It Begins” While this is a must-watch episode, it also might be the hardest not to turn off. As the pilot it has to introduce you to Mickey and Gus and their lives, but since that entire the set up is, in one way or another, the same set up as everything from The New Girl to You’re the Worst, it’s hard not to just say “Oh, it’s that show…” and opt to watch Master of None again. Stick with it. By the time Mickey takes Ambien and goes to the new-age Bliss House, you’ll be on board.
Season 1: Episode 2, “One Long Day” Gus and Mickey meet at a convenience store, where Gus pays for Mickey’s coffee and cigarettes after she forgets her wallet. What ensues is a weird LA day full of weed, fast food, and Gus throwing Blu-rays out the window of Mickey’s car.
Season 1: Episode 4, “Party in the Hills” Mickey invites Gus to her friend’s party—an event attended by no fewer than two Mickey exes. This is also the episode where we first glimpse the fact that Mickey’s relationship with substances is … complicated.
Season 1: Episode 5, “The Date” Aside from the finale, this is the best episode of the whole series so far. Mickey, for whatever reason, decides to set Bertie up with Gus, even though she has to know she’s the object of his affection. When the date goes horribly, Gus and Bertie decide to make it worse and worse, with cringe-worthy great results. The last three minutes, though, are the guts of this show. (Don’t take your eyes of Jacobs’ face, it says everything everyone who ever thought they were completely messed up can never manage to spit out.)
Season 1: Episode 7, “Magic” Gus and Mickey have something kind of like a real date and Gus takes her to the Magic Castle. The rest is an exercise in Murphy’s Law for first dates, where no one misses an opportunity to say the exact wrong thing.
Season 1: Episode 8, “Closing Title Song” Gus starts hanging out with a pretty girl from work and Mickey gets jealous. You know where this goes.
Season 1: Episode 9, “The Table Read” Gus’ spec script gets picked up by the show he works on and he finally sees what things are really like in the writers’ room. Mickey surprises him on set—not in a good way.
Season 1: Episode 10, “The End of the Beginning” If you spent the last five hours of this binge thinking that Love was going to continue its “eh, whatever” attitude and not say anything, the finale is here to prove you wrong. Mostly.
Why You Should Binge:
Because, if you’re like the people on this show, you probably don’t have anything better to do. Also, it’s a pretty breezy show to watch, and it’s got some heart if you stick with it.
Best Scene—Mickey Takes Ambien:
There are funnier and more emotional scenes than this one, but this one in the pilot really cemented what this show was going to be about. Mickey takes Ambien to help her sleep and then gets a text from her ex-boyfriend asking her to join him at the hippy-dippy Bliss House church. Once there, she gets up on stage and delivers the monologue anyone who has ever thought The Secret was total crap has said themselves: “You said earlier that if you ask for love the world will send you love back, but I’ve been asking and asking and I haven’t gotten fucking anything. … Hoping for love has fucking ruined my life.” It’s almost too real.
Love might ruin your life, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
If You Liked Love You’ll Love: Any of the not-quite-romantic rom-coms like You’re the Worst or Master of None. If you’re a big Mickey fan, give Broad City a go.