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Love TV review: an unpredictable romance

February 16, 2016

Film + EntertainmentTV | by Dominic Preston

Love starring Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs

Netflix continues its original programming expansion this week with the new Judd Apatow-produced series Love. The show, which follows the slow blossoming of an unlikely romance between loose cannon Mickey (Gillian Jacobs, Community) and dorky Gus (Paul Rust, also the series’ co-creator) is an odd biscuit to categorize. Although advertised as a pretty straightforward indie-feel romantic comedy, the story relies heavily on dramatic and often unwanted character development, taking the typical romance story to new places.

Unlike previous Netflix efforts, where it’s often easy to imagine which American network a series might appear on (House of Cards on HBO, for example, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on NBC, or Daredevil on Showtime), Love is tonally and stylistically its own animal, changing not just episode by episode but sometimes scene by scene. Although this can be a jarring viewing experience (one which could quite possibly deter audiences from pushing on through the season’s entirety), there is method to the madness: it mimics perfectly the way romance plays out in real life. Relationships don’t exist as straight lines so it only makes sense that the show doesn’t either.

Love starring Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs

Helping this hurtling and brutally honest tale to be told so well is the show’s impressive medley of writing and directing talents. Although Love is not filmed in a mockumentary or realist style it helps that the likes of Dean Holland (Parks and Recreation), Brent Forrester (The Office) and Lesley Arfin (Girls) are on board to inject awkward sex scenes, tragically bad dates and public arguments with cringe-worthy authentic flair.

Another key to its success is that it doesn’t focus as heavily on Mickey and Gus as the marketing suggests. Rather, the series features a vibrant community of characters from all walks of life, each of whom get their own proverbial fifteen minutes whilst not quite stealing the show. It works because although Mickey and Gus are well formed characters, there are have limits as to which specific emotional upsets they can believably experience, and Love seems intent on paying dues to every romantic trauma imaginable.

It’s interesting that in its first episode Love decries how film and television lies about romance, as by the final episode of the season viewers who stick through its hardships will likely treat the show as the holy grail of romantic storytelling. This isn’t Netflix’s most enrapturing series but it is certainly its most original – and it’s hard not to love.

Words by Stephen Bowron