Stephen Falk Q&A: ‘You’re the Worst’ creator
"The plan has always been that their relationship is kind of normal … It's just that they're weirdos and narcissists," says Stephen Falk in our recent video chat about his FX comedy "You're the Worst".
The series follows Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere), a selfish author, and Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), a cynical publicist, who bond over their equally jaundiced worldviews and begin a romantic relationship despite themselves.
"I was always a big fan of the romantic comedy genre. I just thought it had gone through a long cycle of kind of the same thing, and I think people were growing a little tired of it, both in movies and TV," explains Falk about his darker approach to the genre. He adds, "I think people inherently want to watch interesting characters, not necessarily likable characters."
Pulling off any successful love story on series television can be tricky, so Falk was "very deliberate" in avoiding the usual pitfalls of will-they-or-won't-they TV romances. "I sought to get that off the table immediately," he says, so "within the first three minutes of the pilot, they're boning."
But he acknowledges that it's "always a delicate balance. You do have to make sure you're not doing anything that makes it hard to root for them." Consider, for instance, a scrapped story idea in which "Jimmy and Gretchen were going to hit a guy with their car after drinking all day, and then spend the episode covering it up, and at the end of the day I thought maybe FX might balk at drunk-driving humor."
But Falk says the network has been supportive of his vision for the series. Indeed, FX renewed "You're the Worst" for a second season, which will air on sister network FXX. And don't expect a kinder, gentler show when it returns. "We're tackling something kind of big this year, and kind of dark," says Falk, "and it's going to be really fun to see what the audience thinks of that."
This isn't Falk's first foray into dark comedy. Before "You're the Worst," he cut his teeth as a writer on Jenji Kohan's dramedies "Weeds" and "Orange is the New Black." "She rescued me out of writing bad movies and taught me how to produce television, not only how to produce and do the actual job," says Falk of working with Kohan. "I learned everything about fearlessness in storytelling. Jenji is someone who really just does not give a crap about normal rules and expectations."
One of Falk's "Weeds" scripts, for the seventh-season episode "Object Impermanence," earned him a Writers Guild nomination for Episodic Comedy in 2011. The recognition came as a surprise to him because "shows don't get recognized normally [that late in their runs], particularly when they haven't been recognized for things after their first couple of seasons."
But the experience "was cool, and I got to go to a nice awards ceremony and think that I for a second won, because they announced the name of the 'Modern Family' creator as 'Stev-en Levitan' as opposed to 'Steve Levitan,' so they said Stephen and I was like, 'What!' And then they said Levitan and I just started laughing because I knew I wasn't going to win anyway."