Author: Navani Otero

Rom-Com Protagonists We Love to Hate

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Judd Appatow’s latest opus dropped yesterday on Netflix and comes in the form of a 10-episode romantic comedy title Love. It attempts to understand what love is by chronicling the relationship between self-loathing and self-sabotaging alcoholic Mickey (Gillian Jacobs)  and Gus (Paul Rust), an OCD, socially awkward on-set tutor. Their courtship evolves from one misstep after another in the new trend of two dysfunctional people coming together and finding solace in each other’s mess. It’s a trend that means viewers end up falling for characters that are really not so nice. Need more examples that this is a thing? Here’s four other delightfully wicked rom-coms featuring the most awful, unlikable protagonists.

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Casual [Hulu]
Newly divorced Valerie moves in with her brother Alex and together they embark on dating while raising her teenage daughter. Sounds so lovely and sweet, right? Wrong. We figure out pretty quickly how selfish and narcissistic both Valerie and Alex are. Lifelong bachelor Alex is rich from his dating start up success so he barely does anything productive including work. Valerie gets romantically involved with anyone remotely linked to both her brother and daughter for some reason. The idea of two broken people coming to together to magically heal each other usually works when it centers around two people dating. When it’s a brother and sister it’s just weird and borders on incestuous at times. But for some reason you can’t look away.

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You’re the Worst [FXX, Hulu]
When Jimmy Shive-Overly and Gretchen Cutler meet at a wedding it’s dislike at first sight. The two bond over their shared anti-relationship sentiments. We are sure we loathe them because Jimmy is a narcissist that just got kicked out of said wedding for disrespecting the bride. Meanwhile, Gretchen is a cynic leaving with a stolen gift. What kind of people are these? What starts as a one-night stand blossoms in some dark, dysfunctional way into a GASP, relationship, much to their surprise. We can’t help but keep watching the terror unfold. Luckily, the one-liners in here and the amazing supporting characters give the couple and show some redeeming value.

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Sleeping with Other People [Amazon Video, iTunes]
Addiction rears it’s head again here in this modern day When Harry Met Sally. Jake and Lainey have a one stand in college and then 12 years later run into each other at a sex-addicts-anonymous meeting. Yep, that’s where we are headed with this. Both have just cheated on their significant others causing the demise of their perspective relationships, surprise, surprise. Jake is an expert at Peter Panning and cuts out at the first sign of trouble in any relationship and sleeps with someone else. Lainey is obsessed with her unavailable gynecologist making her non-committal. Again, not nice people! They make a pact to try something new and just be platonic friends. No sexy time, just friends. And somehow this works. Of course, they fall in love with each other and push those feelings away. Lainey does the sensible thing and moves out of state. But then Jake does the inevitable rom-com grand gesture of beating up the gynecologist and now they realize they have to be together.

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Togetherness [HBO]
If you want a recipe for dysfunction take one self-loathing, out of work actor friend, one unfocused, selfish sister and one unhappily married couple mix together and put in the same house and Voila! That’s the premise for one of the realest depictions of the trials and tribulations of marriage on TV. Brett and Michelle Pierson’s marriage is in that weird mundane stage where they have lost all the passion and zest. Brett is super grouchy while trying to find himself and Michelle wants to have more fun. They take in Michelle’s little sister Tina and Brett’s BFF Alex, somewhat out of pity but probably more for a distraction. Tina offers to help Alex become the leading man he’s always wanted to be and in the process they become great friends. When Alex professes his undying love for Tina she opts for dating the rich producer guy who actually has his own place instead. OOF. Oh and Michelle rediscovers her passion, with someone who is not her husband.

What We’re Streaming: Chelsea Does

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You either love Chelsea or hate her but one thing is for sure – what you see is what you get. That remains true in her latest venture, Chelsea Does, now streaming on Netflix. In the four episode docu-series an unapologetically Chelsea Handler delves into topics of marriage, racism, drugs and technology.

Highlights include seeing Chelsea squirm in uncomfortable moments where she is in way over her head and can’t really manipulate the conversation – like anytime she is speaking to children or attempting computer programming. In “Marriage” Handler approaches an untapped source for relationship advice, a group of kids under 10. They assure her that she is not too old to get married although “sometimes you don’t get married if you have too much work to do.” These are the times where she is most vulnerable and human. That and when she is attempting to engage her 80-plus-year-old dad in a dialogue about marriage. As Handler openly shares she is 40 and wants to settle down with someone, he calmly spews out to her brother how Chelsea is simply “not marriage material.” OOF. You leave with a whole new level of sympathy for her surviving her dad.

Thankfully, levity resumes in “Silicon Valley” where she takes on the tycoons of tech to learn how to use her cell phone and pitch an idea for an app. The beta version of her app “Gotta Go” is completed and it actually works! She tests it when she wants to get out of a children’s computer programming class she is failing miserably at. Who hasn’t been there.  Toodles, programming, let’s leave it to the kiddies.

Things get super intense when Chelsea takes on racism. She interviews Al Sharpton to get some ideas on how to break down barriers at an individual level. He offers some really sage ideas and super useful takeaways. Then Chelsea travels down south and interviews some pro-confederate groups who offer up their take on slavery, including the assertion that slaves were loved and cared for and didn’t have it so bad. Chelsea’s quick-witted sarcasm and blunt sassiness are extremely appreciated at this point.

In the end, traditional Chelsea Lately fans will be thrilled with the series. It’s not too far off comedically from her on-the-street stints done on her earlier show, while continuing the spirit of the panel discussion — only now it’s composed of her bffs and family. True documentary buffs and non-Chelsea fans might have a harder time taking the series seriously, but there are some real gems if you watch closely enough, and the levity Chelsea brings to touchy and sometimes upsetting topics is at times a gem in itself. She challenges us not to take ourselves too seriously at the end of the day, even when discussing super serious subjects. I urge everyone to take her up on the challenge.