Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Tonight sees the Season 2 finale of one our favorite shows on the tube, YOU’RE THE WORST. This season has sent us on quite a roller coaster. Whether we laughed hysterically at Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash) crusin’ around the mall on scooters, Edgar (Desmin Borges) doing imporov, or Lindsay (Kether Donohue) with her signature comical stings, the comedy delivered at an all-time high.
As always, the drama also has been exceptional, too. The season took a twist for the dark by exploring Gretchen’s depression and Chris’ confusion with how to deal with it. A lot has happened that has left us with many lingering questions. But don’t worry, all will be revealed tonight, along with another case full of questions.
Before tuning in tonight, see what creator Stephen Falk had to say to us when we rang him up to talk about tonight’s finale and what’s in store for us in Season 3.
Last time we talked, we talked about writing timeless comedy, and now I wanted to ask you about writing and directing subtlety in drama, because I’ve always felt like that’s been one of your many strengths as a showrunner. There’s all these moments, especially at the end of the season, and even at the end of the Season 1, these glances and smiles between our leads. They hit like a shot in the heart, and I was wondering how it was doing those scenes and what your process is for achieving that.
Stephen Falk: “Oh, gosh. I think, A) a lot of it is due to how fantastic the actors are. They execute those little shots to the heart. When we’re sitting down with the writing staff, I try to not cut ourselves off from anything in terms of tonality or drama. I think that my writing is terrible when I feel really limited. When I’m trying to do something very– I’m not a genre writer. I just couldn’t do it. I need to sort of write stuff that feels personal and that feels emotionally engaging.
Just sort of doing like straight jokey stuff, I just don’t think I’d be able to do it, because even as a viewer, I can watch straight comedy, but I do need to also be engaged on some level. But this is my first time directing this year, and having a theater background helps a lot.
I think the first thing to be able to do is once you can eliminate any sort of idea about what you’re supposed to be doing, any fear of what the f**k am I doing putting this in a comedy? Then you can relax into it and really just have the actors play the truth of the moment.
The first episode I directed was episode 9, which was called ‘LCD Soundsystem’ this season, and there’s a very, very dramatic moment at the end when Gretchen starts crying as she’s walking away, while Jimmy’s sort of talking, oblivious to her pain, and that was a big process. But really as a director, I just sort of made sure the camera was in the right place and wrote it in such a way that she knew what I wanted, and what the scene needed, and then I just took it from there. That’s all the credit to her.”
I also got to ask you about your pop culture references, which are hilarious to me, whether it’s PEAKY BLINDERS or RECTIFY, or even THE BABADOOK. You seem to very tuned with everything that’s going on in the world of TV and film outside of running the show.
Falk: “Yeah, absolutely. Myself, but also my writers, we’re all very, very– You know, probably to the detriment of our personal lives or all the great novels we could be reading. We’re all very tuned into pop culture and I’m aware that those kind of references can often not be evergreen, can kind of date something, but at the same time, my belief is that the more specific you get in building your world, the more universal you can be.
I think for characters, particularly characters of this age in Los Angeles, it would feel false to not be name checking bands and movies and TV shows and products, really, and Fox hates that I do that because we don’t get paid and we’re not doing endorsements. But, you know, in life you name things. It’s just being very culturally aware, and then also wanting it to seem real.”
How you approach topics in a very unique way for a comedy? Whereas other shows might do, “OK, we’re going to do an improv episode.” “OK, we’re going to do a depression episode.” You really focus these worlds and kind of stretch them throughout the course of the whole season. We really get an amazing look into these worlds, either external or internal. What’s your approach to the places you want to take the characters, since you do dedicate so much screen time to each of these storylines?
Falk: “Oh, yeah, no, I think what you’re talking about specifically is a way of sort of making a show that ends up sometimes feeling too episodic, and which is, you know, yes, there are shows that can exist more episodically, like IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY. That’s a show that’s the form of that show, and it’s a brilliant show. We’re a little more long-form storytelling and I think I’m just always very cognizant of trying to make the whole season feel like one story, and it may be a detriment to giving an entrance point to new audience members, but at the same time I think we do have enough stand-alone stuff that it’s funny.
But in terms of where we want the characters to go, which was sort of the latter part of your question, I think that we sort of look again, holistically at the whole season, and look at a lot of elements, balancing the entire show, the strength of the particular actors, where we want the characters to get to this season, or even just in terms of Edgar with improv. I felt that we had sort of made him a little bit of a whipping boy and he’ll continue to exist in that world for Jimmy and Gretchen, because they’re f**king a**holes in a lot of ways, but I wanted to kind of reward that character, and also watch Desmin [Borges] get to shine without just functioning as a sidekick.”
I find it very interesting and engaging that you focus on Gretchen, who, as you just said, can be a huge a**hole, and she deals with clinical depression in a way that is so separate from her normal “a**holishness.” How do you as writers, and if any one in the writing team has experienced either having or knowing someone with depression, balance the traits that are Gretchen, who she is outside depression and what her depression causes?
Falk: “I think that’s a big topic in the writer’s room. A) Not to name check anyone, but I think we all have experience with it, depression specifically, so but beyond our own experience, we did a lot research into clinical research. How’s that? Just articles about, also then, what happens to a relationship in depression? Because it wasn’t just about isolated clinical depression, but rather depression’s affect on the relationship.
If you strip away the disease, is Gretchen a different person? Well, kind of, but at the same time, I think what makes human beings so complicated, so frustratingly complicated– Without thinking all the things it did to her, to forming her personality, if you take those away or just sort of leave that question, if she didn’t suffer from clinical depression, or it could be completely cured with a pill or a shot or something, she probably would still be a narcissist, an a**hole, a liar. I think that’s just sort of the fundamentals of her character. On top of which, lucky for her, she has this other thing to contend with.”
Now that you’ve tackled some of the darker issues for comedy in Season 2, what are your thoughts on Season 3? Where do you see it going from here?
Falk: “Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s a good question. I think that if we tried to sort of recreate what we did in Season 1 and Season 2, it would have been problematic. You know, we would have had a certain segment of the audience that was very happy to just let Jimmy and Gretchen have fun and watch their weird antics. But instead we sort of challenged ourselves, and I think then, similarly, if we tried to do something equally dark and potentially issuey, like tackle depression, if we did that in Season 3, I think we would risk also repeating ourselves.
It would just feel a little creatively suspect. I don’t know exactly. I’m excited to get back into the writer’s room in January, hopefully, and find out, but I think we learned a lot about what the network has tolerance for, what the audience has an appetite and the intellectual capacity for, and I certainly learned, even though I knew, how I can stretch the actors and the writers in any different surprising direction. I think the landscape is wide open. I’m very, very excited to see what we come up with.”
Lastly, We had the opportunity to talk to Aya Cash a couple of weeks ago. We brought up Season 3 and she mentioned that she would really love a musical episode for the “Sunday Funday” episode next season. Are you open to that?
Falk: “She loves coming up with ideas and talking about them so I have to answer. I love that. I think that’s a fantastic idea. Not promising anything. She and I have not talked about this, I don’t think, but I had a similar thought that if we were going to do ‘Sunday Funday,’ again, it would have to be something very different, and something very exciting to tackle. Yeah, maybe, but regardless of whether it’s that specifically, I love music. My composer and Tiffany Anders, who finds tracks for us, are both brilliant. The actors, I haven’t heard all their singing voices, but they all like singing.
I’ve so far only heard a couple, but and you know, we have the rappers there, and clearly, clearly this season there was a lot of music and we tried to release as much as we could. Yeah, I’d love to get more musical elements there, without feeling like late season desperation or boredom, which I think it can for certain shows, not that it was desperation for BUFFY or SCRUBS or whatever. But there’s numerous examples of shows that were just sort of in their twilight, they were like, “F**k it, let’s do a musical.” I’d have to feel internally that it wasn’t feeling like that.”
The Season 2 finale of YOU’RE THE WORST airs tonight at 10:45 p.m. E/P only on FXX.