Love doesn’t stand a chance on contemporary television, and nothing proves that better than three shows premiering Thursday night that offer exceptionally bleak views of modern relationships and marriage.
That isn’t to say that the shows are bad – in fact, two are very good and one is exceptional.
The obviously titled “Married” stars Nat Faxon (“Trophy Wife”) and Judy Greer (“Archer”) as Russ and Lina Bowman, whose wistful memories of their carefree and sex-filled premarital days only make them gloomier about the reality of raising three young daughters, never having time for themselves or each other, and trying to make ends meet.
When the kids are finally put down for the night, Lina crawls into bed with a vampire novel while Russ tries without success to initiate sex. Things have become so routine that Lina says she wouldn’t really care if he took a mistress, as long as he was discreet. Is she serious or kidding?
The writing is superb and painfully funny, while the cast is terrific. In addition to the perfectly matched Faxon and Greer, it includes this summer’s movie “it” woman Jenny Slate, the star of “Obvious Child,” as Jess, who is married to an older man but remains on the prowl at all times. Jess complains that her husband has to put on his knee brace when they have sex. A few episodes later, we meet the elderly gentleman himself: sitcom royalty Paul Reiser.
Fighting against love
“You’re the Worst,” also premiering on FX, is about two people who have been burned by failed relationships to a point of no return, making them, of course, perfect for each other.
You can pretty much lay odds that all the dispassionate hooking up will lead to love in the end, but in the meantime, snide British egoist Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere, “The Spa”), and celebrity PR handler Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash, “The Wolf of Wall Street”) will snarl, hiss and insult each other and the whole idea of true love because that’s how they’ve adapted after being burned by past relationships.
In search of ‘Satisfaction’
The flawed but oddly compelling drama “Satisfaction” takes an especially cynical view of marriage, but it’s no laughing matter in the USA drama.
Neil Truman (Matt Passmore, “The Glades”) is an investment banker who has it all and hates most of it. In an early midlife crisis, he’s questioning his job, the fact he can’t even attend his daughter’s high school talent show, why the pool outside his very expensive suburban home is always cluttered with leaves and why he and his wife, Grace (Stephanie Szostak, “R.I.P.D.”), no longer even use the pool.
Yes, Don Draper has gone suburban in the drama created by Sean Jablonski (“Nip/Tuck”).
Virtually anyone who’s ever wanted to take this job and shove it, or who wasn’t careful about what he’s wished for, will immediately identify with Neil. He can’t be the husband he wants to be, the father he wants to be or even the man he wants to be, and the most convenient thing to blame is his soul-slurping job.
Neil’s marriage certainly does seem perfect – on the surface, at least. Grace is beautiful, supportive, patient and quick to praise Neil when he comes home to report he’s being given expanded responsibilities at the firm. To him, the new responsibilities are more of a burden, but he can’t find the words to tell Grace what he’s going through because he doesn’t really understand it himself.
He has a mini meltdown at work, but his boss thinks he’s kidding. The next day, after being stuck in an airplane for five hours waiting to take off, Neil finally loses it.
Or maybe he’s really found it.
He can’t wait to tell Grace, but that’s when “Satisfaction” really gets interesting: He discovers something about Grace that makes him question everything he’s ever thought about her.
The cynical part isn’t that this discovery blows the marriage to kingdom come – it’s the opposite: Neil and Grace find ways to pursue their own interests while maintaining the mirage of marital perfection.
Do we enjoy or at least temporarily buy into shows like these because we are drawn to cynical takes on modern life and relationships? Or do we watch in hope of being able to say, as the final credits roll, that at least our marriages or relationships aren’t that bad?
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
‘You’re the Worst’
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday