Mental illness isn’t an easy thing to depict in the media, but when it’s done well, it should be celebrated. Doctor Who, of all things, had an episode that dealt with depression, and it did so in a very respectful manner. If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to be spoiled, skip ahead to the next paragraph. For those who don’t know, Vincent Van Gogh suffered from depression for most of his life. He ended up killing himself after years of feeling like a worthless and underappreciated outsider. Long story short, at the end of the episode, The Doctor decides to give Van Gogh a gift of sorts. He takes Vincent with him in the TARDIS and travels to an art museum in the 21st century. Here, Van Gogh learns of the impact his work has had on the world of art and how much it means to people. He is reduced to tears as he thanks The Doctor. The Doctor returns Vincent to his home. The Doctor’s companion, Amy, wants to travel back to the art museum to see how much more great paintings Van Gogh has now produced since knowing that he ends up being appreciated surely meant that he decided not to end his life early. As it turns out, Vincent’s fate remained unchanged. Depression isn’t something that can be immediately fixed, and not even The Doctor can do that. In fact, The Doctor wasn’t expecting it to. He tells Amy, “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” This, I felt, was a very respectful view of depression.
I haven’t seen too many other shows tackle the topic of depression. Mental illness is a serious thing, and it can’t really be talked about and dealt with in a single episode of a show. Along comes “You’re The Worst”. I had been following the show since its first season thanks to an endorsement from FilmCritHULK, one of my most trusted online critics, albeit a guy who writes from the perspective of the Hulk. He’s a little weird to read at first, but once you get past that, you’ll find one of the smartest and most insightful media/culture critics online.
The premise is basically an anti-relationship relationship comedy. What do I mean by that? Here is a short promo for season 3 that shows what I mean and is spoiler free:
Jimmy, a struggling, self-centered writer, meets Gretchen, a snarky publicist for an up and coming rap group. Two very flawed people end up falling for each other but they askew traditional relationship stuff because they’ve grown cynical of the whole idea from being burned in the past. I hopped aboard because I can relate. After my failed relationships, I pretty much have a, “Why even bother?” stance in my thirties. First and foremost, this is a comedy. Watching Jimmy and Gretchen trade barbs with each other is often hilarious, and their almost nihilistic views of the world results in funny scenarios (Sunday Fun Days, restaurants that make you sit with strangers, what your preference for lead singer of Genesis says about you as a person). And this is how the first season goes for the most part. Jimmy and Gretchen gradually fall for each other while using their cynicism for humor. I liked the show, but I didn’t really go out of my way to recommend it to others. It was just something I liked enough to stay on board for season two.
Season 2 rolls around, and, at first, it seemed like a steady continuation of the things I loved about the first season. Then, a few episodes in, the show started to sneak in something that I could relate to even more than the show’s anti-relationship relationship mantra. As Jimmy got closer to Gretchen, viewers started to see signs that Gretchen is suffering from depression. Jimmy finds her crying alone in her car one night. When he brings it up, he wants to know if it was something he did wrong. She told him it wasn’t, and he felt satisfied with that answer. Then more of Gretchen’s depression bubbles to the surface. She lashes out at her friends, she becomes more lethargic, she shuts down completely and only communicates via text message even if the other person is in the same room. She cries herself to sleep. These are all things I have done. I was seeing the version of me in my 20s where I was neglecting my medicines and letting the illness become my identity. I too have told a significant other that they would be better off with somebody who didn’t have a broken brain.
Don’t let the seriousness of this topic scare you away. This is still a comedy. There are still funny plots like Jimmy heckling his roommate Edgar’s improv class and an episode where a rat is loose in the house and everyone but Jimmy seems unconcerned with it. Gretchen still has misadventures with the rap group she manages. Her friend Lindsay’s love life is still a hot mess. But as the episodes wind down into their last 8 minutes or show, things get real, and the characters have to deal with something that not many shows are brave enough to deal with, let alone a comedy. I mean, I can’t think of any other comedies that deal with mental illness, but there are a couple of shows that deal with a developmental disorder that should be addressed in a serious manner. Instead, the shows dance around it and sometimes make jokes at its expense (I’m looking at you “Big Bang Theory” and “Community”). Here is a show that is able to make you laugh, love its characters and be repulsed by their actions, and yet you still find yourself rooting for them. For those who struggle with depression, it’s a show that you can relate to. Seeing others go through what you have gone through has a certain therapeutic quality to it. For those who don’t struggle with depression, here’s a good place to learn about it. It’s a smart, funny show that can teach you what it’s like for people with this illness so you don’t have to read some boring thinkpiece on it on some asshole’s blog (*cough*).
I’m being light on plot details on purpose because I don’t want to spoil any of the gags on the show. All of the one-liners and insults sound much funnier coming out of the characters’ mouths than they would if I wrote them out here. Just trust me on this one. Have I ever led you astray when it comes to recommending tv or movies?
Hopefully by now you’re wondering how you can catch up on the show. No, Netflix doesn’t have it yet, but I’m willing to bet that they will since they carry a lot of other FXX shows like Louie and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Good news for you, though. You can watch the first two seasons on Hulu! You don’t even need a subscription! Season one has 10 episodes and season 2 has 13. So 23 episodes clocking in at 23 minutes each without commercials isn’t a tall order. I’ve seen you guys binge your way through longer stuff without breaking a sweat. Here’s the tricky part. The currently airing season 3 is not on Hulu. For those of you who have cable, the show airs Wednesdays on FXX and depending on your cable provider, you can watch the first two episodes of this season on demand. If not, you can watch them on FXX’s website after providing your cable subscription information. But this is 2016, and many people have ditched cable. Everything can be found online of course but Mouthy Broadcast does not condone the illegal activity of downloading copyrighted material. My best suggestion would be to ask a friend who has cable for their cable info and just watch it from the FXX site. It won’t cost a dime to either of you, and you get to tune in what already looks like a continuation of quality that this show has been putting out.
If anything, at least watch the show so we can all sing the “Sunday Fun Day” song together. Or, best possible scenario, watch this great show with funny characters and a respectful portrayal of depression. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel sad, you might learn something, and after watching these two going around LA, you won’t feel like YOU’RE the worst.