Binge-watching a promising first season, and then getting to jump in and watch an amazing second season is a really fun way to get into a show. Most comedies suck in their first season, or at least take several episodes to get going. Some shows get better, and some get canceled. It’s a big gamble when you try out a new show, even when there are actors you like or a creator/show-runner you love. So many things can go wrong. Well, it’s not that big a gamble because at worst you’ve lost some free time you were probably going to spend on TV anyway. What’s nice about binging a show before the second season is simply that you don’t have to wait for the second season. I did this with both You’re the Worst and Rick and Morty. I watched Bojack Horseman right when season 1 came out, but I’ll talk about that show today too because it fits thematically.
You’re the Worst
I think the premise might turn some people off. The easiest way is to describe it as Always Sunny meets rom-com. Two terrible people who fall in love.
What drew me into the show was how far it gets beyond its premise. The typical sitcom has very broad characters. Side characters are 1-dimensional, main characters probably don’t even reach 2-dimensional. Relationships suffer too, in terms of development. Characters don’t communicate in order to facilitate wacky misunderstandings. So you get shows like Friends, where most of the characters are people you’re supposed to identify with, but they’re actually terrible people and terrible friends. Some shows correct it by leaning into it, making the characters actual terrible people. You get Seinfeld and Arrested Development and Always Sunny. But You’re the Worst manages to somehow make the characters bad people and 3-dimensional. Even the side characters get more and more of an inner life, as you get further into the show. You’re the Worst has a lot of empathy for its characters and is willing to investigate why they are the way they are. I love it when the comedy and plot comes from the characters. They have actual motivations and that drives conflict. A lot of times with sitcoms, you have to have this willing suspension of disbelief because there are plots where no one would ever really do that. I could see it while watching the show, but this intention with fleshing out characters came through in interviews with the creator too.
And despite being bad people, the two main characters actually have a really good relationship.
Season 2 introduces a plotline where one of the characters deals with depression. Well, it’s not just one characters because the fallout affects everyone else too. It handles mental illness very well. Here, just read Todd VanDerWerff, a real TV critic, talk about this show and his wife’s depression. It’s an amazing piece of writing, and better than anything I can say on the topic.
When you get to LCD Soundsystem, you’ll see that the show also takes risks, which I admire too. Back during April Fools, I really wanted an all-Winston pranks episode of New Girl, but it never happened. That show doesn’t really take risks.
Oh and the show is really funny. Funny lines, funny characters. People might categorize it as a dramedy, but as a sitcom aficionado, I categorize it as a sitcom.
Another show with a silly premise, that manages to actually be a deep show, and also deals with depression.
Bojack Horseman is a former 90s sitcom star, and the character is voiced by Will Arnett (that’s a very important detail to give you an idea of the character). Bojack is selfish and not nice. Usually, these characters will have a heart of gold or learn to be a better and person and this may involve winning over a girl too. This show does have a girl, but she’s a person too with her own motivations and not just a prop to help the main character. Or perhaps in a typical show, you’ll see the history of the main character, and feel sorry for him, and then you’ll know he’s just a good person who had a bad life. Instead, you do get to see why Bojack is the way he is, but you also see how his choices and actions make him a bad person, not just the circumstances. And that’s just season 1.
Season 2 elevates the show, dealing with Bojack’s depression. It’s interesting seeing the varieties of depression. On You’re the Worst, you see someone who deals with periodic debilitating bouts of depression. Bojack is more someone who seems permanently depressed and feels broken inside. (And Diane, another character on the show, deals with depression because of an existential crisis.) The show does a really good job with it, still managing to be really funny too (just like You’re the Worst). Honestly, as much as I love Steven Universe for feels-punching, I think You’re the Worst and Bojack had the most feels-punchy moments. Bojack is a really great show to watch when you’re depressed.
The reason I originally got into the show was because Lisa Hanawalt is the production designer, and she’s a funny, weird cartoonist. A lot of the characters on the show are basically people with animal heads (and sometimes limbs). It makes for some great visual puns too.
It has a really good cast with Will Arnett, Allison Brie, Aaron Paul, and Paul F. Thompkins. Season 2 adds Lisa Kudrow. Oh and my favorite Kristen Schaal plays a former-child star on Bojack’s show.
Rick and Morty
I decided to lump these shows together because it’s also another show that is in its second season, and I binge-watched season one before jumping into season two. This show is definitely on the more pessimistic end, as opposed to Steven Universe. My favorite quote (from season one): “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” And while Steven Universe occasionally gets dark (“all comedy is derived from fear”), this show is steeped in darkness. The meaninglessness of life is fundamentally part of the human condition, and the show often reflects that truth. Bojack Horseman is similarly dark when Bojack’s former friend dies, and Henry Winkler bluntly states that life has no meaning. Yet I think Bojack and You’re the Worst, while steeped in darkness, are ultimately hopeful, and it’s a sense that I never get from Rick and Morty. Anyway, if you think that life has no meaning, and that this is simultaneously depressing and hilarious, try Rick and Morty.
The other thing Rick and Morty has going for it is its inventiveness. The show constantly surprises with its crazy-ass plots. Describing them in a blog post won’t really do them justice. I wonder what it was like watching early Twilight Zone episodes (a show that is parodied in one episode of Rick and Morty), and if the ironic twists were surprising. If it was surprising, it must have felt really new and awesome. I suppose that would be the closest thing to watching Rick and Morty now.
Seriously, while watching all of these shows, I was like, “This is my favorite show now.” There’s so much good TV.