Like Woody Allen and others before him, Paul Rust seems to have devised a show in which he gets the beautiful woman. Yet in the charming new “Love” (Netflix, streaming) that starts today, its not that easy.
For one thing, Gillian Jacobs, the object of desire in “Community,” is more of a piece of work. As Mickey, she’s angry, unpredictable, and leaves behind a string of rattled relationships behind her. She meets the admittedly geeky Gus (Rust) who helps her out at the convenience store and they spend a day driving around together.
Like the other serialized Judd Apatow show, “Girls” (which coincidentally returns for a new season Sunday), it’s a breezy insight into modern life of youngish people (these two in their early 30s), with plenty of snarky and on-target pop culture observations. But as it goes on, it more resembles his film “This is 40” in which the troubles of modern survival just keep coming, the drama mixed with the humor enough to add up to reality.
As such, after meeting cute, the two do not meet again for a couple of episodes, awaiting the right text at the right time. In between there’s problems with each of them at their L.A. jobs — he’s a tutor to a bona fide brat at a bad TV show; she’s a producer of at a call-in shrink show on satellite radio, hosted by an unstable person. Rust created the show and co-produces it so he’s full of good comic ideas. But as in Apatow’s more personal movies, it’s grounded in everyday, familiar problems.
“Basically it’s a movie with a pause,” Apatow told writers at the TV Critics Association winter press tour. “It is a continuous story. We never jump three months forward or anything like that. That was part of the intention of the show.
“We we were told very early on that when people watch half hour shows on Netflix, that a lot of the times they’ll watch three to five episodes,” he went on. “So we tried to keep that in mind, that the experience of watching it wouldn’t be the one episode. It would be at least two or three. And that was really the fun for all of us to try to figure out what that experience would be like.”
It makes it much more amenable to binging, for one thing.
But is it believable? A beautiful girl with a nerd?
“I certainly feel like the show is incredibly relatable for me, for my friends, people that I know,” Jacobs says. “I’ve seen scenes like this go down. I’ve certainly had some public fights with people, especially when I lived in New York. I’ve definitely cried on a stoop. So it felt sometimes eerily familiar and then other times not my own specific experience but very relatable to me.”
As for Rust, as bespectacled as his character and just as Midwestern (though he’s from Iowa and not South Dakota), he plays it deadpan: “No, I’ve never been a nerd in a relationship before. Never happened.”
Rust co-wrote the Pee-Wee Herman movie coming to Netflix next month that Apatow produced and pitched the “Love” idea. “Paul is an amazing writer,” Apatow says. “I was producing that project, and then we started talking about other ideas.”
Rust says he always hoped he’d be cast as lead, but he couldn’t believe when it actually happened.
”It’s funny,” he says. “Like, after it got picked up, the next month I was convinced I was going to get the phone call, like, ‘We replaced you with James Franco. We’re sorry.’ But it didn’t happen.”
See how quickly it takes you to get through the engaging “Love.”