Love, the romantic comedy starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust debuted its third and final season Friday on Netflix. I have some thoughts on the final season — with full spoilers — followed by a conversation with Judd Apatow, who co-created the show with Rust and Lesley Arfin, coming up just as soon as I insist on a mutual breakup…
The first two years of Love often played as the story of a couple who didn’t really belong together. At first, it seemed that Mickey was the problem, with her addictions to sex and alcohol and drugs, and then it seemed like neurotic, temperamental people pleaser Gus was the bigger obstacle to the two of them making it work. And because, as Apatow notes below, the vision for the series involved covering “all the moments that most shows skip over” when dramatizing relationships, there could be periods when even when things were healthy between Mickey and Gus, something felt off because of the amount of time we were lingering on this moment or that.
Season three mostly chronicles a healthy period in the relationship — which itself provides license to focus on some of the show’s funny supporting characters, primarily Claudia O’Doherty’s Bertie — until late in the run when a visit to see Gus’s family in South Dakota seems like the thing that will finally wreck things for good, because Mickey thinks Gus believes she’ll never truly get her act together. Instead, Gus finally acknowledges that he’s been much more screwed up all along, and that honesty’s enough to both bring them back together and inspire them to get married, which they do at the very end of the finale after several fits and starts.
The season, like the rest of the run, is shaggy and occasionally too mortifying to watch scenes in one sitting, but I also felt by the end like Apatow and company had put in the work to make the conclusion of Mickey and Gus’s story feel earned, and not like a happy ending for its own sake. That’s the downside and upside to applying the Breaking Bad-style approach of dramatizing the in-between moments to a romantic comedy, but the payoff ultimately felt worth it.
I spoke with Apatow about the ending — and about the fact that he gets to conclude his shows properly now, when he couldn’t always do that earlier in his career — why a Freaks and Geeks sequel series is unlikely for reasons beyond the logistics of getting everyone back together, and more.
When you and Paul and Lesley first came up with the idea for the show, how long did you think it might run?
I don’t know. I think that we wanted to feel like we covered a major movement in the relationship. But, I don’t think we had a specific vision, or even an end, in mind. We were interested in the idea of showing all the moments that most shows skip over. So if they didn’t talk in between their first and second dates, we would just show all the things that happened when they weren’t talking. If they broke up, we would show what their lives were like during the breakup. Things like that.
When you say you didn’t have an ending in mind, could there have been a version of the show that ended where it didn’t work out?
Oh absolutely. I think we were feeling that out the whole time; that we really tried to follow it organically as we wrote it.
So at what point did you figure out that this would be the final season and that it would end the way that it did?
I’m always nervous when I make a show, and I never want to work on anything where it would end midway through a thought. So before we shot the third season, we talked about a way that the season would have closure that if that was, if that was the final episode that it would make sense and complete our thought. And if we were allowed to pick up and show the next phase that, that would work as well.
So if I’m reading between the lines here, you could have gone on a little bit more, but Netflix was not interested?
Well, obviously we’re not ending our own show. I think that all of these shows, in a sense, are miniseries. There’s no reason any show needs to be 180 episodes, and 36 is a lot of episodes. When we do Crashing, we do eight episodes a season. So if we did four seasons, that would be 32 episodes. That’s a lot of seasons these days. But I think all the paradigms have shifted. Some series like Vice Principals are two seasons and that’s what they’re intended to be. This is the kind of concept that can continue for as long as you wanted to but also end at certain moments and work perfectly. So this felt like a thoughtful, logical way to conclude it and we were happy to be able to complete our story. But, for everything I’ve ever done, I’d always be happy to say, “Well what happened to everybody from Forgetting Sarah Marshall?” I’d like to know. I’m always willing to show the next phase of anything. Each thing you do is different.
I think the world is clamoring for middle-aged Bill Haverchuck series.
Exactly. I think this is part of what’s happening in television now, which is the length of time a series is on the air used to be based on getting to 100 episodes and getting to syndication so that all the people who worked on the show and the producers and the production company would get rich. But syndication doesn’t really exist anymore for most television. Now we’re all deciding, “How long is this? How many episodes do you need to tell the story properly?” As much as I would’ve loved to have done a lot of episodes of Freaks and Geeks, there’s an argument to be made that it was the perfect amount of time to tell that story without it running out of gas and getting weird because you were stretching the premise beyond the amount of ideas you had. And that’s why you’re seeing a lot of shows end not in five or six seasons, but some at two, some at four, some at three, and I think that’s gonna be the future of streaming television.
This is pie in the sky, but with all of these reboots and revivals being done now, if someone came to you and Paul [Feig] with an obscene amount of money and you were able to gather together enough of the actors, is that something you would ever be interested in revisiting?
I only think we would ever be interested in revisiting it because we had an idea that we thought was as strong as the original idea. I don’t think there is a number that would make us do it as a cash grab. But if Paul Feig woke up in the middle of night and said “I’ve figured it out,” then something like that becomes real. I don’t believe that has ever been his intention. We always felt like we ended on an oddly perfect, magical note. And most of the ideas that Paul wanted to express, he got to express. You know, we were compressed in Freaks and Geeks because we thought we were gonna get canceled at any moment. So we used most of our great ideas. The next phase of the show would’ve been all of the geeks suddenly being six feet tall and how that would change their relationships. And so it probably would’ve ruined the show anyways.
Back to Love, when did you realize, “This is going to work out and we’re going to end with them getting married on the beach”?
I think that was always an open question up until we started shooting. We debated it and we ultimately thought that they were impulsive people and they had a very strong connection. And the ending of the series would be similar to the first series, which is they take big leaps and they’re passionate with each other. They love each other and they have a lot of problems, and this seems to be what this couple would do. They would just jump into the next phase and throw caution to the wind.