“You’re shaking the bed again.”
Russ is jostling the bed because his wife won’t sleep with him. So he takes matters into his own hands, and Lina exiles him to the couch in disgust.
Russ and Lina’s bedtime battle is just one raw squabble of many in “Married,” the first of two comedies FX is rolling out Thursday. “Married” and “You’re the Worst” focus on relationships, but you can forget about romance.
The networks will be bombarding us this fall with new comedies aiming for that elusive blend of edgy and sexy, but with the ratings bean-counters breathing down their necks, they won’t be able to strip down and get serious. And with titles like “Selfie” and “Bad Judge” on the way, it’s hard to be optimistic.
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Better to rely on the cable network that let “Louie” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have their ways with us.
“Married,” armed with all the naughty license basic cable allows, riffs on the basic premise of romantic comedies come before: Guy in committed relationship gets turned down for sex. Guy complains to his friends about lack of sex. Friends give terrible advice, leading Guy to do something so boneheaded that he’s not getting any for months. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
But thanks to its excellent cast, led by Nat Faxon and Judy Greer as Russ and Lina, “Married” rises above its cliched setup. Russ and Lina have three daughters, a tiny house and no savings. Russ, a freelance graphic designer, thinks Lina should go back to work.
“My last resume was on a floppy disk,” she reminds him. Their oldest has braces, but they can’t pay to have them tightened. Russ gets a vasectomy, but he can’t pay his bill at the follow-up visit.
Unluckily for us, the doctor decides to see him anyway. That means a sperm sample and, well, there he goes again, but only after he whines to the receptionist about the dirty magazines he’s been provided.
Russ whines a lot, but he’s been blessed with a stable of funny sidekicks to slap him into shape over beers.
John Hodgman of “The Daily Show” is Bernie, an affable nerd who gives Russ some work when he can, but is too wimpy to collect payment from his frat-bro clients. Comedian Brett Gelman is the bitter, recently divorced guy of the group, but he doesn’t sit around complaining into his whiskey sour. Instead he hires some call girls and finally puts his old workout room to use.
Comedy It-Girl Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child,” “Parks and Recreation”) is Jess, an instigator who’s still doing lines of coke in the bathroom at other people’s engagement parties. She married an older man, so she keeps a knee brace handy in the bedroom.
Paul Reiser as Jess’ creaky older husband is about the only thing “Married” has in common with sweet 1990s comedies like “Mad About You.” It has something to say about falling back on the friendship that brings couples together in the first place, but its lack of sentimentality is what makes it refreshing.
“You’re the Worst” rewinds the theme of an edgy, profanity-laden pairing to the hookup phase. Like “The Mindy Project,” it begins with a hilarious public shaming at the wedding of somebody’s ex, but this reception has a happy ending: It brings together Gretchen and Jimmy.
Gretchen (Aya Cash) meets Jimmy (Chris Geere) while she’s stealing a blender from the gift table. He’s just been thrown out after taking down-pants pictures with every disposable camera on the guest tables.
Their inevitable one-night stand starts off “You’re the Worst” with the matter-of-fact, show-all-you-can getting-it-on that FX seems to have devoted itself to. These scenes have their own laughs, but between rolls in the hay, Jimmy and Gretchen start to tell each other all their awful stories.
Who cares? they figure. It’s not the beginning of anything. Why lie? So begins a tennis match of unapologetic confessions (“… and that’s how I got crabs from my guidance counselor!”).
Jimmy and Gretchen are toxic, self-destructive and secretly not ashamed of any of it. They’re obviously meant for each other. But she’s afraid of relationships, and he thinks love is “bollocks.” (He’s British.)
“Why would you stay over?” he chastises her when the sun rises. “It’s amateur hour.” But Jimmy’s roommate Edgar (Desmin Borges) is an instant Gretchen fan, and he lets her “borrow” Jimmy’s car so they have to talk again, which leads to more dirty things.
“If we both know that it can’t work, then there’s no harm, right?” Gretchen muses.
Jimmy and Gretchen’s “relationship” — a friends-with-benefits situation without the friendship — includes a lot of sexual one-upmanship. The two shows will make you wonder if FX got some kind of special masturbation allotment from the FCC.
“I thought all Englishmen were sexually repressed.”
“You’re thinking of the Welsh.”
“You’re the Worst” isn’t all giggling between the sheets. Jimmy strikes up a friendship with a neighbor kid that verges on sweet despite being ripped straight from NBC’s “About a Boy.” Edgar is crippled with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Middle East. Part of Gretchen’s job as a publicist is deciding when a 16-year-old actress should introduce her boobs to the world.
But it’s Gretchen and Jimmy’s repartee, their unrelenting need to voice their awful thoughts, that makes “Worst” worth watching. Even if you never stole a cat from a bookstore and didn’t shoplift well into your 20s, you might recognize some of your friends when Gretchen and her best friend Lindsay (Kether Donohue) sample a dozen frozen yogurt flavors without buying anything. “None for me, I’m so full!” Or when Jimmy and Edgar debate the greatest villains of cinematic classics — namely, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Jimmy: “Ferris is the hero, Jennifer Grey is the foil, Principal Rooney is the fool, Sloane is the sidekick. Cameron’s the villain.”
Edgar: “How is Cameron the villain?”
“He spends the whole day subverting every attempt at fun with his passive aggressive anxiety and relentless naysaying.”
“Are we even watching the same movie?”
To reach Sara Smith, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @SarawatchesKC.
WHERE TO WATCH
“Married” premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on FX, followed by “You’re the Worst” at 9:30.