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Take Five: FXX's 'You're the Worst' Creator and Showrunner Stephen Falk

by Andrew Greene  |  08.30.2016

When the narcissistic, cynical and hilariously LA show You’re the Worst returns to FXX this Wednesday, August 31, it’ll be with raised expectations following a bold second season that tackled Gretchen’s (Aya Cash) continuing battle with depression.

Daily Brief chatted with creator and showrunner Stephen Falk about the wonders and pitfalls of that success, how critics affect the writer’s room and the burgeoning evils of brunch culture.

DAILY BRIEF: Given the crazy saturated landscape of TV, how do you watch TV these days?

FALK: It’s a little pathetic that I’m a voracious TV watcher, yet I just watch my DVR percentage go higher and higher. That’s in part because we’re in production, but I tend to watch a lot of stuff on streaming services now just because they’re putting out a lot of good content and I go where the good content is.

When someone says they “binge” your show, do you take that in any way but a compliment?

When I worked on Orange is the New Black I missed the feeling of everyone watching the same episode at the same time, or at least within a couple days or whatever. It allows for less conversation to build about a certain episode. I do think that’s a big advantage of being on something that’s more episodic rather than on Netflix. It’s not all at the same time. That’s a drawback.

In general, you give the people who write about television, you’re giving them a story every week. Whereas if you dump a whole season at one time, they’re probably going to be less likely to write about five or six different episodes that hit them or that they want to recap. Critical buzz is totally important with the landscape being so diversified and spread out and hard to wrangle. Those people are really the only way that people can find out about shows on a smaller network.

CR: Byron Cohen/FX

Has the critical love changed how you work on the show?

Yeah, having had good reactions to weird things we’ve tried, and different directions we’ve gone on, it gives you a little more latitude and courage that you’re not going to necessarily turn the audience off.

Once you’ve done some work that they like for a couple seasons, you buy yourself a little goodwill and patience. We’re still always incredibly afraid of turning people off, but we’re very cognizant of never allowing that fear to stop us from what we want to do creatively.

In a way, Jimmy (Chris Geere) vocalizes all the ridiculous fears a writer has.

Yeah, but at the same time the stuff about writing that comes out of Jimmy’s mouth is mostly us poking fun at ourselves and the way writers talk about writing. There’s nothing attractive about it. It’s so bourgie and frivolous and really just procrastination-based. Writers are pretentious, by nature. We’re writers so we can crap words, so we tend then to crap more words about how hard is it to crap words. It just becomes so disgusting and gross. We get out a lot of our self-hatred through Jimmy.

CR: Byron Cohen/FX

You’re the Worst doesn’t limit its self-hatred to writers, but to ALL OF LA. We’re shitty people.

Yes. We are. It’s a silly place to live. It’s a desert that shouldn’t exist, but we get to take water from Northern California from the Central Valley farmers. It’s ultimately not super sustainable, which is part of the reason why everyone is living in a fantasy world here.

How cognizant are you of critics when writing? I imagine that’s a detriment.

It’s something we’re cognizant of and then push through. I remember reading a recap, I can’t even remember who it was but it was someone I respect saying the storyline with these two side characters was funny but overall this show was better when it gives them less screen time. Then I have that inkling in my head a little bit when I’m writing a storyline for some of the minor characters. I just have to tune that out and do it anyway. It’s possible it leads me pivoting in the other direction: well f*** you, I’m going to so reject what you said, I’m going to do the opposite. There’s a constant give and take.

Since we’re going to be shooting while we air over the first three weeks or so, I’m going to really really try not to read a lot about our show. This last season, while it strokes your ego in a really amazing way, it can really then make you afraid for the future. That you’ve peaked or become a slave to the feedback. I never want to do that because my job is to tune it out, and always have my mind calibrated toward what’s best for the show.

You mentioned how success breeds more risk taking. What risks are you taking in season 3?

CR: Byron Cohen/FX

We are doing a deep dive into Edgar’s PTSD overall, but also specifically for one episode that is all about that.

I won’t say who, but later in the season, we have a completely depressive episode devoted to two of the more secondary characters which is really, really their episode. Those are two risks we felt that, if not earned the right to do, we earned the right to try.

Last season, you explored and lampooned improv comedy. What’s the target this season?

Our Sunday Funday episode, which we’re doing again, is really about how Los Angeles brunch culture has co-opted Sunday Funday. Not from us, we didn’t make it up, but it has kind of ruined it and ruined it for us. And moreover, that episode is also about Speakeasy culture and the scavenger hunt culture. We’re going to dive into all of that.

What’s your doughnut of choice?

Chocolate old-fashioned. Cake donuts are superior to glazed donuts, obviously, and the old-school nature plus the nice coagulation of chocolate and the crunch of the little crispy outer rim is really pleasing.

If you could be the spokesman for any product, what would it be?

Coinstar. I would basically say: here’s what’s happening. You’re going to give me your money, I’m going to give it right back, but like 9% less of it and you’re going to like it.

Audiences can’t wait for whatever percentage Falk and company decide to give us when season 3 of You’re the Worst premieres Wednesday August 31 at 10pm ET/PT on FXX.

[All images courtesy of FX, credited to Byron Cohen]

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