'Love' & 'Togetherness': Cautionary tales from L.A.

Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis in a scene from HBO's "Togetherness"

Finding someone to love is hard. Staying with them? Even harder.

Those are a couple of takeaways from Netflix's new series Love (Friday, Netflix) and HBO's returning Togetherness, two Los Angeles-set dramedies that might pair well with whatever chocolate's left from Valentine's Day.

First comes Love.

Created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, and Paul Rust, who's also one of the show's two leads, it premieres on Friday and could benefit from Netflix's watch-all-you-like approach, the opposite of speed dating. I wasn't crazy about the first episode, but I watched all 10 - each one a little less grudgingly and eventually with enjoyment, if a certain amount of concern.

Which isn't unlike the arc of the first-season relationship between Mickey (Gillian Jacobs, Community) and Gus (Rust), two people who, though arguably mismatched, are more alike than they seem at first.

Both work on the fringes of the entertainment industry, Mickey on a radio show, Gus as an on-set tutor to child actors (Iris Apatow shines as one of his toughest young charges). And although PR shorthand designates Gus as the "nice guy" and Mickey as the "brazen wild child," the truth is more complicated.

Before seeing, and loving, FXX's You're the Worst, another L.A. story, I'd have said there was a limited amount of humor to be drawn from a show about a relationship where at least one partner is depressed and both are self-saboteurs.

Love doesn't reach the comic heights of You're the Worst, but it does bring the funny, much of it supplied by Claudia O'Doherty (Trainwreck) as Mickey's put-upon Australian roommate.

Love, Angeleno-style, doesn't seem to get easier as people near 40.

In its eight-episode first season on HBO, Togetherness (10:30 p.m. Sunday, HBO) had Brett and Michelle (Mark Duplass and Melanie Lynskey) and their children sharing a home for a while with Brett's best friend, Alex (Steve Zissis), an unemployed actor, and Michelle's aimless sister Tina (Amanda Peet). It was a living situation chaotic enough to almost mask the problems in a marriage where one partner was clearly depressed and the other was hurting.

Brett's snapping out of his long funk in the season finale may have felt forced, but that story's not nearly over.

Created by Duplass with his brother Jay and with Zissis, Togetherness reflects the company town in which it's set, a place where someone like Alex can go from his friend's couch to an on-set trailer and back again.

Zissis and Peet pluck the heartstrings as Alex and Tina do the dance of the modern rom-com, often with different partners, but it's Brett and Michelle whose struggles to connect make Togetherness a little too real to be funny.

'Vikings' returns
10 p.m. Thursday, History

Rejoice, Vikings fans: As the History Channel drama enters its fourth season Thursday, it's bigger than ever - 20 episodes this year, divided in half - and at least as bloody as usual.

Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), fighting his way back to health after the siege of Paris, must contend with the ambitions of his wife, Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), and his son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), while elsewhere, his much cooler ex, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), faces challenges of her own.

With Ragnar's brother Rollo (Clive Standen) back in Frankia, taking care of business and attempting to bed his far-from-eager princess bride (Morgane Polanski), the story, like the Vikings themselves, continues to roam.

A longer season should give it all the room it needs.


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