Hello, good day and it is a horrible world, isn't it? Some days, yes it is. Don't glare at me, sunshine.
We all deal with it in our own way. One method of therapy is to spend time with the most hideously unlikeable and horrible people. Cheers you up. Not recommended for everyone, mind you.
That's the deal with Difficult People (now streaming on Shomi), I think. You accustom yourself to the sheer awfulness of misanthropes, indulge their nastily sarcastic humour and extremely bad behaviour. You come away having laughed a bit but mainly relieved that you avoid such people most of the time.
Made for Hulu and now in its second season, the series, produced by Amy Poehler, stars Julie Klausner (who created it) and Billy Eichner, as formidably awful, nastily sarcastic people. They don't like anybody, except each other. They are perpetually self-absorbed characters, don't care about the feelings of others, and in general are kind of heroic in their awfulness. They do what most people only wish they could get away with.
Julie and Billy – they keep their own names – are aspiring comedians. In real life, of course, these actors are both successful comedians. In this version of themselves, they are obliged to work at other jobs. He's a waiter. Essentially the waiter-from-hell. She recaps TV programs, badly and with cruel intent. When they hang out, they lie, exaggerate and say the most appalling things. They are experts on all manner of things in the popular culture and don't understand why they aren't praised for that. They don't realize they are all bile and no breeziness. Billy is, by the way, a rancorous gay man who seems to be in a permanent state of having recently broken up with a boyfriend he hates.
Under all the bile and phenomenally foul language, there is satire of sorts going on. Julie's vaguely doltish boyfriend Arthur (James Urbaniak) works at PBS. That means regular journeys into vicious mockery of life and work at the earnest educational broadcaster. Julie's mom (Andrea Martin, in fine fettle), is a therapist who seems intent on making her patients feel worse. That is, when she isn't insulting Julie. A rather low-grade mockery of the therapy culture is going on.
Calling Difficult People acerbic would be an understatement. If you think the main characters are awful in one scene, they will be even worse in the next.
It's a sitcom, though, so there are set-ups for jokes and then delivery. Mind you, not everyone is going to find this show funny. Some people will simply find it too harsh and wildly overdone.
The same goes for critics. Difficult People has received rave reviews and been dismissed as "a mean-spirited, hipper-than-thou exercise in comedic navel-gazing." And worse – "The series is thoroughly derivative and utterly parasitic on the most ephemeral, shallow aspects of the culture. And to add insult to injury, it treats the very culture it feeds upon for material with utter contempt."
You have been warned. This is maddeningly raw, often broad comedy. Me, I liked its sheer, unadulterated rudeness. Watch this and you will feel better about yourself and the world. That is the point; that is the therapy it provides.
Back on Board: Greg Louganis (HBO Canada, 7:30 p.m.) is a repeat but well worth your time if you missed it last year. It's a plainly told but powerful documentary about the life and career of the four-time Olympic gold medalist in diving. Mainly it's about a twisted path in which circumstances were forced upon him and the poor decisions he made. Decisions that were rooted in fear – fear of the scorn he had felt. As the doc makes clear, in other circumstances Louganis, this handsome, well-known young man, gloriously good and beautiful to watch in diving, would have had a clear path to fame and commercial reward. He seemed made for a classic American sports story.
Adopted at eight months by a middle-class family in California, he had asthma and allergy problems. Gymnastics and swimming helped him deal with that. At 16, he was competing at the Olympics. By 1984, he was the best in the world at his sport – the footage of his dives, seen in the doc, are breathtaking – but the fame and money didn't come. He is gay, but hardly anyone knew it when he was competing.
There were rumours and the rumours almost ruined him, as happened back then. It's a wonderfully told, poignant tale about the ravages of a secret gay existence.