Film and TV

Difficult People Season Premiere Recap: Old-Timey Unfacing

We're recapping Difficult People, episode by episode. Come sit with us as we atrophy and wither.

"So this is what a gym looks like," Julie says, scooping her way through a sundae while walking by a rock-climbing wall.

So we begin season two of Difficult People in a place designed for working out. As ever, Billy and Julie have plenty to work out, as the terrible and lovable BFFs immediately create-slash-encounter obstacles to work past, over, through — whatever preposition you like. 

Case in point: Billy is gym hunting because during his recent "slutty phase" he has made a habit of hooking up with fellow gym-goers in steam rooms. These dudes invariably end up being losers that Billy must ghost — along with their mutual workout space. Thus, Billy has to find a new gym — again. And he wants to make this one stick. 

Julie has come along for moral support when the duo bumps into Heather, a woman Julie is sorta-friends with because they both recap TV shows. Make that ex-recapper Heather, who has left the trade to write for a show called Horse. It's somehow a comedy about a woman who sells heroin to support her trans child's hobby of horseback riding. God. It's "important work," says Heather, who oozes pity and smug warmth for Julie.

Billy and Julie's eyerolling responses at half-hour comedies becoming dramas are precisely why we're here: Apparent Transparent shade and maybe a slight sneer at Casual, the super-sad comedy with net zero laughs that we still keep watching and sort of love. More please, thank you.

Heather's living the life Julie wants, the life Julie deserves, the life she would have if people would just give the damn thing to her already. Or she could take it — provided she works her way into a group called Refutz. Heather joined and had her life magically made over into that of a TV writer. 

But let's say this all worked out for Julie ... Then who'd get paid $6 for those O.C. reunion recaps? And who would recap this show about recappers? Will real Julie ever recap Real Housewives again? Should we even be recapping this? We have questions.

We don't have answers, but fake-ish Julie does. She must join Refutz.

Both set out with goals. Almost immediately, however, Titanic-y flute music swells as Billy hooks up in a locker room with John Mulaney (!!!) and Julie makes out with a candy bar.

Determined to break his pattern of ditching dudes and gyms, Billy decides he'll hang out with Mulaney's Cecil. Except, this guy is "much different with clothes." Cecil is an old-timey, a person who wears a brown derby hat, striped vest, and rides one of those bicycles with a comedically oversize front wheel. 

As it happens with well-dressed (for the late 19th century?) eccentrics, Cecil is super rich and the heir to a jellybean fortune. Also, he sells knick-knacks. 

Who else has a thing for knick-knacks? Julie's sweet yet reminiscent of room temp oatmeal boyfriend Arthur (James Urbaniak). He's working to cast a sexy version of Antiques Roadshow with sexy antiques dealers, the sort of people Julie's skeeved out by because she's convinced they all have super-secret backrooms stocked with racist junk and Nazi memorabilia. Hint, hint.

Julie cuts Arthur's story short to go sit shiva with her mom, Marilyn (Andrea Martin), whose tennis partner died on the court mid-match. What a loss, Julie offers. Mmmno, Marilyn corrects, technically it was a tie. And technically, Marilyn might be the best worst one on the show. We should start keeping score.

Julie chats up a rabbi who dishes on Refutz. Julie mentally notes each word — despite the rabbi's disapproval of the showbiz-focused group led by mega-powerful showrunner Lilith Feigenbaum (Sandra Bernhard). They meet Friday nights, ya say? Aha. 

Julie goes and tricks Heather and Lilith into inviting her to join Team Refutz for dinner by flimsily using the story of her mom's dead tennis partner. The catch is that she has to observe Shabbos, which means no electricity (aka no internet) from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The Refutz crew touts it as a time when they can write without distractions. 

Julie is game, and tasks Arthur with stealing internet from their menacing German neighbor whose Wi-Fi is named "hitlerhadsomegoodideas," checking her Twitter, and searching for "glowing praise" about her on Google (and finding nothing). 

There is a lot going on here — but the back-and-forth between Billy dating the human embodiment of the worst Throwback Thursday ever and Julie kind of giving up modern technology for a pretentious dream job quickly intertwines into a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque ending.

That leaves Marilyn's storyline out on its own. 

Inspired by dead tennis partner's lack of a will, which left her possessions donated to a Palestinian charity, Marilyn has decided to record a Brewster's Millions-style video will in lieu of hiring a pricey lawyer. She invests in tub of Vaseline and a Fonda 5000, the very same camera responsible for the warm glow cast on Grace and Frankie.

It just so happens that Tina Fey, whom Marilyn has never heard of, is directing an episode of The Blacklist right outside Marilyn's apartment — and hoping to use her stoop for James Spader to cry all over.

Tina's so taken with the Fonda, she agrees to direct Marilyn's video in exchange for stoop use.

The two bond over day wine and dig deeper into Marilyn's inspiration. Why is she making the will? To make sure her stuff doesn't go to a charity she doesn't like. Why is she leaving particular things (her wedding dress) to particular people (Julie)? To make them feel bad. 

Tina realizes that doling out these "spitems" while Marilyn's still living will bring her the most joy. They decide to call each other mom. We want to stay here forever.

But back to our hero. Julie's decked out in itchy Eileen Fisher to fit in with her Refutz pals. They gather for a post-Shabbos pitch session where she tosses out ideas for shows we'd totally watch, including American Horror Story except thought out this time and a show in which Real Househusband Terry Dubrow's leather jacket becomes sentient and solves crimes. Lilith is not amused. Julie brings up Cecil's Whole Deal as a potential show idea. Lilith criticizes her as a comedy person whose ideas sound like quick sketches that aren't grounded (a nice little self-inflicted jab at the show's commitment to ridiculousness).

Nonetheless, Julie convinces Lilith to come to a party thrown by Cecil, who is Pretty Woman-ing Billy and making questionable stray comments, including one about a Hasidic man he describes as a "curiosity." Hint, hint. Billy does not even notice as he's so busy doing that Julia Roberts laugh where your whole face turns into a mouth. 

At Cecil's, there's a gathering of old-timeys who mix their own lead paint and wear two hats at once always. A bozo in a straw boater hat is performing heinous kazoo-kelele music that would end the solidest of relationships. It's no surprise when Billy realizes he has to end it. But he wants to do so gracefully so that he might continue enjoying their gym's three kinds of water. 

Julie is in the midst of an allergic reaction to her Eileen Fisher and also has succeeded in getting Lilith to the terrible party and on board with the old-timey show concept. She and Julie will pitch it to Netflix stat.

With watery allergy eyes, Julie asks for a tour of Cecil's place, which has 17 bathrooms "'cause my parents invented jelly beans. Fuck you." But Julie does so with an accidental blinky-wink that Cecil understands as code. He shows her and Billy to a super-secret backroom stocked with Nazi items where her creepy Wi-Fi neighbor also happens to be hanging out. Why is he in there alone? Are jellybeans secretly anti-Semitic? Help!

Billy launches into the breakup speech that Cecil deserves, calling him, among other things, a tincture-making, Nazi-stuff-selling piece of shit. Which, yeah, fair. It's not graceful, but he's not wrong. 

In celebration, Billy and Julie high five in the aforementioned room full of Nazi stuff. And who sees? Lilith does, snapping a picture while Julie's hand is still in the air as though she's heil-ing. She'll never work in television ever, Lilith says, "recapper trash."  

With their dreams dashed of being more than a recapper and being a gym-goer who can resist other sweaty people, Billy and Julie take a walk, deciding that instead of spending time without screens they'd like to dedicate more time to them. 

Forget unplugging. Ditch the low-tech approach. They need the exact opposite, a detox from human interaction. They need to unface.