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(L-R) Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler and Chris Geere as Jimmy Shive-Overly in the 'Your the Worst' pilot, televised on July 17, 2014. (Byron Cohen/FX)

The two reluctant lovebirds depicted in "You're the Worst," a twisted new FX sitcom, couldn't be described as "likable" people.

Jimmy Shive-Overly (Chris Geere) is a brash, narcissistic L.A. novelist. Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) is an abrasive, bullheaded publicist. Both regard committed relationships with sneering derision.

Despite their pessimistic outlooks and toxic personalities, Jimmy and Gretchen begin to fall for each other -- very tentatively, of course. The FX promotional folks call it a "classic hate-love relationship." During the show's theme song, a man wails, "I'm going to leave you anyway."

Giddily wallowing in all this misanthropy is show creator Stephen Falk, a Berkeley native and self-described "wise ass" who makes no apologies for the not-so-dreamy approach to romantic comedy.

"I have a dark sense of humor," he says. "I think 'Bad Santa' is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, and that (lead character) is awful. He's a thief and a user and foul-mouthed, and he's mean to that little kid."

Still, Falk, 42, doesn't allow "You're the Worst" to pour it on too thick. When the show debuted in mid-July, critics admired the way it defied expectations by injecting touches of offbeat wit and heart into the darkness.

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum praised the "funny and great" chemistry of the show's ensemble and its "weirdly satisfying mix of meanness and romance." Meanwhile, Hank Stuever of the Washington Post wrote that there's "a certain zing to the writing, transcending its naughtiest nature with a disarming taste of sweetness."


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Falk thinks the positive reviews are testament to his growth as a writer during gigs with executive producer Jenji Kohan on her shows "Weeds" and "Orange Is the New Black." There, he learned to monitor himself and rein in the nastiness.

"You want to make sure that there's something redeeming about the characters," he says during a chat in a Beverly Hills bar. "With Jimmy, I like that we have someone to call him out on his crap, or that we go so far with him that the audience can only laugh because he's being such a (jerk). It's a fine line."

Falk's show is at least partially based on his personal experiences, including a turbulent divorce that left him bitter and an introspective one-night stand that occurred later.

"I had an experience with this young lady, and we sort of bonded over all of our bad behavior and cynicism about love," he says. "This show imagines what might have happened if, in the morning, we hadn't gone our separate ways and said, 'OK, that was weird. Goodbye, forever,' and decided, instead, to have a relationship. What would have happened if we had gone forward already knowing all these terrible things about each other?"

Falk, who now is in a "very good" relationship, admits that he was capable of some terrible behavior while growing up in Berkeley.

"I was a really good kid who did a lot of bad things that I didn't let my parents know about, except when the cops got involved," he says. "I smoked a lot of weed from the age of 12 because that's what you do in Berkeley, and got busted for breaking and entering."

Sounds a bit like Gretchen, who during the "You're the Worst" pilot, admits to once setting her school on fire to avoid a math test. Falk was bad, but not that bad.

"I never tried to burn down Berkeley High," he says with a laugh. "I may have pulled a fire alarm or two in my day, but I never lit the match."

Despite his occasional transgressions, Falk was an "A" student in high school, where he appeared in school plays, performed in the jazz band and learned how to "BS his way" through English essays. Ever adventurous, he switched coasts after graduation to study acting at New York University.

From there, he relocated to Los Angeles with the intention of being an actor. He landed some stage roles, but he found it difficult to break into TV and film. After getting fed up with trying to support himself via a string of "boring" office jobs, Falk turned to screenwriting.

"You're the Worst" is his attempt to bring a British sensibility to an American sitcom.

"I think with Britcoms, you're allowed to show the rougher edges of life and show people being not very polite," he says. "And to me, that's a little more recognizable, because I think very few of us are polite most of the time."

Follow Chuck Barney at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/bayareanewsgroup.chuckbarney.

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'You're the worst'

When:
10:30 p.m. Thursdays
Where: FX