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The Best 25 Pop Culture References in ‘You’re the Worst’ Season 2, Ranked

The Best 25 Pop Culture References in 'You're the Worst' Season 2, Ranked

The second season of FXX’s “You’re The Worst” was a rich and deep character study that was rightfully celebrated for bringing issues like clinical depression to the national conversation, brilliantly brought to life by Stephen Falk, his talented writing staff and the incredible performances of Chris Geere, Aya Cash, Kether Donohue, Desmin Borges and more.

READ MORE: ‘You’re the Worst’ Stars Aya Cash and Chris Geere on Season 2 Goals and Empowering Sex Scenes

It was also often very, very, very funny, thanks to some crackerjack writing full of amazing book, film and television references. From the incredibly mainstream to the incredibly indie to the incredibly fictional, Indiewire noticed them all season long, and so to celebrate them, we put together a semi-comprehensive list of every major reference we caught over the course of Season 2, including the finale. (We didn’t include music, because then the list would be twice as long.) Below, find our rankings and reasonings, but don’t even bother fighting us about our No. 1 pick.

25. “Neil Gaiman’s writing the roller coaster book.” (Episode 5)

One of the novelization pitches that Jimmy initially ignored, then tried to embrace after “NCIS: LA,” proved tricky. This one’s ranked so low largely because while surely Neil Gaiman’s take on the material will be lyrical and full of imagination, the ending would probably end up disappointing.

24. “Paul Nye the Science Homo” (Episode 13)

Yeah, maybe you were mad at Paul, but this one was mean, Lindsay.

23. “I thought Lena Dunham’s dog died.” (Episode 3)

As pop culture references go, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but Lena Dunham’s life is as much a part of her art as, well, her art. For those worried, her dog turns out to be fine.

22. “Even Boner from ‘Growing Pains’?” (Episode 12)

Sam’s whole list of celebrities who dealt with depression in a… not great… way was a needed reminder of clinical depression’s real-world impact. But it’s this reference to Andrew Koenig that struck us particularly hard because of all the potential legacies one might leave behind, one might hope, for any of our humans, a rememberance more dignified.


21. “I’m sorry that during the ‘Rock of Ages Love’ auditions I called you a poor man’s Isla Fisher.” (Episode 12)

This one is almost too real, as the striking resemblance (by Hollywood standards) between Isla Fisher and “You’re the Worst” star Aya Cash means the two likely are fighting over a number of choice roles out there. The insult would have been quite at home on an outtakes reel, especially considering Cash could not break one tiny bit during that scene, given Gretchen’s despondent, uncaring state. But hey, Lindsay said she was sorry, and you better believe every “Worst”ie out there is pulling for Gretchen and Ms. Cash in that — and every — audition. [NOTE: We originally had this down as “Rock of Ages,” but a helpful commenter noted that it was actually the Bret Michaels reality show “Rock of Love.” It got worse.]

20. “I did get a tattoo of Dobby the House Elf on my–” (Episode 10)

Oh, Jimmy’s sister Lilly. We ranked this one low not because it’s bad, but because it made us sad. You know how to read. Go to university, gurl.

19. “I’m putting this packet together for the new ‘Hee Haw’ reboot.” (Episode 11)

A random aside from one of Dorothy’s comedy friends, but one that has us terrified of this ever actually happening.

18. “This is the golden age of television. TV owns.” (Episode 8)

And “You’re the Worst” is making sure to keep it that way. Boo-yah!

17. “What do you think of the [band] name ‘Not Penny’s Boat’?” “I hate it.” (Episode 9)

Maybe in 2006, this reference to the “Lost” Season 3 finale would have played as funny and topical. Today, yeah… Lexi, the punk hipster mother that Gretchen fixates on in “LCD Soundsystem,” is right to think that this nod to a character’s last words is just way too obscure. There are worse band names out there, but in 2015 Lexi was right to tell her husband Rob that it was a bad choice.

16. Jimmy’s novelization pitches: “Seven Samurai,” “The 400 Blows,” “32 Short Films About Glenn Gould”– “They don’t all have numbers in the title.” (Episode 5)

He’s so classy, that Jimmy. But he had to know those were longshots.


15. Heathstead from “Buckle Your Shoes”! Gretchen as Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons! Edgar as The Situation from “Jersey Shore” (Episode 8)

All of the “Spooky Sunday Funday” costumes were appropriate choices for the people involved, but Edgar picking a particularly out-of-date reference for his own ensemble made a lot of sense.

14. Buffalo Bill turns out to have great advice for Lindsay (Episode 8)

Most of the horror movie tropes parodied in the haunted house were pretty generic, but this nice and specific one proved delightful when it turned out that the best person to give Lindsay tips on how to take back her life was someone impersonating Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs.” Here’s a link to that TED Talk he mentioned about “chunking,” by the way. It’s good advice!

13. “Who knows when they might air another marathon of ‘Treehouse Masters’?” (Episode 9)

This is a real show, but we only figured that out by Googling one of Jimmy’s favorite methods for procrastinating his writing. Jimmy’s treehouse obsession in general, while seemingly random, feels like something that could go deeper in future seasons. But so far, it has us as puzzled as Gretchen and Nina.

12. Bluecube’s “Exemplify” (Episode 9)

Initially, we weren’t super impressed by the seemingly generic drama series “Exemplify” that Lexi and Rob are watching in “LCD Soundsystem,” but then some research revealed that, when asked by Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix for more information, Falk had details on what exactly it was: an “obscure procedural in its third season. Made straight for Bluecube Streaming service, an offshoot of the popular Bluecube DVD kiosk.” (Check out the Hitfix post to see loglines for the first five episodes of “Exemplify” Season 3.)

11. Jimmy’s interpretation of “Hakuna Matata.” (Episode 7)

“Ha-kuna, ma-ta-ta.” So says Jimmy in quoting not “The Lion King,” but Khalid, a kabob (ka-bab, by British inflection laws) shop owner who told him it meant, in a very rough English translation, “there is not currently a problem.” Gretchen, never one to miss an opportunity to elongate a good joke, questions Jimmy using actual lyrics from Disney musical that made the words famous, but he, of course, doesn’t catch on. We lucky viewers get to delight in his snobby ignorance for the rest of the episode, and perhaps, the rest of our days.

10. “Louis Armstrong was a jazz trumpeter, Buzz Lightyear is a cartoon, and Kurt Loder was a VJ for MTV, about whom the only connection to space travel was that the network’s logo was a man in a space suit.” (Episode 2)

Very well put, Jimbo, and thanks for the callback to one of our all time favorite awards — the MTV Video Music Award, with a man in a space suit holding a flag. What’s the point of it? Yes, it’s the old MTV logo/mascot, but how it’s relevant to anything in music is about as relevant as the above three characters are to each other.

9. “Jimmy’s never seen ‘House Party.'” (Episode 1)

Ranked highly not because Gretchen is correcting this heinous oversight in Jimmy’s education, but because of Jimmy’s keen analysis of the narrative structure: “Ah, no, actually, I have updated my archetypal dramatis personae since Act One. Play is the Sage. Kid is the Seeker, Stab is the Villain and Martin Lawrence is the Fool.” Well said.

8. “You might also recognize it from the opening credits of ‘Better Off Ted’!” (Episode 8)

“Better Off Ted,” if you lack an encyclopedic knowledge of great, tragically canceled network sitcoms from the last 10 years, was a great underseen comedy series satirizing corporate culture which ran from 2009-2010 on ABC. It also, as one of the underlooked comedies of its era, was relatively groundbreaking in its lack of any opening sequence at all (the man running this murder tour is a liar!). We checked to see if there was any overlap between the “Better Off Ted” staff and the “You’re The Worst” staff — no luck. But it’s one of those perfect obscure references that this show loves to dole out to massive TV nerds.

7. “I’m like Reese Witherspoon in that commercial for backpacks.” (Episode 6)

Jean-Marc Valle’s Academy Award-nominated film “Wild” should probably be remembered for more than just how good its star looked in an incredibly heavy daypack, but, well, what are you gonna do? No one controls culture, and no one controls Lindsay’s mind.

6. “People think Joss Whedon sold out when he did ‘The Avengers,’ but that’s like saying Hugh Howey should have never expanded ‘Wool’ from a Kindle Single to a full novel.” (Episode 3)

What makes this reference so brilliant is its highly-honed specificity to a very, very niche bit of nerd culture (Hugh Howey is a self-published author who became a millionaire thanks to his “Wool” series), combined with one of the biggest films of the 21st century to date (one directed by someone with his own level of nerd cred). It’s a one-off line rambled by Paul’s girlfriend Amy (Mageina Tovah), a relatively minor character to the series, but there are so many layers to this joke that we just want to curl up in it like a big cozy sweater.

5. The “Buckle Your Shoes” holiday special: “I’m so mad we didn’t get a happy ending between Heathstead and Beatrix.” (Episode 11)

“Buckle Your Shoes” had been introduced earlier in the season, but here’s really where the fake British comedy, for which Jimmy and Nina discover a shared love, comes into fruition. Beyond its implications for the plot, for any UK TV aficionado the concept of the Christmas special — a stand-alone episode aired and often distributed separately from the main series, and often containing major plot and character beats that hardcore fans would kill themselves over missing — is an incredibly frustrating one. These days, things are easier for such nerds, but if you ever once went bonkers figuring out how torrent sites work to get ahead of “Downton Abbey” spoilers, you understand all too well why Nina went mental when Jimmy promised her some unseen treasure.

4. Dorothy’s Halloween costume: “Excuse me, sir. I don’t mean to be too forward but you have caught me with your ‘Hook.’ You’re at the top of my ‘Schindler’s List.’ My loins are ‘Terminal’-y always ‘The Color Purple’ for you. So please, open your ‘Jaws’ and make out with me. ‘Munich.'” (Episode 8)

It’s just…We can’t even..this is so good. Just read it again. Bravo, Ms. Spielberg.

3. Shitstain: “Spinderella would never hack a brother’s Netflix queue. I had like 500 things I wanted to watch. Now the only thing I can remember is ‘Peaky Blinders’!” (Episode 4) / “Just like one of them ‘Peaky Blinders’… I haven’t watched it yet. Jacqueline has us watching ‘Rectify.'” (Episode 12)

Perhaps every binge viewer’s greatest fear, Shitstain’s loss is as deeply felt as any other on the show. The faux-feud that turned real claimed a number of victims, but none were as significant as this. I mean, can you imagine? Your only option is “Peaky Blinders”? What a terrible world. (Though “Rectify” is great.)

2. Available for Jimmy to novelize: “Bones,” “Property Brothers,” “The Slap,” “Caught On Camera With Nick Cannon,” “NCIS: LA,” “Dog with a Blog.” Jimmy picks “NCIS: LA.” (Episode 5/6)

The only thing better than the exact selection of TV shows that Jimmy is given the option to bring to life as novelizations (because really, isn’t writing a novelization of “Dog With a Blog” redundant?) is Jimmy’s semi-desperate decision to pick, out of all of them, one of TV’s most spin-off-y spin-offs, “NCIS: LA.” It’s a decision which has its own odd benefits, but then, as he does his research into the series, it allows him special insight into analyzing Gretchen’s behavior in Episode 6…

Wait, we take it back. The very best part of Jimmy becoming an expert on “NCIS: LA” is when his friends find out he’s learning about the show. “You’re not writing recaps, are you?” Gretchen asks, in horror. And then, a hundred “You’re The Worst” recappers cried (more than usual) into their whiskey.

1. “They’ve got a real life Babadook!” (Episode 8) / “I regret seeing ‘The Babadook’! It was so scary, you guys… I reiterate, do not see ‘The Babadook’!” (Episode 13)

Vernon is not someone from whom you should normally heed advice, but he’s mostly right about the excellent Australian horror film from 2014. It is “so scary,” but it’s also an impeccably made throwback to classic horror tales of yesteryear. Your mind is the movie’s playground, and Vernon’s mind was clearly overrun. So yeah, it’s scary, but you should probably see it anyway…if you dare.

READ MORE: ‘You’re the Worst’ Season 3 Picked Up at FXX

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