Is This ‘Home Alone’ Reference In ‘Love’ One Of The Nerdiest Easter Eggs Ever?
... It could also be a funny mistake. The show's co-creator wouldn't tell us either way.
First thing’s first. I make no apologies for how dorky this post is going to be, but I do offer a warning: by clicking on this headline you’ve become an active participant in peak TV dweebery. This is a transaction from one pop culture nerd to another, and there’s no backing out now. It’s a safe space. We’re all in it together.
Now: I need to talk to you about some very specific stuff in Love.
It all starts with the second episode of the second season which hit Netflix earlier this month. During ‘Friends Night Out’, Gus (Paul Rust) lays out a gripe he has with certain TV shows and movies that make continuity mistakes in terms of casting and pop culture references. His main example, to illustrate the point, is Friends.
“So, if on Friends, Ross references Die Hard, that means in the Friends universe, Die Hard exists as a movie, right?” he says to a group of equally dorky though somewhat disinterested mates. “So, when later, Bruce Willis shows up as Ross’ girlfriend’s dad in the show Friends, why aren’t all the friends like, ‘Holy shit! This guy looks like Bruce Willis from the movie Die Hard, I want to fucking kill myself from the shock’?
The conversation’s pretty quickly dismissed. Everyone laughs. Some women lightly make fun of it and join the group. The topic’s then forgotten with Gus muttering “I just wish TV shows and movies made those rules a little bit…”
It’s a funny, throwaway bit — not out of character for the Blu-ray loving, self-professed “indoor kid” of a leading man. But, when combined with two more things, it gets interesting.
Number 1: Earlier in this same episode, both Gus and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) talk about Home Alone. After the pair share a bed for the night, Gus recounts a dream he had: “I dreamt that I killed Osama bin Laden and when I went to look at the body it was Macaulay Culkin”. Speculating on the meaning of the surprise, Mickey offers: “Maybe, [bin Laden] would still be alive if he had booby-trapped his house a la Home Alone“. They laugh. Gus says, “Yeah, if he just left out some Micro Machines, SEAL Team Six would have slipped on them”.
Number 2: Six episodes later, we meet Mickey’s dad, Marty, for the first time. He’s played by Daniel Stern from Home Alone. Mickey does not talk about any former life as a star of the ’90s John Hughes/Chris Columbus classic. No one, including Gus, mentions his likeness to ’90s bad guy Daniel Stern.
In other (borrowed) words: on Love, Gus references Home Alone; that means in the Love universe, Home Alone exists as a movie, right? So, when Daniel Stern shows up as Gus’s girlfriend’s dad in the show Love, why aren’t all the people on Love like ‘Holy shit! This guy looks like Daniel Stern from the movie Home Alone. I want to fucking kill myself from the shock?’
There are two options here.
The first: that this is just a standard little hiccup in continuity that happens with any number of TV shows or movies. Not every fictional work can implode their stories by working a Julia Roberts-lookalike storyline into the plot a la Oceans Twelve (note: that one also happened to include Bruce Willis playing himself, but it was a world in which neither Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Matt Damon exist?? #showerthoughts).
Actors obviously don’t carry the baggage of their fame or prior roles into each fictional world, and it’s called suspension of disbelief for a reason. The Love creators likely figured that people wouldn’t recognise Stern from his role in Home Alone or just messed up a bit by cutting in the Home Alone joke before casting him. This is not really a normal thing for people to be hung up on.
The second option: that this was deliberate; one of the most knotty and niche TV easter eggs in recent memory. I choose this option. Love is, after all, a show about a superfan who works in the TV industry. In the series’ first season, Gus screams with his ex-girlfriend defending the value of DVD extras, and vents about his relationship frustration by throwing his favourite films out of a moving car. He and his friends get stoned and write film theme songs that don’t yet exist (often for good reason) in their spare time. In the second season, he throws around niche zingers like: “we’re in a bit of a Meryl Streep/Alec Baldwin situation right now”.
If any show is going to offer this kind of funny, super subtle meta-comment to fans, it’s Love. It’s on Netflix, allowing for callbacks to be remembered better due to the binge-watching format. And its writers are some of the best and most meticulous in the game — Lesley Arfin (from Girls and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Paul Rust (from Arrested Development and Comedy Bang! Bang!), and Judd Apatow (from… literally everything else).
Unfortunately, Arfin didn’t let much go when I asked her about this on Twitter, but her response is at least a little validation of this stupidly long fan piece I’m doing:
— lesleyarfin (@lesleyarfin) March 15, 2017
Like Marv Merchants opening a door to find Kevin McCallister thinking there’s not a nail gun on the other side, or John McClane thinking he’s coming to the coast to get together and have a few laughs, I’m going to choose to hope for the best.