When it comes to shitty boyfriends, Dan Bucatinsky knows his stuff. The former Scandal star is currently married with kids, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t deal with his fair share of grade-A douchebags back in the day. It’s probably a good thing, because now that Dan executive produces the new, hilarious Refinery 29 series Shitty Boyfriends alongside Lisa Kudrow, his experiences help the show perfectly capture the madness of the dating jungle. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to. Now.
Here’s the mini skinny: Melissa Hunter stars as Amanda, a twenty-something cartoonist who’s totally driven at work, yet completely lost navigating through single life (as 99.99999% of us millennials are). The show is written by Dan’s former intern Jessica Cabot, who chronicles her “lousy taste in men, misadventures in dating, and [effort in] trying to get a perspective from each mistake.” It’s smart, funny, real and shows just how far we’re willing to go to find love. And since Dan is a shitty boyfriends expert, we had to ask: Team Fitz or Jake? He seems to be a Jake stan through and through, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t dish on what makes both him and Fitz such shitty boyfriends.
Allow Dan’s wise honesty to shed some light on why we date shitty people. We promise he’ll make you feel enlightened and, yes, less alone.
Why do you think people need to see Shitty Boyfriends?
I am not a millennial woman of a certain age, but I certainly feel like one exists inside all of us to some degree. It was written with the intention of speaking to what it feels like to be a young woman right now, who’s trying to balance a career drive, a romantic drive, all those things at the same time. It’s specific to our times right now, [but] at the same time, there’s something universal about the quest for love, of course, and the quest to have it all. I think that that’s something that people out of college struggle with, people in their 30’s [and 40’s] struggle with, and it just escalates into different realms, you know? I’m now married and have kids, but the juggling act of-feeling like my life is still romantic, my career is moving forward, I’m relevant and people can see me, I’m being heard-I think it’s a universal quest.
What was it like tapping into the millennial female mind?
We always feel like each [mistake] will probably make us better and stronger in the next one. That’s something that when I was reading [the script], I remembered. It really takes you back. I remembered being single and being clueless, and responding to all the wrong things in different people that we date. I mean honestly, when you’re in your 20’s, you meet someone super cute so you date them, and one person’s super funny so you date them, and one person just wears really great shoes so you’re like, “They’ve gotta be smart, they’ve gotta be great to wear shoes like that.” Little do we know, that once we get to scratch the surface of everybody, their inner shittiness sort of comes out. The larger theme, I believe, of this entire piece, is that we are all, in some ways, shitty.
Why do you think we put up with shitty boyfriends?
Young women in particular, especially right now, [are] encouraged either by their inner voice or by people outside of them to put up with shittiness. [It] has to do with this idea that like, “You know what? Relationships are hard work.” I think even Amanda says that. She’s like, “You can’t always be great all the time and I think I can make this work, I think I’m being too picky.” People have gotten so used to the idea that we are somehow responsible for our own fate, that if I’m with someone and it’s not feeling right, there’s gotta be a way for me to push through this. If I was just more “blank,” if I just stick it out, if I just give him a chance, I’m being too judgmental, I’m never gonna meet anyone if I don’t give it a chance. What we’re doing, inadvertently by doing that is: A. Probably numbing ourselves to shittiness and B. Not trusting instinct. I think instinct is worth a lot.
What would the show be like if it was called Shitty Girlfriends instead?
There are plenty of ways in which the female twenty-something [could be shitty] in a relationship from the guys’ perspective. She may expect certain things, expect a man to read her mind, to know what she wants when she wants it, and understand the different twists and turns of her moods and her personalities. I think that there are women who expect a certain level of romance, a certain level of devotion, very early into the relationship that they don’t always [get]. A lot of it has to do with understanding the animal that is the millennial female, and what could actually make a woman feel like her boyfriend is shitty could actually be the very act of making a girlfriend shitty. And we sort of see it start to turn that way at the end of the season, which will be very fun to watch.
Do you have a shitty boyfriend story of your own that you can share with us?
Yes. I’ve had several, and even in people’s marriages, there are moments where our spouses are shitty. [Laughs] The capacity for shittiness does not going away just because you get married. But that said, very early on, I put up with this really germaphobic boyfriend who would not trust that I was washing my hands correctly, would pull me in like I was a three-year-old and watch me wash my hands again to make sure that I did it right. Why would I put up with someone like that? You always have to sort of see the balancing act that you’re doing when you meet someone, and we all do this. You’re dating and you hear all the good things and all the bad things and there’s sort of a score sheet [in your mind]. There’s constant score-keeping, and I think that when you wind up with a shitty boyfriend in your 20’s, you outweigh the things, good and bad, and when the bad outweighs the good, you have to get out. There was a lot of good that outweighed the weird germophobia but eventually, it didn’t. I’m [now] a master of my own soap.
What makes Fitz and Jake shitty boyfriends on Scandal?
Fitz is a shitty boyfriend because he continued to string [Olivia] along, continued to declare his undying love, yet didn’t face the realization that sometimes, if you love something enough, you have to let it go-which by the way, he’s done three times. I feel like at the end of the day, he wants what he wants, and he wants it at any cost, and doesn’t always think about [how] he’s a classic narcissist. Which isn’t to say that Olivia isn’t also. I think there’s something dreamy about Jake and something really romantic about the fact that he is truly and deeply in love, and it’s unrequited to some degree. There’s something underdoggy about that, that makes him more appealing. To answer your question, what makes [him] a shitty boyfriend is that he killed James. If you know your boyfriend killed a good friend of yours, it’s kinda shitty. We don’t go quite to that length on Shitty Boyfriends.