I’ve proven time and time again that I’m a big fan of shows from Across the Pond. But you know what? I’ve never really gushed about anything from Down Under. (The amount of colloquialisms I’ve put in this opening makes me want to punch myself.)
Today, that all changes. I just watched the opening episode of a new series from Australia called Please Like Me, and I thought it was great.
We open on a very casual break up scene. 21-year-olds Josh (Josh Thomas) and Claire (Caitlin Stasey), who apparently have been going out since puberty, have just ended their relationship. Claire thinks Josh is gay and wants him to figure it out, too. Naturally, he remains completely oblivious to it (as indicated by the picture below).
That storyline in and of itself – Josh coming to terms with his sexuality – could have been enough to carry a short six-episode season. There’s a lot more going on with him, however. His mom has just attempted suicide, and now he’s decided he’s got to move back in with her and make sure she doesn’t try anything like that again.
I assume the main plot of the show will revolve around the dynamic between mother and son, however we don’t see much of it in the pilot. We do get a bit of their interactions in the hospital, with Mum (Debra Lawrance) insisting that if he’s going to be living with her, then he can bring “casual girls” home. If that’s the kind of relationship they have going forward, then count me in.
There’s also Josh’s relationship with Dad (David Roberts), who has moved on from his ex-wife and is now remarried to sarcastic Mae (Renee Lim). The dynamic between these three is just as funny and the one between Josh and Mum – particularly Mae’s matter-of-fact speech telling Dad that Mum most certainly didn’t attempt suicide because of him, fat gut and all.
Since the Mum plot doesn’t take center stage until the last third of the thirty-minute episode, we spend the first part getting to know Josh and his friends… okay, his one friend.
That’s Tom (Thomas Ward), his childhood bestie and current roommate. Tom doesn’t do much in this first episode, expect gripe about his overbearing girlfriend, which is a common and tired sitcom trope.
I can excuse the weakness of Tom’s part of the episode mainly because all it really does is function as a contrived way for Josh and Tom’s business associate, Geoffrey (Wade Briggs), to spend time alone together.
While Tom and his gal are fight-fucking (that makes zero sense without context), Geoffrey and Josh get to know one another.
Remember how I said Claire thinks Josh is gay? Well, he confirms it when he allows Geoffrey to take things way too far too fast in bed.
Outside of Josh and Mum, I think this dynamic with Geoffrey is the best part of the show. Since Josh comes off as somehow more neurotic than Woody Allen, yet is still emotionally closed off, a ton of humor can be mined from his uncomfortable but honest handling of his sudden gay epiphany.
The sometimes cringe-worthy humor derived from Josh’s interactions with just about everybody wouldn’t do much for me if I didn’t enjoy the characters. Josh and Tom’s relationship, in particular, is imbued with just enough friendly yet snarky heart to make the friendship believable.
That description, I think, is the best way to summarize the overall feel of the episode. It’s snarky and hilarious, but it’s got an underpinning of heart that makes you want to care about the characters and come back for more.
I’ll probably be doing just that.