Please Like Me

Funny, sweet and dark, Josh Thomas' debut series on ABC2 is an achievement for one so young.

8plmEven Josh Thomas is the first to admit he’s a bit unconventional.

“Sometimes I have a face that looks like a 50 year old baby,” he admits.

Self-deprecation is a big part of his stand-up act and an equally big part of Please Like Me. Pleasingly, Please Like Me isn’t hard to like at all.

Thomas’s humour thrives on social observance with offbeat, seemingly-naive views of the world that have a ring of truth about them. He also enjoys tackling social taboos. Both drive the narrative here.

Thomas plays a version of himself in this series written by the young comedian. His name is still Josh but he studies a ‘Bachelor of Creative Industries’ rather than having a comedy career, and lives in shared-housing with his best friend Tom (Tom Ward). Perhaps it is loosely based on earlier experiences.

Convinced he is probably gay, girlfriend Claire (Caitlan Stasey) breaks up with him, just before he meets Tom’s attractive new male co-worker Geoffrey (Wade Briggs). Geoffrey, who is openly gay, is drawn to Josh and very-forwardly asks if he can crash the night…

In the hands of director Matthew Saville (Cloudstreet, The King, The Slap, Noise), the subsequent bedroom scene with Josh and Geoffrey is one of the show’s funny / sweet moments.

It would have been easy to leave Please Like Me as an awkward romantic comedy but there is a darker side to this work which makes it so much more fulfilling, pertaining to his divorced parents. Needy mum Rose (Debra Lawrance) has overdosed on painkillers and guilty dad Alan (David Roberts) can’t seem to let go, despite having a younger bride from Thailand, Mae (Renee Lim).

Then there is the kooky Aunt Peg (Judi Farr) who is forced to help care for Rose, against everybody’s better judgement.

So while Josh is exploring his new sexuality, somehow by default, he is constantly being tugged at by his inept parents. In this family, he is arguably the parent and they are the children, setting up very rich comedic terrain.

As an actor Josh Thomas may be upstaged by some of his co-stars, but he remains effective as a loveable loser in the centre of this conflicted universe. His performance is sweet and nuanced.

Debra Lawrence is a revelation as Rose, highlighted in a scene in an elevator where she bursts into tears without a word being spoken. When she is paired with the magnificent Judi Farr as Aunt Peg, everyone else vanishes into the background.

David Roberts is terrific as the hapless father and while Renee Lim’s role may border on stereotype, she delivers a punch that suggests Mae is far more controlling than any submissive mail-order bride.

Newcomer Wade Briggs perfectly underplays his role as the hunky object of affection, with deft amounts of sincerity.

Please Like Me is quite an achievement for one so young as Josh Thomas, and the more this series unfolds the better it gets. It displays a confidence that delivers laughs, pathos and insight.

While lesser local comedies have played on ABC1 with middling results, here’s one that could have easily struck a chord on the broadcaster’s primary channel.

More please.

Please Like Me begins with a double episode 9:30pm Thursday on ABC2.

27 Responses

  1. I am loving this show. It is a cute little show and that’s how it should be seen. It doesn’t try to be funny but it is. Aunt Pat is the star of this show. Shame there is only 6 eps. Hope they commission another series.

  2. I just saw the fourth episode. I didn’t think it was possible for a show to get worse (I usually allow for some teething problems in the first couple of episodes), but PLM has. I now have no hesitation in declaring this The Worst TV Show Of All Time.

    You could run a university course called “How Not To Write A TV Show” and use Please Like Me as the only example.

    When I come to power I will outlaw mumblecore comedy!

  3. The show is very polarising. I personally am enjoying it. Although I think the relationship with Geoffrey was too rushed, and according to next week’s preview they’ve broken up already. Those who love shows such as Girls will probably enjoy it, it’s got a similar sense of humour and aesthetic.

  4. I just saw the third episode. This is the most excruciating comedy ever made in Australia (yes, it’s even worse than The Strange Calls, Outland and Laid). It doesn’t even attempt to be funny in any way. Its banality is mind-numbing.

    The ABC must be doing high-fives over the decision to put it on ABC2, thereby avoiding Outland levels of embarrassment over poor ratings. I wonder if it suffered the same drop in ratings that Outland had (60%) after the first episode. Does anyone know what the third ep ratings were?

    And which parallel universe do you need to be living in to describe this show as “genuinely laugh out loud funny”, as one newspaper called it?

  5. This was terrible. I had high hopes for this after really enjoying ABC2’s previous series Twentysomething but this didn’t deliver. Like others have said it was difficult to watch, extremely unfunny and cringe worthy.

  6. I’m a fan of Josh Thomas but I did not like the show. Good storytelling is “showing not telling”. Well, this was more “telling not showing”. It was just a bunch of stuff that happened. They didn’t delve deep enough into what was happening and it all seemed a bit rushed.

    Starting off with the break up is fair enough. But why wasn’t there any struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality? Then there was the speed with which they jumped into his “romance” with Geoffrey. That escalated way too quickly to be believable. Also, Josh doesn’t have much range. He didn’t even seem a little upset at the incident with his mum.

  7. I didn’t mind it. I’ll watch the remainder of the series. But, the characters do need to be more fleshed out. Everyone seemed to act quite bizarrely with no explanation, except that it is a “comedy” (or dramedy?).

    Pippa was a revelation though. I can’t believe she hasn’t been on screen more since leaving Home and Away. Some very touching moments between Josh and his mum.

  8. I tried to watch it, two episodes again would have been better just one, hard to understand Josh, much preferred “Pramface”. Sorry Josh I will not bother watching again.
    Maybe I am too oldl to appreciate the humour, but I found it not funny at all. I will watch Fast Forward repeats again….now that is funny !

  9. I really liked this show, also thanks to David for promoting it. It’s off beat and quirky and I really like that.

    I am interested to see what happens next week and will definitely watch it again. Not fussed it’s on Ch 2 or ABC2 as long as its on.

  10. This show suffers from the same problem most other recent Oz sitcoms suffer from: wafer-thin plot, passive characters, few jokes, slowness, too much white space, no character goals, no sense of anything being at stake, no momentum, one-dimensional supporting characters, no plot density (“second act syndrome”), etc.

    Someone should remind the ABC that just because you’ve been on the telly does not automatically make you a sitcom-writing god.

  11. I really wanted to like Please Like Me but, as OzJay said, it needed a much better actor to play Josh. He tried, but I had a lot of difficulty understanding what he was saying. Good effort though. I think ABC2 is the right place for it.

  12. Memo to Josh. Thanks for the rehearsal tape. Concept shows some promise, but needs refinement. Second draft of script needs a significantly faster pace, with more reliance on verbal humour. Awkwardness is funny, but won’t carry the whole show. Seriously suggest hiring a trained actor to play Josh.

  13. I”m sorry but there is a reason, Josh Thomas, why you didn’t get to ABC 1-sadly, apart from proper actresses- it was an effort to watch

  14. Just watched it. How this got 4 stars is beyond belief…..2 stars maybe?

    Amateur hour, poorly written and overall cringe worthy.

    Forget and will flop if that’s the quality.

  15. Some of content the media reported today:-

    “The ABC insists the gay content isn’t the reason Please Like Me was shunted to ABC2, where it is sure to attract a smaller audience. The tone of PLM and the issues discussed are principally aimed at an audience in their early 20s,” an ABC spokesperson says.

    Thomas isn’t convinced. They told me it (the switch to ABC2) was a compliment. I don’t believe them,” Thomas says. “I don’t know if what they were really saying was, ‘Josh the show is a bit s—‘ or, ‘Josh the show has too much suicide and gay sex in it’.”

    Josh is the problem here, and the title says it all. Whether it was on ABC1 or 2, I cannot see this being a huge hit… And not because of the content, it will be due to ‘Josh Thomas’.

    He was very ‘insecure’ on TBGN, and he is again showing those ‘insecurities’ before this new show has gone to air.

    I refused to watch TBGN, and will not be tuning into this show for one reason only… and it is not the content, it is because of Josh. I am not a fan of his.

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