While it’s relatively easy to be critical from one side of the screen, making television can be eye-opening in its own way.
Please Like Me has been so successful for Thomas it has once again been snapped up by US cable network, Pivot, who had a representative on set throughout the shoot.
While Thomas says they weren’t demanding of changes they did have one concern.
“They bought Season One because they really liked it, they’re the biggest fans,” he says.
“They were really worried about our racial diversity casting, but so was I. The show is quite white, and I get really frustrated that Australian television is quite white.
“It’s always been something I’d criticised, but we cast with who we could find and they were quite white. But also a lot (of characters) were family members, so you kind of get stuck. We tried to do better, but we didn’t do that much better in Season Two.
“It’s a thing I want there to be more of on television, but then when you’re casting you can’t really force it. You can’t go with someone who you don’t think is as good a match to a character, just because they are a different race.”
But it does have diversity in its sexuality, and Thomas also casted diversely in the age of his characters, including one character who befriends his on-screen mother.
“‘Ginger’ didn’t have an age in the casting process. We looked at 20-somethings to Denise Drysdale,” he explains.
Drysdale eventually landed the role and appears in the second episode along with new cast members Keegan Joyce and Hannah Gadsby.
They’re not the only changes. There’s another cute puppy and another cute boy, ‘Patrick’ (Charles Cottier).
“If you have your own TV show and you don’t put some good puppies and some good boys in there, you’re an idiot. But we also have good-looking girls and ‘normal’-looking people. Me, for example,” he insists.
“My mediocre face gives us license to cast some pretty people in the show without it looking too ‘television-y.’”
Thomas is across all stages of the series, from writing with Liz Doran and Thomas Ward, to shooting and post-production. With lashings of bittersweet comedy peppered with drama, Please Like Me has won a legion of fans. But Thomas struggles to explain his plot.
“They want me to put plots in the Press Releases, but not that much happens,” he concedes.
“There’s drama but it’s not the point. It’s not like Homeland. I find it really hard to talk about. Tom’s friend is annoying –that’s one of the storylines.”
The press release, in case you were wondering, eventually tells us:
After moving back in to keep an eye on his mother last season, Josh is back living in a share house with his best friend Tom, John (the world’s most adorable cavoodle), and a new flatmate, the very good-looking (and a bit too cool) Patrick. Josh’s dad is still embarrassing and Dad’s girlfriend, Mae, is still hilarious, whilst dealing with a new baby sister for Josh. His mum, despite not having any friends or hobbies or purpose, seems relatively stable, which gives Josh a bit more time to get on with his own life. Or so he thinks. But things are never that simple. In fact, at least for Josh, things are generally a lot more complicated, awkward and embarrassing.
“There are smaller friendship moments, smaller romantic moments. We only had 6 episodes last time, so it had to be slightly more hard-core than I really wanted it to be,” he suggests.
“But there are a couple of bigger events along the way, and I think it’s definitely funnier.”
Returning are Debra Lawrance, David Roberts, Thomas Ward, Renee Lim, Caitlin Stasey and possibly an appearance by Wade Briggs as Geoffrey.
“He isn’t in it as much because I just don’t think Josh would keep hanging around with his ex-boyfriend. Even though that’s a weird commercial move to get rid of every 16 year old girl’s favourite character. So we’ve tried to be honest with those things,” Thomas explains.
The show was also awarded an AACTA Award, Australian Directors’ Guild award, Australian Writers’ Guild plus nominations from the Logies, GLAAD Media Awards, and the Rose d’Or Awards. Yet it still managed to draw its detractors.
“One article said ‘Please Like Me rates less than Bananas in Pyjamas’ and that sounds really bad but actually that’s one of the best-rating digital shows,” he says.
“We were the highest-rating scripted show they’ve ever had, we were #1 on iview over every ABC channel, or maybe second to Bananas in Pyjamas to be honest. It also got replayed later on ABC1 and did really well.”
Yet it will premiere first in the US, this weekend on Pivot. Thomas hasn’t given much thought to whether that will make the show prone to illegal downloads in Australia.
“It goes to air there on Saturday our time and then here on Tuesday, so it’s not a big difference,” he decides.
“It has to reach a certain level of popularity to be ‘pirate-able.’”
No, it’s not Homeland, Josh. But we’re so pleased it isn’t.
Please Like Me premieres 9:30pm Tuesday on ABC2.