ABC’s mixed messages on Please Like Me

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ABC has bumped Please Like Me to a later timeslot after just one episode of its third season.

ABC is replacing UK series The Musketeers at 8:30pm with a Sherlock replay, which pushes the local comedy to 10pm.

Last week The Musketeers drew 320,000 viewers, while Please Like Me averaged just 129,000 viewers. Despite being a critical hit, the Josh Thomas comedy is yet to attract a popular audience.

But then how can it, when ABC has never given it a decent timeslot across its three seasons?

In its first year the show aired at 9:30pm Thursdays on ABC2 where it averaged 176,000 over 2 episodes. In its second season it was moved to Tuesday nights on the multichannel (known as a comedy destination -not) where it began with 103,000 viewers before dropping to 57,000. That saw some media write the show up as a failure. Numbers wise, it’s hard to argue against that.

After all the award accolades (including AACTAs, Logies, International Emmy, Director’s Guild, Writer’s Guild and Rose D’Or) ABC finally moved it to the primary channel ….in a week where it was over-crowded with new comedies The Ex-PM and Sammy J and Randy in Rickett’s Lane. That left Please Like Me to run Thursdays, but not in the 8:30 slot that had previously been allocated to Upper Middle Bogan.

Despite its M classification, Please Like Me was not given The Chaser’s Media Circus as a natural lead-in, but an historic costume romp in Musketeers.

Why didn’t ABC wait until it had a Wednesday night slot for the show? The answer may lie in producer deals with US cable network Pivot, with ABC necessarily hitched to its US playout whether it liked it or not.

Sure the show is now niche. But while ABC waxes lyrical about its love for the series, it needs to look harder at whether its scheduling has ever allowed the show to put its best foot forward.

An ABC spokesperson said, “We hope the broad appeal of Sherlock will provide a strong lead in, and that the new time slot appeals to the target audience. We remain immensely and steadfastly proud of Please Like Me, a truly wonderful series.”

22 Comments:

  1. Of course the ABC doesn’t like it. When it first premiered they burned two episodes in one night to get it off air as soon as possible. The primary audience for the show appears to be critics. It wouldn’t have got to Season 2 if it wasn’t for the American money. No surprise there. It’s not like the ABC can slag off it’s own show.

  2. If the show was any good it would have been given a ‘decent’ timeslot. But if the show was any good the audience would have found the show. It wasn’t and it isn’t.

    Josh Thomas also polarizes people which doesn’t help the show get an audience. People either love him (not many) or can’t stand him because he is annoying and not funny.

    • I tend to agree … based on the 5 or 10 minutes I watched way back when it first aired. ‘Annoying’ is a very apt description of Thomas, and his ‘popularity’ was not helped by those Optus commercials (which currently feature Ricky Gervais for some reason!).

  3. Wednesday night 10pm time slot is crying out for Please Like me. I really love this show!

    It’s a Date, is a repeat and the audience for the shows on Wednesday night would be more inclined to watch it.

    I am not sure who would watch Musketeers or Sherlock but don’t think they would appeal to type of people that would watch Please Like Me, they certainly don’t appeal to me that’s for sure!

  4. It’s kind of sad when a gentle comedy about life & relationships is described by everybody as ‘niche’. Is it simply because the wheel has turned & we currently prefer our comedy brash, loud, and pointed? (Worth noting that UK production is turning once again towards gentle comedies, & similar ‘nice’ shows like “… Bake-Off” are new-found hits in the US).

    Is “Please Like Me” considered ‘niche’ simply because the central character is gay? Or is there some other reason I’m missing?

    • Don’t think so. Given Will & Grace was a big broad hit in the 90s, amongst others, it probably gets back to its tone (and let’s not forget it has been voted Best Comedy by readers here in the past).

      One should also ask why it did not feature in Mental Health Week recently given its subject. Whether that was delivery related or US contract related, not sure. We are all smarter programmers in hindsight, but just not seeing any season scheduled to reflect the ABC-speak.

    • There are plenty of mainstream comic characters who are gay. The problem with Please Like Me is that the ABC, reviewers and the people who give out awards keep telling us it’s howlingly funny, when it’s not.

      Please Like Me is niche because it belongs to the ‘mumblecore’ movement, which consciously rejects such concepts as plot, structure, jokes and professional acting on the grounds that they are decadent and detract from naturalistic storytelling. Most comedy is non-naturalistic, which gives it a sense of bigness and brashness. Naturalistic comedy is always going to be niche.

      • I don’t think even Josh Thomas or the producers would refer to it as “howlingly funny” -which fits better with a multicam sitcom. I’ve often used the word bittersweet, the reviews I’ve seen talk about nuanced characters and the way it juggles elements of comedy and drama amid romance and mental health etc. Comedy is always subjective and provokes reactions. Drama is rarely put under the same tests. When did we last yell at the TV accusing an episode of “Not dramatic enough!” My post is more about moving the show after 1 episode when it has never been given a decent timeslot.

      • “Please Like Me is niche because it belongs to the ‘mumblecore’ movement, which consciously rejects such concepts as plot,”

        It’s got at least as much as any other comedy.

        “structure,”
        Again, at least as much as any other comedy.

        “jokes”
        My point exactly. Plenty of shows over the years that weren’t all ‘laugh out loud’ jokes but are considered gentle comedies weren’t called ‘niche’ (e.g. Last of the Summer Wine, The Good Life), and the genre seems to be on the rise again (e.g. Car Share, Welcome To Sweden, Boy Meets Girl). We weren’t all laughing at “Mother and Son” just because Maggie dropped the oranges, but because we saw something in the situation.

        “and professional acting”
        Like Micallef, Sammy J, Magda/Marge/Jane/Gina …?

        The only other reasoning I can see for calling it ‘niche’ is circular – it’s niche because it’s rating low, and it’s…

  5. Secret Squïrrel

    “We hope the broad appeal of Sherlock will provide a strong lead in…”
    Even tho’ the broad appeal of The Musketeers didn’t (yes, I know that the overall numbers for Sherlock will poss be greater). However, it isn’t going to work – the audiences are completely mismatched.

    This should have stayed on Thu on ABC2. It was not big enough to fight with all the other shows on Tue and it was never going to appeal to the older demo who tend to stay in and watch the main channel on Thu.

  6. A broad lead in isn’t going to help Please Like Me, is a quirky niche comedy. There was also a late Thursday repeat of S1 and its been on iView. People just aren’t that into it. It depends very much on whether or not you like Josh.

    The ABC used it to try and boost ABC2 as a primetime youth channel (same reason Neighbours was moved to Eleven when it dropped to <700k). But you get a much smaller audience when you do that. Mon & Tue are good for <40s watching comedy (that's why the TBBT is on then). The ABC goes for Wed. to avoid competition from it and screen broader stuff Sun-Tues.

  7. I imagine if it wasn’t for Pivot we wouldnt be seeing a Season 3….
    It is a good show, but the season 3 opener was not a strong episode, I watched it ‘live’ but will now probably catch up on iview for future episodes where I imagine it has strong numbers….

    • I agree, the season 3 opener wasn’t a good episode. It seemed to be unsure what kind of show it was trying to be and lost its way. The sex scene was too serious too, awkward to watch.

  8. Yes needs to be on Wednesday. This is the sixth? showing of Sherlock on FTA, plus Foxtel, DVDS and Stan. Is there anyone left who hasn’t seen it yet?

    I noticed on the ABC Facebook page that most commenters preferred to watch Please Like Me on iview, so hopefully they have good figures there.

  9. Should have just stayed in a good slot on ABC2.
    I personally love the show, I do get that it is niche but I totally agree with this article. The promos for season 3 were brilliant though 9.30 Thursday following Musketeers was not a good move. Why not Wednesday nights after Gruen/Ex-PM

  10. David, stop making excuses. When a show starts strong and loses viewers, it means viewers don’t like what they are seeing. The ABC has marketed PLM to death, and the entire Australian press went bananas over Josh and gave him acres of print, so it’s not like anyone is throwing Josh under the train.

    The ABC should’ve run all eps on iView simultaneously. That way they could’ve claimed most of the viewers are online, and therefore avoided some embarrassment.

  11. It is niche, it is awkward for many people to watch, it should have been 10pm Wednesday in the comedy line up but still wouldnt have got many more viewers. Not the first, and wont be the last show to be critically acclaimed yet bomb with the public.

  12. Hopefully can pick up a few viewers after Gogglebox at 9pm.

    Be interested to know if it picks up a decent audience from iView for last week’s ep- a combination of those who no longer watch things live, loyal fans didn’t know it was back and those who followed the links from Facebook. Indeed several people tagging others that it was back after the ep had already played.

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