In what has been called a gay version of “Girls,” Josh Thomas created a realistic drama that deals with life-altering situations with wit, honesty, candidness and love.
Title: Please Like Me
Year It Began: 2013
Where It Can Be Seen: Hulu
Who’s In It: Josh Thomas, Tomas Ward, David Roberts, Debra Lawrence, Renee Kim, Keegan Joyce, Hannah Gadsby
Typical Episode Length: 25 minutes
Number of Episodes to Date: 32
Brief Plot Description: Financially dependent and recently out of the closet, Josh tried to manage his budding 20s, a dysfunctional family, and challenging love live with the help of his best friend and beloved dog.
Why It’s Worth Watching: We’ve seen coming-of-age stories before, lots and lots of them. They sketch a blueprint of new adulthood that’s romantic and enticing, carefree and foolish, and at some point, headed straight for disaster. The thing they get right is that you always survive, and at some point you realize you’re not alone in the world; actually, you’re a tiny spec of dust in the universe and no one really cares about your problems except your mirror and your therapist.
The crash-and-burn narrative is a fun ride, but not always redeeming. John Thomas’s “Please Like Me” skips the melodrama and goes for the even keel. It’s largely uneventful. It’s dry and sometimes boring, and really, just very normal. And incredibly good at it.
Like “Girls,” Thomas is not only the star, but creator, producer, writer and recurring director. The show has been compared to “Girls” a lot, the asterisk added that “Please Like Me” is a gay slacker version of Lena Dunham’s young feminist womanifesto. There are plenty of similarities, of course; both are led by self-aware, self-effacing and self-depreciating visionaries who sulk through their 20s with unrealistic expectations of the world around them. They’re millennials.
Stylistically, Josh and her friends succeed where Dunham and her friends often failed, which is to say they’re likable. (“Please Like Me” is also produced and set in Australia.) Josh’s best friend Tom is played by his real-life best friend Tomas Ward. They have a brotherly, gay-straight male friendship that you don’t find enough of on television. They’re there for each other, fight with each other, and have zero sexual interest in each other. Their romantic partners offer plenty to riff on, whether it’s Tom’s string of delusional, wacky literary girls, or the lovely, adorable sweethearts whose hearts Josh breaks without warning. Neither realizes that they’re worthy of the world, despite having it all at their fingertips. They’re a pair of idiots, okay, but at least they think they’re doing the right thing.
The show also takes a deep dive into mental illness and depression in a refreshing, informative and respectful way. Josh’s mother Rose is played by the great Debra Lawrance [cq], whose manic-depressive swings illuminate the dark and often comical consequences of managing mental illness. The dry-tongued Hannah, played by comedian Hannah Gadsby, is Rose’s Tom; forever friends, figuring it out, alone together.