Oct 26, 2014

[TV] Please Like Me: Season 2

There's something about the unique charm that Please Like Me brings to the table that had me and Tobie enjoying the first season so much. The main issue with the series was its brevity - beyond that it was quite the phenomenal piece of work that maintained a somewhat light tone despite the narrative decision to tackle some pretty heavy subject matter.

This second season of Please Like Me continues with that distinct tone and builds on what had been accomplished in the first series and added even more depth of story through its different characters.  And while it had more episodes to work with in this season compared to the last one, it still wasn't all that much by conventional standards.

Normally I'd same something about how this works as a family story, but perhaps that's not quite a perfect way of explaining things. And while most of the primary cast are all related to Josh in one way or another, I don't think the story necessarily works around a classic family dynamic. If anything, the show is pretty unconventional in terms of how it approaches each character and tells their respective stories. Ultimately, they all live very human lives with some pretty typical challenges.

Synopsis: Please Like Me is an Australian comedy drama series written and created by Josh Thomas. As of July 2014, it has been confirmed that the show will have a third season.

This second seasons begins with a bit of a new status quo in Josh's (Josh Thomas) life. He and Tom (Thomas Ward) now have a new roommate in the form of Patrick (Charles Cottier), a rather attractive gay man that Josh clearly fancies but of course won't act on. It seems that he and Geoffrey (Wade Briggs) from the first season never really got back together, and thus it is back to the single life for Josh. But of course he still has quite a lot to deal with beyond his social life.

His mother, Rose (Debra Lawrance) is still struggling with mental illness, but at least she seems to be in much better spirits during this season. His father, Alan (David Roberts) has a child with his girlfriend Mae (Renee Lim). And of course there's also the rather darling Arnold (Keegan Joyce), who also seems to fancy Josh, but is also in and out of the mental hospital to help with his panic attacks and such.

In an interview, creator Josh Thomas was rather endearing in how he described the show as being largely about nothing. And there's a bit of a point there - it's not like the show has some powerful meta-plot that is woven into all the different episodes. We also don't have zany, far-fetched situations for the characters to deal with in each episode with a return to the status quo at the very end. Instead each episode features little vignettes of life - moments that are drawn out about so we can understand things more and appreciate the story from more angles.

It's rather brilliant how the show is written in a manner that ensures that each character has their little moments to shine without the need to derail the episode to completely focus around someone else. Instead there's sort of this rising and falling action spread across characters such that each has a good clean moment, and then we move on with the story until the spotlight shifts once more. And sure Josh will always be the general focus on the show since we largely "see" things from his perspective. But he doesn't quite dominate the story either.

There's also this thread stressing the value of being nice and people doing their best within the limitations of what they're capable of. You don't get overly complex stories about deceit and manipulation in this show in an elaborate attempt to orchestrate funny situations - just people themselves and doing their best to get by in the world. We're all a little bit damaged, a little less than perfect, and the show sort of celebrates those imperfections together with all the good stuff and just makes the most of things.

It's really hard to perfectly describe this show without showing you a clip. The humor is not always the sort that makes you sort soda through your nose as you laugh or something. But it is the kind of humor that lightens your spirits, gets you to crack a smile, even though we're talking about something serious. And this isn't something disrespectful either - it's all just sensible, good stuff.

One of my favorite episodes in this season was the one that probably broke the "mold" the most in terms of the sort of format of the show (which is pretty loose to begin with). Episode 7 of this season, Scroggin, involves Josh and Rose going on a little camping trip. The two sort of blunder through things from a surviving in the wild perspective, but still manage to do decently well for themselves. But more importantly it became a key opportunity for mother and son to just talk about things, going all the way back to Rose's attempted suicide right at the beginning of the first season. And it was just such a brilliant, touching episode that really reminds you of what this show does best - show heart.

Please Like Me is charming, endearing, and really quite nice more than anything else. It's funny and silly and serious all at the same time. And so I'm happy to rate this season 4.5 moments of adorable brilliance out of a possible 5.

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