Straight away, Josh Thomas wants you to understand one thing: He is awkward. From the very first moments in the premiere of his six-episode Australian import “Please Like Me” (premiering in one fell swoop on Thursday (Aug. 1) at 8 p.m. ET), he makes this abundantly clear.
“Why can’t I ever just let myself properly enjoy things? Why can’t I ever just be in the moment, you know?I know today is brilliant. It’s sunny, we’re in the first world, we just ordered a $19 sundae. You know, delicious. But all I can think about is my rubbish face. I’m obsessing. I’m turning 21 soon and this is as good as my face is ever going to get. This is it. It’s all downhill from here.”
Right after that? His girlfriend dumps him. Oh, and tells him she thinks he’s gay. Like I said, awkward.
During the ramp up to the show (and Pivot’s) launch, “Please Like Me” has been cited as the male version, or the gay version, of HBO’s “Girls.” And while it’s not hard to see how the comparison is reached, it’s not entirely accurate. For one thing, watching “Please Like Me” is a much more pleasurable experience. Watching Lena Dunham & Co. can tend to be an uncomfortable chore spent in the company of monstrously unlikable characters actively crafted to piss you off.
Thankfully, the same can’t be said about “Please Like Me.” Just look at the title. Though Thomas may rely on the painfully awkward moments he’s experienced while coming of age (and there are plenty in the first half-hour), he’s crafted a character who is inherently likable. The same can’t really be said for Hannah Horvath — or anyone else in her world.
But it’s not only the charm of the characters that raises “Please Like Me” above the lazy comparison. The series is also funny. I know, a novel idea for a show claiming to be a comedy, but cringe humor only succeeds when its creators find a way to wring genuine laughs out of it.
The premiere might be a bit heavy on the amount of awkward situations Thomas finds himself in, considering it only covers a 24-hour period. But that’s only a minor quibble. In “Please Like Me,” Thomas has created a world that should inspire audiences to return, proving that the show won’t have to fall to the desperate lows its title implies.
All six episodes of “Please Like Me” Season 1 premiere on Pivot on Thursday, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
– For a network that’s launching itself with such a stellar series, it’s an odd move that it would air every episode at once, right out the gate. While this is a discussion best left for a different blog post, with very little original content airing with Pivot’s launch, are repeats (excuse me, curated episodes) of “Friday Night Lights” and “Farscape” enough to keep viewers around once they finish the marathon tonight?
– The exploration of Josh’s sexuality is handled very matter-of-factly, which is quite welcome. That his straight best friend Tom is entirely unfazed by the prospect of his buddy being gay is doubly welcome. Wade Briggs‘ Geoffrey, at least in the first episode, might be a tad too strange to be believable as a love interest for Josh, but that’s nothing that can’t be smoothed out as the show goes on. Also, he’s smoking hot.
– While the series is quite funny, it does touch on some rather serious dramatic moments in Josh’s life, and quite deftly at that. Without spoiling anything, the subplot involving Josh’s mother carries a palpable sadness without dwarfing the comedy. A moment with his mother early in the second episode is especially impressive.
– A 10-episode Season 2 has already been commissioned, highlighting a surprising self-assuredness in Pivot regarding the show and the network itself. This is mostly owed to the fact that the show is co-produced with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and already aired down under this February.
– Don’t get Pivot? You can watch the entire premiere here for free!