Friday, 8 March 2013

Please Like Me - Review

Josh Thomas jokes he has the head of a baby on the body of an old man, but his first TV offering, ‘Please Like Me’, proves there’s a mature story head on his shoulders.

‘Please Like Me’ also does something that is years ahead of any other mainstream show on TV – it creates a lead character who is gay, without that character focusing on being gay.

There’s a wonderful early moment where Josh tells his friend, Tom, that a mole on his lip bled into the mouth of a boy he tried to make out with. Josh describes this as the third worst sexual experience of his life – which is the sort of cumulative, gentle comedy this show has in abundance. But Tom’s response is to ask if they are simply ignoring the new information that Josh made out with another guy? Josh issues a quick, ‘Ah-huh’ and continues the conversation, asking advice about what one should do if they bleed into the mouth of someone they’re trying to crack onto?

In this brief exchange, and sold by his best friend’s acceptance to simply move on, gender becomes inconsequential, at least to Josh.

This may shock the straight world – but that’s the reality of being gay. We don't really think about it that much. Straight people seem to care far more about who gay people make out with than gay people do. Making out is making out – boy or girl, straight or gay – it can be equally exciting or stressful to meet someone new, and we don’t think it’s weird or brave or anything other than normal to share that with who we're attracted to. All of that labeling and what it means is pretty boring compared to the sex of it.

The character at the center of ‘Please Like Me’ is many things, one of those is gay. Josh Thomas, the comedian behind the show is also gay and he’s savvy enough to understand that you need to be natural as a performer. Most actors are type cast because they can’t be anything on screen but who they are. Those performers who can change onscreen are few and far between. How much of onscreen Josh is real Josh? You’d need to know Josh to know that, but the bravest choice he made was not to hide behind a character that isn’t him.

What we end up with is Josh Thomas. He’s a little weird. He talks funny and walks oddly. He confesses to having woman’s hips and his voice sort of breaks when he talks about anything important. But oddly, you can’t help liking him – he just seems nice.

And it’s that character he’s brought to this, with a strange meld of real and fiction that delivers a young man who is 100% believable and real. He is gay, intellectual, awkward, funny, lost, young, struggling with family, trying to grow up, supported and supportive of his friends, looking to be loved by someone he can love and he knows he has a long way to go to find himself. In other words, he’s a typical young person trying to muddle through life to find a future he can be happy with. That’s a universal quest and that’s why, whoever you are, this is a relatable show.

‘Please Like Me’ is likely to be a sleeper with many downloads around the world from people who will watch every episode in one sitting when they discover it. It probably won’t be a big hit on air because of its refusal to treat the gay sexual content as anything but usual. This means Josh and whoever he’s enamored with kiss like real people. There’s no fade away or cut to’s here. They just snog like any other young people – they swap spit and feel each other up and they do it like they’re enjoying it – certainly not apologising for it.

I suspect the still largely conservative TV audience isn’t ready for that. It's still a niche market. But I am thrilled to see a gay character living a real life on screen that isn’t full of squeals and flapping arms or an obsession with shopping, gossip and décor – hallelujah!

‘Just Like Me’ is a dramedy in line with Girls and Louie. It screams of an understanding of how to tell a story with humour that is believable and still delivers great entertainment. These shows understand life is often funny, not always to the person involved – but to everyone else invited to watch from their ‘fly on the wall’ vantage point and in a skilled hand, these moments become even more enjoyable.

There is a great story mind at work here and Josh Thomas has set the bar very high for himself with an awful lot of time left to deliver more. It may well be he has some very good story heads to help him structure his stories, because they are well structured. They twist and turn with ease and show an innate understanding of how stories work and how to subvert what is set up and expected. 

When Aunt Peg is being her usual annoying self and trying to get Josh to go to church, Josh stands up to her and wins the battle of wits with honest, real, logical choices that leave it clear he will not be bullied into being a churchgoer – under any circumstances.

When Peg drives away, and Josh throws his tongue down Geoff’s throat, Peg’s unexpected return brings calamity! Now nosey, opinionated, meddling Peg knows the gay secret Josh’s been keeping from his family and she delivers her line perfectly – “See you at church” – touché Peg!

99 times out of 100 storytellers would play this out – and keep Josh trapped in this conundrum of being forced to keep his secret by attending a service he has little respect for.

But this show is better than that. Desperately wanting Josh to be ‘outed’ to further their relationship, Geoff tells Josh’s father he’s the boyfriend and not simply a friend. This is more like a real life unfolding – not neatly choreographed so the drama escalates and gives the best bang for your buck. It’s equally entertaining when it surprises and delivers real moments rather than loud, ever increasing crescendos.

There is complicated, nuanced storytelling at work here. Josh plays the martyr to his parent’s unraveling lives and still trying to guard his mother from any emotional stress, and now essentially out and no need to bend to Peg’s blackmail, he still attends church – but now takes his boyfriend. And it is Peg who redeems herself and places Josh ahead of her own religion because she loves her nephew more than she blindly accepts the church’s anti-gay point of view.

‘Please Like Me’ has the feel good formula measured to a tee. As quirky and insane as these friends and family are – there’s no denying, as proven by Peg, they all love each other.

Thomas Ward as Tom, Josh’s housemate and best friend, is wonderful because he too, like Josh, is clunky, not as a performer, but as a person. It is this clunky, slightly awkward but genuinely good natured type of friend, a person like Josh would have.  

Caitlen Stacey underplays her best friend/ex to perfection and Wade Briggs makes you believe Geoff, Josh’s desperate to be loved, twink boyfriend. If I have one criticism of the show it’s that Geoff seemed just a little too forward in picking up Josh – but for the sake of moving things along it’s a very small complaint.

Deborah Lawrence and David Roberts have been getting praise all over town for their portrayal of Josh’s parents and rightly so – but for me, it is Judy Farr who is the pick of the crop. She’s annoying, meddlesome and self righteous with little reason to be – and she makes my blood boil in almost every scene she’s in. 

That’s a quality performance. When she stood up in church and took on religion and the right wing in defense of her nephew's life, a life she doesn’t personally condone, it was yet another twist in the story that plays as both believable and unexpected.

If you can watch this without being distracted by the gay content, or by seeing a gay actor allowed to be his natural, awkward self, without any hint of the usual screamingly clichéd gay that makes most onscreen incarnations more acceptable to the mainstream, then enjoy it as a quality piece of television.

If you can’t get past the gay elements, then you’re missing out on a rich, nuanced show that is far bigger than  any one issue.

Whatever the case, with ‘Please Like Me’- Josh has stuck his baby’s head above the tall grass and announced, to anyone who is paying attention, that’s he’s going to be around for a long time.

Out of ten – this is an understated eight.

Scott Norton Taylor - Inner City - Ebook for Kindle, Epub Sony, Palm or online!

Reviews: From Amazon

5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome read May 27, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
This book was so intriguing I hardly put it down. Wonderfully written it does not linger on any 
one event nor does it speed through scenes making it a poor read. The characters were well 
thought out and the inner turmoils they all face are far from dull.

5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular April 5, 2013
By Jack
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
The book was simply amazing it had action romance and just enough drama to make me happy 
one of the best books I have ever read

From Barnes and Noble - Nook Books:

Posted December 1, 2012

 Great read.

A story filled with with love, hate, violence, peace and so much more. 538 pages of wondering what will happen 
next. A FULL story from start to finish. Thanks to the author for sharing a great work with the readers.

Posted July 8, 2012
 Couldn't put it down...
For this to have been a free book, it was wonderful. The author keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn't 
put this down. I think this would make a great movie!

Posted April 20, 2012


Perfectly written with great detail it was thought provoking and asked the fundemental question of would you 
stick up for what you believed was right even if you would be killed for doing so.

Posted April 5, 2012

 This book is AWESOME! it keeps you wanting to read the entire ti

This book is AWESOME! it keeps you wanting to read the entire time. It tells of 2 worlds, and both are 
extremely unique. One of the best books I've ever read!


  1. I really liked watching the show, and there are some really funny moments, but Josh is not a very likable character. He is depicted as this whiny, insecure little bitch who dumps boyfriends over petty reasons like not being exciting enough or being too nice. Josh has a boyfriend, this great guy who desperately wants to love him, and what does he do? He fiddles with his smartphone and whines.

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  3. Thanks for commenting Saint-Simon - and I have bad news for you. I've been told season 2 is more about Josh's strange fears and anxieties with life, looking at mental illness etc. I get exactly what you're comment is getting at and I can see your point, but I still like that being gay wasn't his focus, nor did it seem to bring him any negativity - it's just part of who he was - as you say, his problems stemmed from being too picky, not from being gay.

    In some ways it's a lot like Girls, where the main character is the one with all the crazy issues and the support cast react off those issues. I'm still looking forward to Season two of Please like me - to air August 8. Hope you are too.