Critipeg: Please Like Me

“Rhubarb and Custard,” streaming on Netflix, ★★★★☆

Created by and starring Australian comedian Josh Thomas, Please Like Me is a charming comedy-drama that follows the quirky, outrageous and (at times) bleak life of the show’s 20-year-old protagonist, Josh. Specifically, the show features Josh navigating the trials and tribulations of gay love and mental illness.  

Please Like Me is one of those shows that is perfect to watch when feelings of stress or turmoil are all-consuming – when a good laugh is sorely needed, but something overly lighthearted is not palatable. The show achieves this by the way in which it manages its comedic and dramatic elements. 

One of the most phenomenal aspects of this show is how it balances its off-beat, lewd humour with raw, unfiltered tragedy.  

In the first episode alone, Josh is thrust headfirst into an ongoing figurative parade of life-altering, personality-defining, world-shattering occurrences. In the span of 24 hours, Josh is dumped by his long-term girlfriend, has his first sexual encounter with a man, begins to rethink his sexuality and becomes the designated caregiver for a family member living with mental illness. 

Despite the complexity of each of these events, the show deftly laces them together with clever, well-timed exposition and masterful pacing. At no time does the episode feel confusing or overwhelming, yet after 30 short minutes, the viewer is privy to many of the intricate and intimate details of the protagonist’s life. 

Best of all, the episode integrates humour into the whirlwind that is Josh’s life in a skillful way. 

First off, the comedy is exceedingly intelligent. It demonstrates consideration and understanding toward the nature of mental disorders. The subject of mental illness is respected and treated with an appropriate amount of seriousness, while the humour is geared toward poking fun at other characters or happenings. 

Second, the banter between characters is quick, sharp, cutthroat and painfully hilarious. This is not surprising, given Thomas’ background in standup comedy, but he isn’t the only one cracking jokes. Each character in the show has their share of comedic moments, in addition to the more serious ones. 

The range and ability the cast members possess to pull off these scenes is incredible. The performances of David Roberts as “Dad” and Debra Lawrance as “Mum” stand out in particular. 

That said, the performances of Thomas and his co-star, co-writer and real-life friend Thomas Ward don’t quite match the calibre of the supporting cast at times. Despite this, Ward, who plays Josh’s best friend Tom in the show, and Thomas are enjoyable to watch on screen.

What they might lack in acting ability, they make up with charisma and comedic talent. Thomas and Ward’s friendship on screen is always a delight to watch and an overall highlight of the show. 

All things considered, Please Like Me is an incredibly fun, moving and extremely bingeable show. It is absolutely worth a watch. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 7, 2021)

Related Reads