I binge-watched three seasons of Please Like Me over the course of a week, and now I’m pressuring all of my friends to watch it too (this is good peer pressure, trust me). Thank you to my friend Stephen who put me on to this show, describing its main character as “the voice of our generation.”
Please Like Me is an Australian “dramedy” series that premiered in early 2013. The third (and most recent) season wrapped in December 2015. I’m eagerly awaiting season four, but until it premieres, I am trying to spread the word. Let’s talk about this show! It’s so good I really don’t know how I didn’t hear about it before. Internet, you have failed me. 😦
Please Like Me revolves around a character named Josh. Josh is in his twenties and is (initially) confused about his sexuality, a little insecure about his looks and is unsure of his future career path. Josh is also trying to navigate some complex relationships: with his mentally ill mother, a father going through a mid-life crisis, best friends going through personal struggles, a number of romantic interests — and with himself. Yep, a good-old-fashioned coming-of-age story for the millennial generation — and beyond.
The show’s humour is wry and dark, the characters flawed and messy — but still very likeable (this is why I stopped watching Girls…I just did not like anyone enough to keep watching after season two). Please Like Me feels effortless and natural…like a real peek into someone’s life. The storylines are also interesting, and the show doesn’t shy away from tackling difficult subject matter, from abortion to STIs to mental illness. In fact, mental illness is a central topic of the series. Please Like Me has main characters who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and depression, and their experiences and challenges are treated with respect — even in humourous moments. It’s great to see this kind of diversity in a show, and it’s also a good reminder that ‘diversity’ encompasses so much more than racial/cultural diversity (which is what I typically associate with the word).
In addition to characters with diverse mental health experiences and sexual preferences, Please Like Me also has some racial diversity. As a person of colour and someone who is aware of the lack of representation and stereotyping that can befall racially diverse characters on TV and in film, I’m generally interested in how such characters are portrayed. Please Like Me’s racial diversity comes in the character of Mae, the much younger girlfriend of Josh’s father. Mae is Thai and has a strong Thai accent, which did make me cringe initially — was it necessary for the one minority character to have an accent? And then there is that awkward moment when Josh’s mother cracks a ping pong joke referencing Thai sex workers, which also induced a shake of my head –but this is more a reflection of Rose’s character, than it is of Mae’s characterization. Overall, Mae is treated with respect in the show. While she could have easily become a caricature or stereotype (e.g. a submissive Asian woman or a ‘dragon lady‘) or vilified (a young woman looking for a sugar daddy), she is among the most reasonable and assertive of characters in Please Like Me…at least for the first couple of seasons. Mae changes and grows through the series and she doesn’t feel like a token minority beyond her first few episodes. So, I can barely criticize this show. I wouldn’t expect a show to represent everyone, but this one does cover a lot of bases. I think Please Like Me is brilliant and delightful and it artfully balances serious subject matter with witty dialogue and situation comedy.
One tip when watching Please Like Me: have a snack on hand — some episodes may make you hungry. Every episode of the series has a food-related name, and the opening often revolves around the preparation of a dish, or the titular food is a key part of the episode. I think Josh Thomas (who is the show’s creator, writer, main character and in the third season, director) must be something of a foodie. It would be SO COOL if Aziz Ansari could guest star in season four, and they could share a bowl of pasta (#freshpastalife)! Master of None and Please Like Me are currently my favourite comedy series. They are very different series, but their social commentary/approach to social issues (be it racism on TV or coping with mental illness) is deft and thoughtful, and coincidentally, food features heavily in both.
At 25 minutes an episode, Please Like Me is a quick and easy indulgence that will make you laugh AND make you think AND make you feel. While I don’t think that main character Josh is THE definitive voice of my generation (frankly, I don’t believe any one person could be), he is certainly a voice worth listening to (and he has such an unusual accent)!
RATING: Please watch Please Like Me. How? Well, I streamed it online (sketchy, I know) because it’s not on Netflix (why?!). Apparently it was on CBC last summer, but content isn’t currently available online. So, you may have to do some searching — but it’s worth seeking out!