Please Like Me was my favorite show of 2014. What it lacked in size it made up for in excellent writing, wit, heart and above all else, a delicacy in handling honest, human emotions balanced with the sheer relatability of its characters. There are plenty of shows that focus on millennial lifestyle, or that are coming of age based, yet it’s the Australian import that has managed to capture the fundamental essence of what it means to be a 20 something today. Which is to say it means being a little lost, very confused, sometimes aimless, sometimes selfish, and having fantastic friends. It means being better equipped to being inclusive of other’s differences, being sensitive to disabilities, and being loving towards others in similar situations. I watch a lot of shows where being in your twenties is almost like it’s being the butt of the joke. Please Like Me understands the frustration and fun of it all and plays with comedy and drama with a delicacy that makes for not only one of my favorite shows of last year, but one of the strongest series currently airing.
Season two left off with Josh at an emotional cross-roads, one that he wasn’t yet ready to cross. So instead, he climbed out of the hot tub with Tom, went to the rehabilitation clinic where his sort of, almost boyfriend Arnold was, and slept away any doubts or anxieties, at least for the time being. Time has passed since then and we meet up with characters who are still grappling with what it means to be an adult.
It will be difficult for me to put into words just how disarmingly sweet the season three opener of Please Like Me was, but I’m going to try.
To be frank, the season three premiere of Please Like Me might be one of the best season openers I’ve ever seen, very pointedly structured as a mini-movie. We get to see the cinematic take on the beginning of Josh and Arnold’s relationship. Sure, we also get to spend some time catching up with Tom, Claire, Mae and Josh’s parents, but the prime source of entertainment comes from the developing relationship between Josh and Arnold. It’s a tediously slow affair, but one that’s blessed with honesty and a refusal to sugarcoat the difficulties of dating someone with crippling anxiety.
The entire episode is focused on how Josh navigates Arnold’s “big complicated brain” as he puts it, and how it affects Josh. His mother tells him she doesn’t like Arnold because she believes he’s toying with his emotions, Tom is as ever, decently apathetic to it all, not even willing to put up with Josh when he’s having nightmares/just needs a friend because he’s feeling lonely. However, Josh’s “this right here, this is the loneliest thing in the world” as he’s laying on the floor after Tom denies him access to his bed, is one of the straight out funniest moments in the episode.
The episode gives us all of the typical ups and downs that we’d see in a romantic comedy, condensed into one half hour. Josh is unsure of Arnold’s wants, then Arnold kisses him. Sick of Josh making all the dates, Arnold goes over the top to create a romantic setting for their first time. Josh, having become increasingly endearing in this episode, begins singing Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” to detract some of the awkwardness, only for the real song to start playing while they’re having sex (which is realistically depicted I might add). It is cavity inducing sweetness and plastered a smile on my face. Josh Thomas and Keegan Joyce have a wonderful chemistry, and it’s on full display here; also when Arnold is divulging some of his anxieties in a later scene in Josh’s bedroom. He tells him all about his anxieties, including prep work for dates in case there’s awkward silence, or the fact that he doesn’t love Love Actually, and only watched it to have something in common with Josh. It’s the only thing that makes Josh pause, but he says he can overcome it.
And then there’s silence, Arnold doesn’t show up until over a week later, drunk and tells Josh he loves him while he’s sleeping. Josh being Josh, he feigns sleep, unable to figure out what to do. He speaks with Mae and realizes that he does love Arnold but when he tells him, opening himself in very unlike Josh ways, Arnold doesn’t say it back. It’s a great moment for both the character because we get both of their point of views. Arnold shouldn’t be forced to say it back but Josh was just so vulnerable to him that we’re all dying for him to do it. Josh is at his giving up point, telling Arnold that he needs to consider his own feelings as well.
Which leads to a Love Actually homage with Arnold at Josh’s door, using the signs he’s holding as a way to not have to speak, but also be romantic and it’s an extraordinary way to end such a strong episode.
We’ve spent two seasons with Josh and in that time we’ve gotten to grow affectionate over him, even when he’s self-obsessed and immature. A part of what makes the show so watchable, and to a great extent, so relatable, is how many of Josh’s faults along with the other character’s are laid out bare for all to see. There is nothing self-conscious about the script, despite so many of the characters wearing their insecurities on their sleeves. Despite this, despite the flaws and warts and all, I love spending time with Josh and Tom and co. While there’s something to be celebrated about how each character is portrayed (Rose being a particular highlight) there’s something that I personally identify with with Josh and it’s because of this that I can’t get over how happy I am that he finally got a happy moment.
There was such a richness to seeing Josh win for once. In the past seasons, whether it be for comedic value or dramatic, we’ve seen Josh actively loose. Whether it be embarrassing himself in front of potential suitors, his breakup with Geoffrey in season one, or the ongoing battle with his mother’s depression, Josh’s storylines have been a long series of low points, peppered with moments of laughter. However, it’s typically due to the time old tradition of laughing because if they weren’t, they’d be crying. It’s easier to make jokes rather than address your issues head on, something Josh is written to be an expert at.
He’s a master deflector and self-deprecating to boot.
So, for the first time, Josh get’s a happy ending and it’s so refreshing and so instantly joyful that I couldn’t help but say aloud “this is too happy, when is something bad going to happen”. The show has conditioned me to expect an exception to the character’s happiness. Josh and Arnold get their romantic comedy, ridiculously cheesy Love Actually moment. Because sure, as Arnold’s cards say, Josh isn’t perfect, not even close, but he is to Arnold and that’s what matters.
If you’re not watching Please Like Me, why?