Please Like Me

Mel O'Drama

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This is not a cry for help. It's the actual title of a TV series.



Once again it's not a soap. Like Bed Of Roses it's a comedy drama. But it's very Australian. And the not-so-superMum is played by Supermum Pippa Fletcher (nee Lisa Cook, the famous Australian designer discovered by Charlie Bartlett). And Please Like Me's Aunty Peg is played by A Place To Call Home's Aunt Peg (nee Councillor Alderman Mrs Bullock from Number 96). So I'm posting about it here in the safe familiarity of the Aussie soap forum.


I hadn't heard about it until a few days ago when it came up in a Judi Farr related search. Naturally, I was curious about the same actress playing two characters with the same name in two different series that ran almost concurrently (the first episode of PLM aired exactly two months ahead of the first episode of APTCH) on the same network. The complete series is on Prime, so how could I not?

According to the write-up:
Please Like Me is about cavoodles, custard tarts, boyfriends and girlfriends. .Mostly, though, it's about growing up quickly and realising that your parents are not heroes, but big dopes with no idea what's going on - just like you.

Despite the fact that I somehow watched seven-and-a-half spoiler-filled minutes of the second episode ahead of the first, the tone of the series grabbed me instantly. It looks quite stylised, as perhaps best demonstrated by the cinematically creative opening titles for each episode:

(Obviously, I've only watched the first two so far. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of them in due course. The second episode's titles are worth a look just to hear Pippa Fletcher's colourful outburst at her son at the minute mark).

But the bright, cheery look of the series is perfectly balanced by the naturalism of the writing and performances. It's all very conversational and prosaic, touching on things that we didn't think we even needed to know. Creator/writer/lead actor Josh Thomas gets right into his own defects and life experiences through his character (also named Josh). Such as his less-than-matinee-idol looks, which crop up when his date is (understandably) surprised that he's only twenty:
Josh said:
Yeah. That's because of my face. I look like a fifty year old baby.

What I find refreshing about his new relationship - his first with a man, which began hours after his girlfriend dumped him partly because she realised he was gay - is the degree of acceptance and the complete lack of angst or questioning. It simply happens and everyone - the ex-girlfriend, his (presumably heterosexual) best friend and Josh himself - simply act and talk about it as though it's almost dull. Like he's switched from sugar to sweetener. Which is how it should be. And quite possibly how it is for younger people.

It's not without its insecurities, but they're pretty universal ones. When his best friend guesses that he made out with a guy, Josh immediately responds with:
Josh said:
I can never really trust when someone that good looking is into me. D'you know what I mean? I just don't get it. If they're mediocre-looking I can sort of appreciate why their standards are so low. But when they're that pretty I'm just like "what are you hiding?". You know?
Tom said:
Just so I know, we're not talking about your Mum because you're all, like, emotionally stunted, yeah?
Josh said:
Tom said:
And we're just ignoring the fact that Jeffrey's a man?
Josh said:
Yes. When he kissed me, my lip started bleeding because I cut myself shaving. And I bled actual blood into his actual mouth.

I really like best-friend Tom. He has a mare of a girlfriend who treats him like crap and then phones her Mum in front of him to tell her she's been strong enough to have "the conversation". He keeps vowing to dump her but doesn't have the self esteem to do so.

It's only today I've discovered that Josh Thomas is the creator and writer as well as the actor. It's mostly elevated him in my eyes, though it also raised question marks around scenes that were written to have Josh with a good looking young man wearing only the tiniest of y-fronts draped all over him. I'm also trying to overlook the fact that he looks very much like Antony Cotton.

I'm intrigued by his curious accent. I think it's mostly Irish but, because of the delivery, I'm still not clear. I keep detecting some Welsh. Perhaps it's some combination of the two or something else entirely. My partner thought he sounded German.

Debra Lawrance has given the series a great boost as Josh's clinically depressed mother. The series began with her in hospital after an attempted suicide (in a nice touch, it was revealed by Josh discovering his zillions of voicemail messages and listening to them in reverse order from newest to oldest, starting with his father saying with relief that his mother was OK and moved to a ward, then going back through some panicked "where the hell are you" ones from his father and sister, and finally to one left by his mother saying she needed his help). There's an absolutely terrific moment in the second episode where she's in a lift going to her psychiatrists appointment and she just begins crying uncontrollably, while trying to hide it from the other people sharing the lift.


Judi Farr is once again proving a scene-stealer as this Aunty Peg. She started as she meant to go on:
Peg said:
Josh, there's something I've been wanting to ask you, and don't be immature about it. How big are your testicles?
Josh said:
What?! What the hell...?!
Peg said:
It's no big deal... Just roughly. How big are they?
Josh said:
Why do you wanna know this?
Peg said:
Why? Why, why, why do you always have to ask why? ...If you were going to compare them to fruit, there'd be grapes? Kiwi fruit? A walnut?
Josh said:
I'm not answering.
Peg said:
It's just that I have been watching this documentary on Klinefelter's disorder. Sometimes it's known as XXY syndrome...
Josh said:
I'm fairly confident I have the right amount of chromosomes.
Peg said:
Well it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's quite common. And you do have some of the symptoms. You have a pear-shaped body, which isn't really right for a boy, now is it? ...And man boobs. And you're quite effeminate. But, the most obvious symptom is that your testicles do not develop in puberty. So people who have this disorder have tiny, tiny testicles. So that's why I asked you how big yours are. To check.
Josh said:
They're fine. OK? I promise you. Please believe me that they're fine.
Peg said:
How do you know? What are you comparing them to? How many testicles have you seen?

Making the scene for me were the hand gestures she did when talking about the different sized fruits and the "tiny, tiny testicles". It's a nice start for the character who, like the other Aunt Peg is a strict Catholic. I'm looking forward to her input in some more episodes.


The series, too, has really grabbed me. I want to know what happens next, and I think my next few weeks' viewing is sorted!
 

Mel O'Drama

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God - this series is great. There's so much to like. I'm laughing out loud a great deal. And the dialogue and situations are so relatable.

There's a terrific scene in Episode Three where Peg is trying to fix Rose's depression with beer and ice cream and they end up laughing over the fact that Peg just doesn't get it. It's just so ordinary, and the chemistry between Judi Farr and Debra Lawrance is wonderful. Two seasoned Australian actresses just sparking off each other. No wonder they ended up dancing.

I love the casual way information and revelations are handled. Instead of Josh coming out to his parents, we have Geoffrey telling Alan that Josh is gay and his boyfriend while they're trapped inside the Porsche at the car wash; and Peg announcing that Josh is gay to her entire church assembly, including Rose who tells Josh she knew all along.

Big moments aren't big moments. They evoke pop culture references from the characters, which I think makes it feel very natural. Such as Tom and Claire's kiss in the rain.
Claire said:
This is so nice.
Tom said:
It's just like The Notebook.
Claire said:
Or Spider-Man.

Likewise, crises are discussed among young people as young people discuss them. No big pauses and lip trembling. It's all very laid back and disinterested, even over the phone:
Josh said:
When you say you're gonna decide what to do with the baby, d'you mean you're deciding if you're gonna have an abortion?
Tom said:
Yeah. Guess so.
Josh said:
Oh man, that's fucked. But I gotta go. Gotta go.

Niamh is such a nasty little troll. Perfectly cast and the writing really captures the toxic, coercive type so well. The scene where she announces that Tom gave her chalamydia is typical. It's strongly implied that he got it from her and she manipulated him into thinking he'd been carrying it despite all evidence to the contrary. When Tom gets brave enough to dump her, she announces she's pregnant and then goes off the radar, not turning up to meet him when planned and ignoring his phone calls.

Mae is so much fun. I'm still not clear on her motives, and I loved the scene where she was speaking to her parents in Thai about Alan's big head and mid-life crisis car while he sat directly in front of her, oblivious as to what was being said. The relationship - middle-aged man leaves his soap matriarch wife for young Asian woman - has echoes of Gavin and Rita in Bed Of Roses. And bringing things full circle, Gavin himself has shown up as Rose's online date.

Josh helping Rose after her decision to get into online dating was enjoyable. I believe these two as mother and son. And I found it quite touching that Rose was lonely even while on her date.

Peg failing her driving test but continuing to drive had more echoes of Bed Of Roses with Minna being in a similar position. But Peg's grouchiness made the Please Like Me version feel more natural and, in turn, funnier. Muttering under her breath that Josh was a "patronising little shit" after he gave her a kiss for luck had me laughing out loud. As did her throwing her keys on the floor when he came to collect her and asked how it went.

Then came the Steps revelation. And how delighted was I to see so much time devoted to discussion about them as 5,6,7,8 blasted away in the car:
Josh said:
Come on. You used to love this. You used to love when Uncle Walter did this.
Peg said:
I don't love Steps. Never liked 'em. And your uncle only pretended to like them because you like them.
Josh said:
He didn't like them?
Peg said:
No. All he liked about them was that I hated 'em.
Josh said:
I can't believe Uncle Walter didn't like Steps.
Peg said:
How could anyone like them?

And the scene where Peg, Josh and Geoffrey later sang along with the same song in the car - with Peg stopping the car and holding up the traffic until Rose joined in - was another gem.

It's a nice touch, too, that things like text messages are part of the language. For instance, there have been scenes in which Josh has had conversations with Rose or Alan while exchanging texts with Geoffrey. As well as adding a realism, it allows a lot of information to be given at once and keeps the viewer alert. Along similar lines, there was a scene where Geoffrey and Josh were having one of their serious conversations upstairs while downstairs Niamh had just had her pregnancy lie blown and was arguing with Claire who revealed she and Tom had made out. We could only hear raised voices from them, but it kept interest. I wanted to know what was being said in that kitchen. It's a nice bit of layering.

On the subject of texts, the latter part of Episode Five was pretty genius and gave me my biggest laugh out loud moment of the series so far. While prospective buyers look over the house, Peg and Rose sit in their car outside, while Alan sits facing them in his car with John the dog just across and up the road. Rose has not long found out that Alan has a girlfriend and has reached the anger stage. She and Alan begin exchanging wonderully childish text messages:
Rose said:
[typing]I... hate.. you...
Alan said:
[typing]I.. just... wanted... to... be... there.... for ... you... and... Josh... but...
Rose said:
[reading] "I guess magic dick Rod has it covered."
Peg said:
Ugh. Look, she's Thai, isn't she? You should say something about ping-pong.
Rose said:
That's good. [typing] Does... she... do... ping... pong... Oh shit. No... Not "ping-ping". It's bloody. Ohhhh. It's damned autocorrect... How do you get it to go back.
The message sends with a whoosh.
Alan said:
[reading] "Ping-ping".
Rose said:
[screaming and shaking her phone] Stupid, fuckíng, shit thing.
She hurls her phone downwards out of the car window, smashing it on the ground. Then she leans out and screams angrily in the direction of Alan's car:
Rose said:
Ping-pong!
Peg hands her phone to Rose and gently speaks to her.
Peg said:
Here. Here. Use that.

Rose's fury was just so funny. And I adored the puerile pettiness of the entire scene.

When we cut back to them, they're still in their cars, but Rose and Alan are speaking heatedly about their separation over the phone. Peg is asleep in the passenger seat next to Rose with her head on the window. This made me smile, as it suggested the conversation had gone on for some time.

After they hang up, Rose nudges Peg to wake up to go back inside, and then realises Peg isn't breathing. She gets out of the car in horror, and Alan - in a nice touch - races to her side. It's beautifully done. So simple and so ordinary. That this series can go from pain to riotous, politically incorrect comedy to poignance so confidently at this early stage is a great thing. And I certainly share the grief at the loss of Peg as she's the reason I'm here in the first place.

I'm enjoying the earthy language in the series as well. Unlike, say, Vicious, which used expletives in place of clever lines to get a cheap laugh, here it feels authentic and realistic. And so any humour that comes from it is funnier, as Rose's outburst nicely demonstrated.
 

Carrie Fairchild

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I'll be interested to read your thoughts over the course of watching the series. I loved season one but by season three, I found most of the characters unbearable and only stuck with it to see how it was all wrapped up. Debra Lawrence was a joy throughout though.
 

Mel O'Drama

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I loved season one but by season three, I found most of the characters unbearable and only stuck with it to see how it was all wrapped up.

Oh dear. That doesn't bode well. Do you think it was down to the cast, or did it lose its way with the writing?

Season One has been a joy. It's been surprisingly perfect. I wasn't expecting much from it at all, but it's blown me away.




Debra Lawrence was a joy throughout though.

That I can fully believe. She's been so good in it. I know her from Sons and Daughters and Home and Away, of course, and have spotted her in a couple of other productions. But I think Rose is already the best performance I've seen her give because she comes alive with this degree of naturalism. I believe everything she does and says.


I'll be interested to read your thoughts over the course of watching the series.

Thanks. You can be sure I'll keep posting and I'm planning to watch all the way through. It's only 32 episodes, after all. These first five have been far too easy to devour, so I'm hoping that continues at least a little longer.
 

Carrie Fairchild

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Oh dear. That doesn't bode well. Do you think it was down to the cast, or did it lose its way with the writing?

I've just realised that it is 4 years since I last watched it, so maybe I'd look at it with different eyes now. From what I recall, I found that the core group of friends merged into one. As in, they were all mimicking the same style of shouty line delivery that Josh had been doing. So it suddenly felt that everyone was shouting about their various neuroses and I found it grating because they just all sounded the same. There's a dinner party scene that sticks in my head. In saying that, I could watch the show now & I could "get" the final season but I remember at the time being glad they wrapped it up as I would've been unlikely to watch season 4 had it happened.
 

Mel O'Drama

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From what I recall, I found that the core group of friends merged into one. As in, they were all mimicking the same style of shouty line delivery that Josh had been doing. So it suddenly felt that everyone was shouting about their various neuroses and I found it grating because they just all sounded the same.

Thanks. I'm always interested to know the reasons why someone might change an opinion about a show, and this is exactly the kind of thing that could do it for me as well. I really like the variety and balance in the cast. Tom being there to give grounding makes Josh less in-your-face and more enjoyable. I wouldn't relish the idea of watching multiple Joshes.

It'll be interesting to see if I notice the same thing happening that you've described as the episodes go by.

Speaking of Josh's delivery, I've done some reading up on his bizarre accent. And there are a lot of questions, comments and articles about it in internetland. From what I've read, it seems he was born in Melbourne and grew up in Brisbane and has Australian parents and it seems the Welsh/Irish/American accent is an affectation. He hasn't always spoken like that and hasn't been able to explain it. I found it curious to begin with. Having looked deeper into it I'm now finding it more than a little irritating.



There's a dinner party scene that sticks in my head.

That sounds like one of those "I'll know it when I get to it" scenes. I'll hold onto this and see if I can spot it.




Incidentally, I finished the season off this evening. Peg's funeral was nicely written and played. The bonding between Mae and Rose was lovely. And Debra Lawrance grabbed my attention in every scene - even when she was in the background.
 

Willie Oleson

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The title "Please Like Me" sounds like it could be a spin-off from the Australian drama series "Love My Way"
(I'll add it to my re-watch list. Thanks, me!)
 

Mel O'Drama

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The title "Please Like Me" sounds like it could be a spin-off from the Australian drama series "Love My Way"

Doesn't it?

Another one for the bucket list. Except Amazon Prime have done that annoying "one out of three seasons is free" thing. And the free one is the final one. :rolleyes:
 

Mel O'Drama

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Four episodes into Season Two now, and there's still a lot to like.

The regulars are as reliable as ever. Alan and Mae are always great fun.

The additions to the cast work well. Ginger and Hannah are terrific new foils for Rose, though Peg is sorely missed. Rose going off the rails with bipolar, and her fellow patients' depression has been note perfect. At times very poignant but also with a great deal of humour. Even Ginger attempting to hang herself with her hairdryer and Hannah's rape revelation were - and it feels wrong to say this - fun and entertaining.

Rose's first scene of the season was a triumphant tour de force for Debra Lawrance. At the hairdressers, her hair covered in bright red dye, she delivered a monologue to her silent hairdresser. Not only was it extremely wordy, it was delivered at a nineteen to the dozen machine gun fire pace:

Rose said:
My Josh is gay and he says that Oprah isn't good for people because she keeps telling everybody they can be better. And they probably can't be better, can they? And he says that everybody seems to think that it's really good to be aspirational, but - but what we need is more people to believe that it's really good just to be satisfied . And he thinks that that's what's wrong. And he blames Oprah for that. I mean, I don't blame Oprah for that. I mean, it must be really hard to do what she did while she was struggling with those weight issues. She probably had a thyroid problem. Wha... why are we talking about Oprah. I mean, she's finished now isn't she? It's all Ellen now. Oh, do you know, I can't watch that much dancing. He loves Ellen. Loves her. 'S 'cos he's gay.

You know, I think what the problem is? I think everyone is scared of living. Like they're... they're scared of their bodies. And they're scared of what people that they don't care about might think about them. And because they're scared they consume stuff. And then because of that the environment's got no chance. And then like the... You know, the polar bears. Those polar bears have got no chance, the poor things. Everyone's just a stupid, whining little bitch. Scared that cake'll make them fat. And they're scared of [she bursts out laughing] gluten! Fuçk, they're scared of bread. And... and peanuts. [Still laughing, she leans forwards and, turns around to look at her stylist] What is that? Peanuts! I swear to Christ, the world's gone completely mad.

And they're scared of sex. They're scared that... that people might think they're a slut. Or they're gonna get gonorrhoea. And they're scared of love because they think "oh, someone's gonna break my heart", or they... they're gonna break somebody else's heart. Well, that's pretty deep, isn't it? Oh, actually, it's not, but everyone's terrified, all the time. It's just... I mean, I'm not. I'm not terrified. It's not me. I just... I'm fine. Look, I'm really... In fact, I'm really good. I'm really good. It's great to be me. The... the... warts and farts and all. It's really satisfying. It's good to be you, too, no? Can I get a green tea?


The entire scene and all that dialogue is around a minute and 40 seconds long. The camera remains in a sustained single shot tight close up of Debra's face for all but the last ten seconds. It's a really impressive moment by any standards and joins the "swearing at the phone" moment in the car from Episode Five as a favourite moment of the entire series, not just for Debra but out of the entire show.

Debra brings this frenetic, childlike energy into a number of her scenes in these four episodes. But then she can go from crazy, wacky comedy (which is already a little poignant since it's a symptom of her poor mental health) into out and out breaking my heart. Such as choosing to dine alone in her hospital room, and her loneliness when Josh doesn't come for dinner. And then there's the fourth episode of the series. She's had sex with a fellow patient while playing hide and seek and he's later confessed that he's married. She's brushed it off as not a big deal. But then she sits and watches a concert given by patients at the hospital, with Josh having let her down again by not showing up, and the look on her face tells us all about Rose's isolation and inner sadness. There's no doubt Debra Lawrance is the best thing in this series.




Perhaps inevitably, the bloom is off the rose for me with the lead character. My tolerance for series centred around one main character tends to be pretty low, and familiarity is breeding fatigue if not contempt. I still find it a little creepy that he's written in a number of scenes of him kissing or having sex with good looking young men (two so far this season, with a third being written as the new one to root for).

Most of all, though, now that I know his muddled Irish/Welsh/American/Estuary accent is put on, it's really grating. Especially the wannabe Sloane Ranger pronunciation of vowel sounds in words like "work", "personal" and "Claire". It's even odder that nobody in the series has commented on it, despite examination of every other minutiae of their quirks. At least I can no longer see Antony Cotton when I look at him. Now he looks like Owen Jones.
 

Carrie Fairchild

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Four episodes into Season Two now, and there's still a lot to like.

The regulars are as reliable as ever. Alan and Mae are always great fun.

The additions to the cast work well. Ginger and Hannah are terrific new foils for Rose, though Peg is sorely missed. Rose going off the rails with bipolar, and her fellow patients' depression has been note perfect. At times very poignant but also with a great deal of humour. Even Ginger attempting to hang herself with her hairdryer and Hannah's rape revelation were - and it feels wrong to say this - fun and entertaining.

Rose's first scene of the season was a triumphant tour de force for Debra Lawrance. At the hairdressers, her hair covered in bright red dye, she delivered a monologue to her silent hairdresser. Not only was it extremely wordy, it was delivered at a nineteen to the dozen machine gun fire pace:




The entire scene and all that dialogue is around a minute and 40 seconds long. The camera remains in a sustained single shot tight close up of Debra's face for all but the last ten seconds. It's a really impressive moment by any standards and joins the "swearing at the phone" moment in the car from Episode Five as a favourite moment of the entire series, not just for Debra but out of the entire show.

Debra brings this frenetic, childlike energy into a number of her scenes in these four episodes. But then she can go from crazy, wacky comedy (which is already a little poignant since it's a symptom of her poor mental health) into out and out breaking my heart. Such as choosing to dine alone in her hospital room, and her loneliness when Josh doesn't come for dinner. And then there's the fourth episode of the series. She's had sex with a fellow patient while playing hide and seek and he's later confessed that he's married. She's brushed it off as not a big deal. But then she sits and watches a concert given by patients at the hospital, with Josh having let her down again by not showing up, and the look on her face tells us all about Rose's isolation and inner sadness. There's no doubt Debra Lawrance is the best thing in this series.




Perhaps inevitably, the bloom is off the rose for me with the lead character. My tolerance for series centred around one main character tends to be pretty low, and familiarity is breeding fatigue if not contempt. I still find it a little creepy that he's written in a number of scenes of him kissing or having sex with good looking young men (two so far this season, with a third being written as the new one to root for).

Most of all, though, now that I know his muddled Irish/Welsh/American/Estuary accent is put on, it's really grating. Especially the wannabe Sloane Ranger pronunciation of words like "work" and "Claire". It's even odder that nobody in the series has commented on it, despite examination of every other minutiae of their quirks. At least I can no longer see Antony Cotton when I look at him. Now he looks like Owen Jones.

It is synopses like these that make me want to revisit the series and experience again the joy of Rose.
 

Mel O'Drama

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It is synopses like these that make me want to revisit the series and experience again the joy of Rose.

She's just the greatest, isn't she?

I've now finished Season Two, including - of course - the Tasmanian two-hander for which Debra won her AACTA.

Debra Lawrance said:
To the other nominees in this category: I adore your work so much. I mean... so much so that in the past couple of weeks I've come to see each of you as an incredible threat. So, I guess I don't have to worry about that anymore.

It was a nice episode and, in the aftermath of Ginger's suicide, the balance of light and dark in the writing was spot-on.



While I haven't enjoyed Season Two quite as much as the first, I've continued to connect and laugh.

It continues to push boundaries. One scene that perhaps sums this up is the weird, sexually graphic, rapey, grieving, shaming breakup scene between Jenny and Tom.

Jenny's one of several new characters who have added new layers to Season Two in seeing responses of those who've come into the dysfunctional clique, most of whom have ended up messed up by the experience. Seeing Tom, Claire and Josh through Jenny's eyes as they stuck together and delighted in period-shaming her wasn't a pretty sight. It's certainly changed the way I look at characters like Niamh, who in the early episodes appeared to be the abusive party. As Tom's layers have unpeeled, my sympathy for Niamh has increased no end.

The writing around Josh is so unflatteringly ugly, I suppose I should admire Thomas's lack of vanity. It raises interesting questions about the whole cycle of being messed up and messing others up in turn. There's a degree of control and abuse to most of his relationships. The way he gets kicks watching his close friends argue and happily makes trouble between them is pretty twisted. Claire's return is one of many examples. Even as they greeted one another, Josh was spilling details of Tom's love life and shared inner thoughts with her. In front of Tom.

Josh's extreme response to Tom eating some of Josh's food showed him at his most controlling. I found it telling that both Tom and Claire meekly accepted the fact that Tom had been barricaded in his room. Rather than anger, they both began asking Josh's permission to be let out or for Tom's "confiscated" phone to be returned. And Josh, now in a position of power, refused their permission. Josh's listening to Tom and Claire's private conversation without Tom's knowledge or consent seems borderline sociopathic. And let's not forget Josh is also technically their landlord, creating a hierarchy of power. And once Tom is finally free, Josh approaches Tom and forcibly hugs him, despite Tom's repeated utterances that it is unwanted. He even goes so far as to move Tom's hands onto his own body.

They're not the only tenants he's so abused. There's also Patrick, whom Josh has spent much of Season Two pursuing. There's a scene in which Josh tries to remove Patrick's belt while they're kissing. Patrick says no, but Josh keeps going. Patrick had a conversation with Josh saying he didn't want sex, after which Josh evidently refused to speak to him until Patrick felt obliged to moved out.

The belt scenario is echoed in the final moments of the season when Josh pays a visit to Arnold in the psychiatric hospital, then climbs into bed with him and starts touching and kissing him. Arnold asks him not to, but Josh ignores it and timid Arnold acquiesces. As if Arnold's condition doesn't make him vulnerable enough, adding further imbalance to the scene is that Josh is fully clothed while Arnold is (at the very least) shirtless under the covers. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this scenario is that Arnold is back in hospital having had a breakdown during a disastrous date with Josh. He's in that hospital bed, vulnerable and perhaps not thinking clearly as a direct outcome of coming into contact with Josh and his chaos. It's clear - and has been explicitly and repeatedly said - that the toxic relationship is bad for Arnold's mental health. But poor Josh places more importance on having a cuddle than he does the other person's emotional welfare. It's a brutal image of a damaged person causing further damage to an even more damaged person.

The writing is a little concerning in these situations. Tom, Arnold and to some extent Patrick all relent and "consent" to unwanted physical contact from Josh when it's clear he won't allow them to refuse.

With this being partly autobiographical, this ugliness shows- as I said - a certain lack of vanity. But the pattern shown perhaps also explains my discomfort with the numerous scenes the series writer/creator/star has with various young actors in states of undress, which evoke a similar power hierarchy as the landlord situation. One moment where Charles Cottier walks naked across the bedroom and Josh Thomas can be seen checking him out felt particularly objectifying. Who can say whether that's method acting or dismally poor actor etiquette. And in the final scene between Patrick and Josh, Cottier is once again completely naked and wrapping himself around Thomas.

It's not all bad news with Josh. The Tasmanian episode saw him far removed from the controlling, coercive relationships with people his own age or younger, and the two-hander between Rose and Josh showed Josh at his most endearing. The chemistry was great and for twenty four minutes he was thoroughly likeable again.

There is also balance in the series' treatment of mental health concerns. Rose, Ginger, Hannah and Arnold have been very sensitively written, and there's a humanity to their scenes, which seems important for people who have perhaps come to be somewhat characterised by their conditions at the loss of themselves.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Four episodes into Season Three now.

Still plenty to like, but I'm not enjoying Josh at all. And since he's in almost every scene, it's becoming something of an endurance test. Tom's now feeling a little bit tedious as well.

Rose and Hannah's new double-act is watchable enough. Ditto Alan and Mae. I haven't mentioned Mae much in these posts, but she's a firm favourite of mine. She's such a scene-stealer and her resentful comments towards Alan have always made me laugh. I find the cheating-while-pregnant revelation a little unnecessary though. There was enough tension there already.

Arnold is a great character and entirely watchable. It's just a shame that almost every scene he's in has him attached to Josh's face or penis. The sexual gratuitousness seems to have been amped up yet further, and is not to the benefit of the series.
 

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I'm now eighty percent of the way through Season Three, and seventy five percent through the entire series.

Just as I feel I'm no longer engaging with the series, along comes a run in which wins me over again. Not entirely - the first series had novelty and the excitement of getting to know the characters, and now I know a little too much about them to feel the same way again. But I've been reminded of some of the things that attracted me to the characters at the beginning.

Claire in particular has been a little richer. There's been a cattiness to her as time's gone by. Her row with Niamh (and her racing of Tom minutes after he and Niamh split) seemed somehow justified. But in returns visits I've found her less likeable. Her cruelty to Jenny over the "wings" springs to mind. There have also been scathing comments about Tom's new girlfriend Ella while making fun of her New Zealand accent. And to be fair, Ella is Niamh Mk II. She gave the initial impression of escaping from an abusive relationship before quickly emerging as someone who is herself abusively coercive and controlling with Tom.

Up to a point, I'm fine with unpleasant, flawed, narcissistic characters. But when the three younger leads each tick all of those boxes, it's good to see some different colours. And Claire's pregnancy/termination was perfect for this. There was a degree of conflict for Claire herself which may-or-may-not have been around pro-choice versus pro-life. But there wasn't a sense that the writing took a specific ethical stance. It simply acknowledged that there was an emotional toll, for all Claire's spouting about her body belonging to her. The amount of medical detail and Claire looking regretfully down the toilet pan before flushing was just graphic enough to make this a suitably uncomfortable watch. It's perhaps also significant that ahead of her termination, Claire was the person to take the knife and decapitate Adele the rooster when Josh couldn't (another uncomfortable watch, that left me concerned for the welfare of the poor, stressed rooster, even if it wasn't killed for real).

Arnie and Josh have now opened their relationship, but Josh has become emotionally involved with one of his shags who is dying of an aneurism. It's an engaging enough arc so far. And naturally has given us another clothed Josh/naked actor bed scene. :rolleyes:

Despite the language and sex being somewhat colourful at times, it seems the line is drawn with one word, when both Josh and Rose had the perfect opportunity and referred to it as "the c-word". All the same, it was very amusing to see the aerial shot of Rose standing on Stuart's lawn, her retaliation to Stuart for continuing to see his wife nipped in the bud when she ran out of paint having written "C-U-N...".
 

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And it's over.

The latter episodes have been a number of things: powerful, hilarious, engaging, irritating, surprising, hopeful.

It feels like the right place to exit, but at the same time I view a number of these last few episodes as essential.

The camping trip, while not a favourite, had a terrific scene from Arnold when Josh dumped him (after discussing it with all the other members of the party before Arnold). Seeing Arnold taken advantage of and held in this coercive, abusive relationship for almost three seasons has been uncomfortable to watch. Josh took advantage of him while he was vulnerable and has been shown to be a very damaging person to those around him. As with Tom, Claire and Patrick, Arnold is technically a tenant and so dependent on Josh materially as well as emotionally. And so things came to a head in a nice, rain drenched scene where Arnold suddenly said what he's been holding back:

Arnold said:
Any time everyone is happy and calm, you say something mean. You're always trying to start a fight. A pathological quest for stimulus. Claire got out. She did it. I should have taken the hint when your best friend left you that you're a shit guy... You are never going to be happy, Josh.

It's an incredibly cathartic moment for the viewer, because it's pleasing for another character to recognise what's been increasingly apparent. There's a potent truth to his words.

The episode ended with something that's become an annoyance of mine in the last couple of seasons. The characters are all driving home in a minibus and join in singing a contemporary song and suddenly it's a musical. This spontaneous singing has happened once every few episodes in Seasons Two and Three. It's kind of organic, but there's something about each occasion that has felt contrived and a little naff (and also a little like they couldn't think of what to write to round off the episode, so threw in a song instead. In this instance, Josh sits side on to the broken Arnold and sings what Google tells me is Justin Bieber's Love Yourself while locking his eyes on Arnold and smiling. And Arnold eventually joins in. Which is a choice.




It's surprised me that, so late in the game and at a time when I've grown increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of the series, an episode could come along that's a contender for my favourite of the entire series:

Degustation, the fourth episode of the fourth season, and the last-but-two of the entire series, came as a completely pleasant surprise. It's almost a three-hander with Rose, Alan and Josh going to an upmarket restaurant for dinner (though it's not a true three-hander since there are attentive restaurant staff with dialogue, and Hannah appears over a FaceTime call).

It captures everything that's great about the series. The prosaic dialogue feels very real and relatable. A great deal of ground is covered and the evening goes through nostalgia; catching up on recent events; to out and out comedy; to confessions; to melancholy love.

Each course has its own little "act". Perhaps my favourite begins at 8:50 in the video below. It goes from Rose and Alan reminiscing about their honeymoon to Josh's typically self-centred concern that all their happy times were before he was born to discussion of the breakdown of Alan and Rose's marriage to David Roberts doing the most hilarious emu impression. And all in the space of a minute and forty seconds:

Rose's tearful speech just after the sixteen minute mark is just everything. It's warm, touching and a little heartbreaking given how lost, isolated, confused and alone she's been shown to be this season.

In the broader context, it's even more moving, since Rose walking off to get the last train at the end of the evening is the last we'll properly see of her in the series. In the next episode, Josh finds her dead, having committed suicide. I appreciated that we didn't see her properly after death. It drove home the sense of absence and lack of closure. I really appreciated that we saw Rose win a few moments of happiness in her last days. Debra Lawrance has been a revelation in the course of this series. Despite having seen her in other shows, I just had no idea she could possibly be this good. Rose has been the series' constant source of gold. For me, there's no show without her, so it's right that it should end here.

I felt moved watching Rose's final scenes, and it's more touching in hindsight. At some point after her death played out I suddenly remembered she'd paid that $1000 dinner bill because it was one of the best nights of her life, and I found myself quite tearful.

The spot-on casting of the "adults" in this series - Rose, Alan, Mae, Peg - has made it bearable and enjoyable at times when the younger cast have grated. It's notable that Degustation lacked Josh interacting with his friends, which is when he's at his ugliest. And it also had the absence of two ingredients that I find repellant which have become more significant to later episodes: harmonious singing and graphic sex.

I'm more than ready to part with this series, and I'm looking forward to never again watching anything starring Josh Thomas. But I have to give him his due as a writer, since much of this series has spoken straight to my heart. It ended as it began with a small, intimate moment between two friends who put up with each other warts and all. And that feels very right.
 
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