The charm of “Please Like Me” isn’t the simplest to identify. Its pivotal character Josh, a creation of young comedian Josh Thomas, is caught in a constant loop of saying and doing the wrong thing. He’s like a walking, talking reliving of every uncomfortable situation where the words that end up leaving your mouth do nothing but drag the moment downward. It’s no wonder the show’s title doesn’t merely command its audience to “Like Me,” because with a protagonist as graceless and self-centered as Josh, he needs that extra Please Like Me. A pretty, pretty please, with a cherry on top?
In the series’ first episode Josh’s girlfriend dumps him when she’s able to deduce that he’s gay before he figures it out for himself, he undergoes his first clumsy sexual encounter with another dude, and his depressive mother winds up in the emergency room after downing a bottle of painkillers. It seems like exceedingly dark ground to cover, but Josh manages to smooth it over by playing the self-deprecating scapegoat to the hardships of the family, friends and lovers who surround him. Over the course of its two seasons the show proceeds to delve into a sunny Melbourne rife with hilariously haphazard family dysfunction, mental institutions Josh would just as soon refer to as “looney bins,” and lethargic 20-year-olds who like to drink and whine about their exes but not get up to much else.
A pro that outweighs its con, this is why “Please Like Me” doesn’t suffer from what I’ll call ‘Flashdance syndrome’ — where the fiction of a barely-adult go-getter’s life presents them living well beyond their means in a kind of urban fairytale. Josh Thomas’ world, on the other hand, more appropriately mirrors what it feels like for me to be the same age: he’s largely funded by his parents but pressed to deal with their midlife crises, compiling a resumé is a task one extends for days to withhold the painful process of handing it out, and there are no “boyfriends,” there are just “things” with “boys” that rarely end sweetly. Thomas admitted a motive in doing the show would be the power to cast cute guys to make out with him, and it’s a realism I can’t help but admire. It’s because you’re so good at being unlikeable that we like you, Josh.