Pop Culture Advent Calendar, Day 17: Please Like Me
Inspired by NPR, every day (gulp) from December 1st to 24th, I will be highlighting
a pop culture moment from this year that I loved. Today I talk about a TV show that got me through a difficult period.
One week to go!
Please Like Me is a poignant, gentle TV show that got me through a really difficult period of an otherwise good year for me. I would come to it often tightly wound, out of my mind with worry, and something about it would help me breathe again.
Please Like Me is an Australian TV show that ran from 2013 to 2016, created, written by and starring Josh Thomas. Josh Thomas is 31, and according to Wikipedia, was 25 when the show first aired, which is pretty extraordinary and mighty impressive! It opens with Claire, Josh’s long-time girlfriend, breaking up with him because she feels they have drifted apart. Also, because she suspects that he is gay. The show goes on to chronicle Josh’s life as a 20 something in Melbourne, and the lives of those around him; these include his friends, his boyfriends and other lovers, his hapless father and his pretty switched on step mum, as well as his mother, who, at the start of the series, is hospitalised in a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt.
It is his mother, Rose, that I want to talk about. Throughout the seasons, Josh’s mum, who is coming to terms with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, is in and out of hospital, in a psychiatric ward. Much of the show centres around other characters that she meets on the ward, including Josh’s boyfriend, Arnold, and woman of the moment Hannah Gadsby. Throughout the show, Rose varies between being very unwell and being okay, managing her illness as best as she can via her doctor’s orders. However, in the penultimate episode, and this is a MASSIVE SPOILER, Rose takes her own life.
Please Like Me never shies away from the reality of its characters unhappiness, or their struggles. Rose’s suicide was heart-breaking and wholly unexpected for the audience, but it makes sense after reviewing her character arc. It makes the last time we saw her as an audience even more sad, happyish, tipsy, waving goodbye to Josh and his dad after a family dinner initiated by Josh to cheer her up, as he feels her depression is getting worse.
There’s a duality with the way that Please Like Me presents its sadness. Not just from scene to scene but throughout the whole show. There are re-enactments of movie scenes from
Dirty Dancing and Love Actually, both incredibly cute scenes. There’s a scene where all the characters sing ‘Love Yourself’ after a genuinely distressing break up scene, which in its irreverence somehow becomes appropriate and lifts the cloud. There’s a scene, after Rose dies, after a night out with friends, Josh is bringing a guy home and, on the way,, they have stopped for food. Josh starts crying, because emotions, and all his friends vaguely threaten the guy so he doesn’t hurt Josh, which the guy takes well. There are song sequences with pills popping. There are many scenes of characters just dancing. This coupled with the fact that every episode is names after food, and the show has many scenes of Josh whisking up some home cooked delights, the show often feels like a comforting feast.
I love it! Josh Thomas has just been commissioned for a new TV show called ‘Everything is going to be okay’, out next year. I can’t wait!