If you haven’t heard of Josh Thomas or Please Like Me by this point, at the very least, you’ve probably seen it appear on half a dozen ‘Great TV Shows You Aren’t Watching’ lists. Created by and starring Josh Thomas as a version of himself, this low-key yet charming comedy series manages to get just about every element right. Supported by a strong core cast (Debra Lawrance, Thomas Ward, David Roberts, Caitlin Stasey, Renee Lim, Keegan Joyce), Please Like Me is sweet, dark, hilarious and above all, sincere.
Its season three premiere, ‘Eggplant’ signifies a mature turning point for Josh, who in the past has struggled with being emotionally vulnerable and a tendency to be self-absorbed. Josh’s characterisation has always provided such an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be a twentysomething, a feat that many Australian viewers arguably believed only an American series like Girls could pull off. Josh certainly has a healthy helping of narcissism, emphasised in ‘Eggplant’ by the fantastically on-point statement, “When was the last time you met and new person and thought, ‘Oh gosh, that’s an interesting thing you just said’?” but he also deeply cares for his friends, family and boyfriend, even if at times he behaves as if they are nothing more than a nuisance.
Watching Josh pursue a tentative relationship with Arnold (Keegan Joyce) has given even more nuance to his character. We’ve seen it before and the series’ title is the most blatant reference to it, but Josh is constantly seeking validation. In a clever role reversal from his previous relationship with Geoffrey in season one, Josh is the insecure party here, having to chase after Arnold and navigate through all of his baggage. As always, Josh is only too eager to use his friends and family as a sounding board for his insecurities. His mum (played by the wonderful Debra Lawrance), having spent time her fair share of time with Arnold in a private mental hospital last season, suggests simply finding “somebody easier”.
Josh and Arnold finally do sleep together – a scene that is visually gorgeous and unlike anything I have witnessed on Australian television. At Josh’s insistence that Arnold plan one of their dates for a change, he takes Josh to an abandoned warehouse where he has decorated the space with blankets and fairy lights. This being Please Like Me, the moment is hilariously undercut by Josh, “It’s just that this is exactly how a sixteen year old girl imagines they are going to lose their virginity”. He then begins to belt out a tone-deaf rendition of Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ before the actual version of the song kicks in. The sex scene plays out beautifully; hesitant, awkward, less than sexy and finally, lovingly.
Josh then fears it was all for naught after he doesn’t hear from Arnold for over a week. Arnold eventually shows up at Josh’s place drunk, climbs into bed with him and says, “I love you” while Josh pretends to “play dead”. Even though Josh is more than a little irked by the way Arnold went about it, “That’s how he wants to say ‘I love you’ for the first time? Drunk and with the words ‘Poof Doof’ stamped on his arm?” Josh decides to tell Arnold that he loves him.
Now sober, Arnold refuses to say it back and the conversation the two of them share demonstrates some of the most growth we’ve ever seen from Josh. Where Arnold had earlier confessed that he wasn’t ready to be vulnerable for him, Josh earnestly tells him, “I get that this is a big deal for you and you have a complicated brain, but sometimes my feelings need to be thought of”. It’s a difficult moment for Josh, but it also might be the most emotionally honest he has ever been with another person.
The episode could have actually benefited from ending with this scene as it packs such an emotional punch, but just like Josh, I’m a huge Love Actually fan, so I couldn’t help but adore the way Arnold chose to apologise to Josh. Arnold recreates a more honest version of the famous cue card/Christmas Carol scene from the film purely for Josh’s benefit, finally able to communicate all the real feelings he can’t voice aloud.
You can catch Please Like Me on Thursdays at 10pm on ABC or catch up online with iView.