Explaining why Hulu’s Please Like Me is such a wonderful show can be tricky.
Not a whole lot actually happens on the drama-infused comedy from Australian creator Josh Thomas and writer Thomas Ward, both of whom also star as fictionalized versions of themselves. It mostly just follows the life of Josh (Thomas), his equally aimless friends, and his fractured but loving family. Josh likes cooking, cute boys, and his floppy dog, John; he dislikes conflict, empty sincerity, and losing precious leftovers to Tom (Ward), his oblivious roommate.
Josh and the show are, at first glance, perfectly ordinary.
But the brilliance of Please Like Me comes from knowing that embracing the banal details of everyday life also means embracing the joys and pains of living everyday life. Through the show’s four seasons — all of which are currently available to stream on Hulu, with the six-episode fourth season newly available as of January 7 — Thomas, Ward, and director Matthew Saville have built a world filled with warmth, jokes, and sharp, eminently human truths.
Here are just a couple of reasons why Please Like Me is well worth your time.
Please Like Me excels at depicting realistic relationships, in all their fun (and often messy) glory
The quarter-life crisis is incredibly well-documented on television. Those years in your 20s when you’re trying to figure out what kind of a person you’ll turn out to be, what your career is, and what you hold dear have been detailed onscreen so many times that it can be hard to find much new to say.
Please Like Me doesn’t try too hard to follow anything like Josh and Tom’s overarching career aspirations. Instead, it chronicles the relatively mundane lives of both roommates, while also following the people who cycle in and out of their lives, like Josh’s ex-girlfriend and current close friend Claire (Caitlin Stasey), his long-term boyfriend Arnold (Keegan Joyce), and Tom’s eventual girlfriend Ella (Emily Barclay).
The show effectively transforms the audience into another roommate, allowing us to sit in on Tom and Josh’s dinner parties, wobblier nights out, disastrous dates, and, most often, the lazy afternoons they spend fondly mocking each other.
We watch as their relationships come and go, fracture and tangle, pull the two friends apart and bring them closer together. And thanks to Thomas and Ward’s real-life friendship and repartee — Thomas as the chatty wit, Ward as his dry counterpart — their jokes always feel lived-in, their fights justified with years of believable buildup.
Take the standout season two episode “Truffled Mac and Cheese,” in which Josh punishes Tom for stealing the last of his mac and cheese. Josh locks Tom in his room without internet access, and proceeds to spend the entire day taunting him. It’s a real punishment for a very serious crime — don’t forget, the mac and cheese in question had truffles — but done with the kind of grinning glee that comes with creating a new joke that you and your friend will look back on with genuine laughs.
As the show goes on, we see the ebb and flow of Josh and Tom’s friendship over the course of a few crucial years. At any given time, they both depend on each other and resent each other, love each other and can’t stand each other. They always rely on each other, for better and for worse.
And as becomes very clear by the end of season four, their friendship is one of the few constants Josh has in his life.
Please Like Me is one of the best shows out there at portraying the ripple effects of mental illness
The series begins with two catalyst moments: Josh coming out as gay, and his mother, Rose, recovering from a recent suicide attempt.
You’d think something that dark might herald a sense of overall bleakness, but as written by Ward and Thomas and acted by the fantastic Debra Lawrance, the story of Rose’s bipolar disorder benefits from just as much care and attention to detail as any one of Josh and Tom’s inside jokes. If Please Like Me is a show about the banality of everyday living, it’s also — and maybe even especially — about the frequent banality of living with a mental illness.
Rarely does television make an effort to understand or depict mental health with the kind of uncomfortable depth that Please Like Me does with Josh’s mother and the people closest to her.
The series never shies away from illustrating how complicated Rose and Josh’s relationship is; we see both how much they love and depend on each other, and how awful it can be when Rose’s illness comes out in full force. In one episode, she might be energized and manic; in another, she might be snarly and depressed. Sometimes she rapidly alternates between both of those states, with no guarantee of when she’ll even out. (Please see season two’s “Scroggin” for a particularly good example of all of the above.)
In all episodes, though, she is Josh’s mother. She’s an enormous part of his life who never gets swept under the rug for convenience’s sake — because Please Like Me knows that’s not how mental illness or families work.
And Please Like Me’s fourth season has doubled down on this topic in an incredibly ambitious way. The second half of the six-episode season is home to one of the more effective and empathetic arcs I’ve ever seen on TV about the peaks, valleys, and constant aftershocks of living with severe mental illness. It’s the kind of storyline that could only work after a show laid careful, sympathetic groundwork for everyone involved, and Please Like Me pulls it off with deep (and even funny!) compassion, as has always been its way.
The first four seasons of Please Like Me are currently available to stream on Hulu.