Reviews, Screen, TV

Please Like Me season 4 review: is Josh Thomas the voice of his generation?

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In the pilot episode of Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, Dunham’s character Hannah says to her parents: “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least, a voice of a generation.”

This statement, and the success of the series, spawned a mass of opinion pieces questioning whether Dunham was, in fact, the voice of her generation, and whether the discomfort, ugliness and bleak humour of Girls captured something about millennials.

Well, I’m sorry to inform my fellow Australian millennials: if Lena Dunham is that voice in America, Josh Thomas might just be the voice of our generation at home.

It mightn’t be something we’re all that happy with — you either find him charming or can’t stand his neuroticism, socially awkward persona and inexplicably British-tinged accent — but his ABC series Please Like Me is the best and most incisive comedic drama Australia has produced in a long time.

Please Like Me has always captured the contradictions of our generation that we’ve never really seen on Australian TV before. It’s received an International Emmy nomination, glowing review after glowing review, and even been called the more playful Australian Girls, by several commentators.

Okay, here are a few gross generalisations that apply to millennials and the central characters of Please Like Me: We’re informed(ish) and engaged(ish) about the big issues but are unable to translate that into any kind of action. We’re confident and cocky but crippled by self doubt. We’re sexually liberated but don’t really know what to do with that freedom. We’re committed to discovering our own moral compasses but often need a guiding hand.

There’s a lot more than that covered in the series, including mental illness, sexuality, and the relationship between older parents and their adult children, but it’s those millennial concerns driving the series.

The fourth season of Please Like Me kicks off with a rather rude awakening for Josh: it’s time to adult. (No, not “time to be an adult”, millennials have started using “adult” as a verb.)

Not only is his mother throwing out all his childhood toys (he wonders aloud how he suddenly became Andy at the end of Toy Story 3), his best friend is about to move out of their share house, and his relationship is becoming more and more difficult.

If the first episode feels a little like it’s going over ground the series has already covered — it features an embarrassing, failed threesome — the second is intensely moving and unsettling. It would be unfair to reveal what happens, but the episode catapults towards heartbreak with a fair degree of force.

The episode, which takes place on a short camping trip, is so well written and directed that it builds up to a final confrontation that stops just the right side of melodrama and manages to feel totally real.

On the trip, Josh and his friends come across an ambulance on a beach. They decide to approach.

Why? Because they could? Because it seemed like it might be exciting in some way? Because they might be able to provide some kind of assistance?

There’s no real answer, but this moment feels like it perfectly encapsulates what it is to be a young adult in 2016, and to make choices for the sake of making choices.

Please Like Me had a gorgeous first three seasons, and to be able to find another side of the coin for the fourth is pretty damn impressive.

[box]Please Like Me is on ABC TV on Wednesday nights at 9.30pm[/box]

10 responses to “Please Like Me season 4 review: is Josh Thomas the voice of his generation?

  1. Agreed that this is one of the best Aussie shows for a long time. Intelligent, witty, self-critical, which knows just when to go for pathos. Glad to have it back on the screen.

  2. If he is the voice of his generation (which I dont accept) I despair for the future. I cant stand the program, and before I am denounced, it is my opinion, which I am entitled to. Reasons are that it is so cringingly self-indulgent and me me me, and he comes across as a wet wet soppy character, which farcebook-types will probably identify with.. As you say, “millenials” are :informed-ish, with a big ISH and “engaged-ish” again with a big ISH. I find most millenials alarmingly uninformed and obsessed with the minutiae of their I phones and social media, and nearly totally un-engaged. One has to be careful with language because so many “millenials” simply dont get cultural/historical/social/political references or humour/irony….none of which are in this program as it is based on “look at me”, totally evidenced by its title.

    1. Demographically, ‘facebook types’ are everyone in every age and gender bracket except for Men over 45. So yeah… I’m guessing you’d like us to get off ‘your’ lawn.

    2. Well I guess one persons self-indulgent, humourless etc is anothers hilarious, irony filled, self-depreciating and smart. Go figure

  3. Count me as a Thomas skeptic, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the critical applause has never been matched by anything like significant ratings. I think the show only gets made because of American cable money? If he’s a voice of his generation, hardly anyone (other than other boring introvert millennials) are interested in hearing it….

  4. Please Like Me is why we should reintroduce National Service, and why we should start a Huge War, preferably with an Asian country with a large population. I know I sound like an old fart (which I am) but Millennials shit me like nothing else. I can’t stand their stupid hair, stupid skinny trousers (admittedly because I can no longer fit into skinny trousers), stupid lexicon, stupid so-called comedy, stupid music, etc.

    Sorry, but I just had to get that off my chest.

  5. One of the best shows I have ever watched – not just best Australian shows. And I am far from a millennial. In fact, none of the topics resonate with me at all. And yet they all do. The depiction of mental illness in parts Italy is heartbreaking and wonderful.

  6. Season 4 started out horribly, but picked up. Season 3 was pretty bad, but we stuck it out given how few episodes there are in a season – would have stopped watching had this been an American 20+ episode per season show.
    I think there’s too much gratuitous sex in it now.
    So Josh has gone from a guy who could barely get a date in Season 1 to having multiple casual sex encounters in a single episode. That’s a pretty big evolution.
    The funniest characters are the housemate and his girlfriend, who tend to steal the show a bit, but maybe they’re a refreshing comedic break from trying to work out if Josh is being ironic, funny or serious.
    I guess it would be nice to know if Josh has an overarching story direction or if they’re just making it up as they go.

  7. I am a baby boomer and I love this show. The house sharing interactions are very familiar to someone who lived in communal houses in the 70s. So I really don’t get all of the fuss about the clothes and self councils humour.

  8. Season four is so depressing, and as a gay man I don’t appreciate the over sexualised relationship tropes being sold as homonormative. Season four had all the hallmarks of a gutless conclusion to an unexpected tv success that reached its peak in season three. And Tom sold out by getting skinny.

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