Platonic: Season 1

Genre: Relationship Comedy
Service: Apple TV+
Creator: Nicholas Stoller
Release Year: 2023
Watch: Apple TV+

Maybe they should have called this show Everything Always Works Out for Entitled White People, Always. Eh, too long. Perhaps Hey, Sylvia, Your Husband Is Not That Into You (Because He’s Clearly Gay). Damn, also too long. So I guess Platonic will work — though it’s always a word I want to spell “plutonic” for some reason. Whatever the case, this series reunites Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen from their Neighbors turn, though this time they’re just good, longtime friends and not the completely unrealistic couple they make up in that duo of films. Friends completely without benefits, I guess. Which is the definition of platonic, I know. But despite the seemingly gay husband, this friendship stays just that. Thank god.

The concept here is incredibly simple. Byrne (Sylvia) and Rogen (Will) are friends from… college? Honestly, I have no recollection of how they know each other, but suffice it to say that they’ve known each other for a long time. And in their younger years revved each other up, got into trouble and just generally had a good time. Without any inkling of romantic attraction. Sure. Meanwhile Sylvie becomes a lawyer, gets married, has kids, quits being a lawyer to raise kids and eventually tells Will she doesn’t like his bride-to-be. They have a falling out, and the friendship erodes. Some years later, Will is a brewmaster, part owner of a downtown LA hipster bar and heading for a divorce when Sylvia catches wind of it on social media and reaches back out to him to hang out. Mostly because her life as a homemaker has become rote, and she is probably nostalgic for the wild times with Will. And probably misses her former best friend. Cue the crazy.

Will clearly never really outgrew his youthful wackiness. Childless and spending each and every night out at a bar with a bunch of youths a generation or two younger than him. Post-divorce he dates a practical child. Okay, not a child, but an annoying Gen-Z, beanie-wearing babysitter. Once they are reintroduced into one another’s worlds, Sylvia and Will spend the rest of the series questioning each other’s life choices. While also supporting them by trying to get each other to be happy. But also accidentally doing harder drugs than they intended to do, getting fired, taxing their loved ones’ patience and generally playing off one another in a way that made sense when they were in their early-to-mid twenties, but looks less appropriate as they cruise into middle age.

The show hits a lot of the exact notes you’d expect it to hit. The two friends piss each other off, reconcile, struggle with work and personal things and then realize that they’re stronger together than apart. And, yes, it can be a little over-the-top sometimes. Slapsticky and ridiculous in the way Neighbors was. But Byrne is actually a really great comic actor. Plus she gets to actually use her real Australian accent for once! Which has seemingly been watered down after years of being asked to do an American one, but she just feels crazily manic and free. To the point that Rogen — in all his incredibly bizarre outfits — almost falls into the chill straight-man role. Granted, he’s not chill-chill, but his nervous-laughing, somewhat angry stoner character, paired with her well-meaning, but frantic one makes for a fun pair. Not necessarily realistic, but fun. The surrounding cast, especially the much-improved Carla Gallo (see my lukewarm review of her turn in Undeclared), is funny and matches the energy of the show’s leads. I’m still not buying Macfarlane as a straight-laced, lawyerly straight dude, but he is very funny and fits the role as the put-upon husband well.

Platonic definitely doesn’t break any new ground. And in some ways that’s what makes it enjoyable. It feels familiar and almost throw-backy in the Judd Apatow-ness of it all. That adult, relationship comedy that mixes the goofy with the somewhat earnest. A show that relies on the writing and acting rather than tricks and intricate plot lines. The laughs rather than the twists. The humanity rather than the CGI. You get the idea. It’s a comfortable watch that is satisfying and rewarding as a piece of entertainment. From week to week you have an inkling of what’s going to happen in the yo-yo platonic relationship, but there are always some little surprises to keep you on your toes. Nothing mind-blowing, and nothing challenging, but the rare laugh that feels earned. Now… the ending — which certainly seems like an ending and not a bridge leading to a second season — is not great. After nine episodes of not-quite-realism we get this denouement that feels more like fantasy than the real world — like you’re watching this gauzy view of an imagined future. The kind where right before the credits roll a character wakes up from a dream. Or there are some shenanigans and the screen crumbles and falls away and we’re left with the reality of this sunny situation that is actually chaos and everything is on fire. But, no, we’re left with some laughs and some white-people bliss. Good for us.