Love, but no money
PleaseLikeMe star Josh Thomas says the show may not continue due to funding issues, writes ANDREW FENTON
IT’S almost unheard of for a low-budget Aussie comedy to be embraced by an American cable channel and feted by Entertainment Weekly as one of the best shows on television.
But in a tragically ironic twist, America’s affection for Please Like Me could spell its doom after US cable channel Pivot, which has co-produced the show since season two, recently shut down.
That means the show has lost a substantial component of its funding which won’t be easy to replace.
“I have to think about doing something else because I might not have another season,” star and creator Josh Thomas explains. “Obviously we’re talking to everybody, but contracts aren’t built to have networks close down, so it’s very tricky.”
The show streams on Hulu in America and Amazon in the UK, meaning neither of those two services nor Netflix are likely to fund it because they’re unable to secure the rights for the other English-speaking territories.
“People have been interested in it, but it’s just a difficult situation,” he says.
Neither Pivot or Hulu release ratings figures, but Please Like Me has proven popular with the US press. It’s drawn praise from the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Time – and Entertainment Weekly named it one of the best shows of the year two years running.
“I think 40 per cent of our (US) audience is TV critics,” he says. “It’s a cultishly popular show. I’m only there once a year, but every year there are a few more people at a gay club who’ll come up (to talk about it).”
The show’s success has also opened doors in Hollywood. Thomas has done a “whole slab” of meetings with network and studio executives who he says complimented him a lot but didn’t actually offer him any work.
“I’m not good at that chit chat and I kept f ****** everything up,” he says. “I think it’d be more helpful if I hadn’t tried to build a rapport with these people.”
The ABC describes the fourth season as being about “growing up, bursting your bubble and doing everything within your power to keep having fun”.
Thomas says that’s what the ABC says every year. “Nothing ever really happens (on the show). Every season they’ve been like, ‘And then they grow up some more’.”
This season sees his mum teetering between depression and elation, his dad worry that his partner Mae is bullying him, best friend Tom’s looking to BEING nasty to Jessica Mauboy was incredibly difficult, Rachel Gordon says. The small screen veteran had to constantly remind herself that the “erratic and destructive” things her character was doing to her co-star on The Secret Daughter were fake. “She is a ray of sunshine,” Gordon says. “My character Susan is irrational. A lot of the stuff she does isn’t necessarily appropriate. So it was tough, for sure.” move out with his girlfriend and Josh’s boyfriend Arnold seems to be losing interest.
The show’s drawn praise for its honest depiction of depression which was based on Josh’s own mum’s mental health struggles. She tried to take her own life when he was 19, which affected him deeply.
“That was the initial idea for the show. There are so many big things in life that you sort of practise by watching television, but someone attempting suicide, I’ve just never seen it done in a way that’s very realistic.
“I pitched that to my mum thinking that was a goodintentioned thing to do and she said yes to it, but then I was very nervous that I wouldn’t have the skill set to pull it off in a way that’s not disgusting and offensive. I’m relieved people don’t think that.”
As the Channel Seven hit drama airs its season finale this week, the tense plot is at fever pitch as the Norton family have now been hit with a new revelation – Jack’s secret child isn’t Billie, played by Mauboy, after all.
Playing Jack’s devastated wife Susan is the most complex mask Gordon has ever had to put on. “It took me to parts of myself that I haven’t really explored in a long time. It goes to some dark places. The sadness of Susan bled over a bit,” she said.