Are you looking for a new comedy to watch now that “Ted Lasso” is over?
You might try the new series “Platonic,” which drops Episode 5 this Wednesday on Apple TV+.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, the story follows a restless middle-aged housewife named Sylvia (Rose Byrne), who re-connects with her long-lost best friend Will (Seth Rogen) after he divorces a woman Sylvia never liked in the first place.
While they insist that their relationship is platonic, their family and friends begin to question why they keep spending so much time together despite their diverging lifestyles.
Seth Rogen is utterly believable as the craft-brew bartender, because he’s basically playing himself as the stoner we all grew to love in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005) and “Knocked Up” (2007). It’s oddly comforting to see him get back to his signature brand of frat-boy humor after his surprisingly effective dramatic turn in “The Fabelmans” (2022), in which he wrecked the marriage of Steven Spielberg’s parents.
Here’s hoping the central marriage won’t be similarly wrecked in “Platonic,” but that’s entirely up to Sylvia, played with mid-life crisis angst by Rose Byrne, whose Australian accent bleeds through a little more than usual. Her performance is funnier than the snobby trophy wife that she played in “Bridesmaids” (2011) but way more selfish than the adoptive mom that she played across Mark Wahlberg in “Instant Family” (2016).
Together, Rogen and Byrne create believable best-friend banter, doing hilarious robot voices to each other and showing expert comedic timing with clever exchanges of rapid repartee: “Can you believe she said we were destructive?” “No! We are exactly the opposite.” “We’re constructive.” “We’re constructive!”
It’s in these moments that the writing really shines, led by the husband-and-wife team of showrunners Francesca Delbanco and Nicholas Stoller, who previously helmed the Netflix series “Friends from College” (2017-2019). Stoller also directed “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008), “Get Him to the Greek” (2010), “The Five-Year Engagement” (2012) and “Neighbors” (2014), some of the better comedies of the past 15 years.
In “Platonic,” the writing is sharp for the most part, except for one lazy moment of situational humor where a character steals the thunder from another character by reciting their pre-rehearsed speech at a group outing before the other gets a chance. Viewers may recognize this from the Ashton Kutcher-Bernie Mac comedy “Guess Who” (2005), but thankfully there’s another moment of swallowing a speech that is quite original.
Thematically, the writers are clearly emulating the premise of “When Harry Met Sally” (1989), which hilariously asked whether men and women could be “just friends” without sex getting in the way. Rogen’s bar buddies actually reference the film in an early episode, but that’s a high bar considering Rob Reiner’s flick is arguably the greatest romantic comedy ever made thanks to Nora Ephron’s all-time genius screenplay.
What’s more, Ephron’s elliptical script made sure that we only ever saw Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan when they were single, between engagements or grieving their ex-lovers’ marriages. In “Platonic,” it’s a much bigger ask for audiences to sympathize with already committed characters, knowing that Sylvia is gallivanting around town with Will while her supportive husband and adorable kids patiently wait for her to come home.
Don’t get me wrong, the zany extra-curricular antics of Will and Sylvia can be quite entertaining as they check out real-estate properties, splurge on tacky swag from chain restaurants and style each other’s hair in the kitchen, but it becomes a little suspect when they start partying together into the wee hours of the morning, drinking their faces off and even doing drugs, then texting around the clock about it as soon as they get home.
We start to feel bad for her husband, Charlie (Luke Macfarlane), a lawyer who is comparatively boring. Charlie finally gets his due in Episode 5 as we see his personality during a Dodgers baseball game and a hilarious bar montage of “secret skills.” By the time that he tells Sylvia that he feels “cut out,” Sylvia’s apology feels sincere to him, but viewers will have varying thresholds of forgiveness. She still has some proving to do.
For this reason, “Platonic” lacks the comedic pathos of “Ted Lasso,” but it solidly fills the Apple TV+ comedy void until “Shrinking” returns next year. That is if the Hollywood writers strike is over by then. The writers union and the stingy producers need to find some platonic love so we viewers don’t continue to suffer.
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