It took us a while, but we finally managed to track down a copy of “Switched On”, the TV guide that came with today’s Herald-Sun newspaper. Why bother, you might ask before recoiling in horror as we wave it under your nose and you see the cover tagline: “SITCOM SCANDAL: Is Josh Thomas’ new show too gay for ABC1?”
Before we get into the meat of this we’d be remiss not to point out that, much like the recent study that revealed that every one of the Herald-Sun‘s editorials since 1996 were 100% in support of the Coalition, the Herald-Sun will NEVER say anything good about the ABC. They will even side with groups they otherwise are somewhat dubious about – immigrants perhaps, or homosexuals – if it means they get the chance to beat up on the national broadcaster. So with this story completely explained away before we even open the paper, let’s continue.
Strangely, the page 3 story titled “Hard to Please” (geddit? gays are, um, hard?) is credited to two writers: The Herald-Sun‘s hard man of entertainment opinions Colin Vickery and “Switched On” editor Darren Devlyn. Not being privvy to the News Ltd editorial meetings, we can only speculate on why it took two writers to write a puff piece largely comprised of easily google-able information about previous “gay panics” on network television. So lets: presumably this story began as the usual mild look at Thomas’ upcoming show, then someone (*cough* Vickery *cough*) realised this was a big old stick he could use to stir up some controversy so any part of the interview that wasn’t Thomas talking about the timeslot change got dumped in favour of making it look like the ABC was scared of teh gays, and hey presto:
IS Please Like Me too gay? That is what Josh Thomas is asking as he prepares for the debut of his new TV comedy.
Please Like Me was originally set to screen on ABC1 last year but has been shunted into digital channel ABC2.
Thomas plays twentysomething Josh who lives with best mate Thomas (Thomas Ward) and, at first, is in a steady relationship with girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Stasey).
Claire splits with Josh, telling him that he is obviously gay. His despair is short-lived when young hunk Geoffrey (Wade Briggs) enters the scene.
Geoffrey wants to get physical with Josh. Cue lots of man-on-man kissing, bed scenes, and jokes about sex.
Later, Josh is forced to move back into the family home after his divorced mum Rose (Debra Lawrence) overdoses.
Please Like Me has a sweetness that sets it apart from other boundary-pushing comedies such as Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys and Summer Heights High which happily found a home on ABC1.
The ABC insists the gay content isn’t the reason Please Like Me was shunted to ABC2, where it is sure to attract a smaller audience.
“The tone of Please Like Me and the issues discussed are principally aimed at an audience in their early 20s,” an ABC spokesperson says.
“Since ABC1 is largely a channel of mass appeal that tends to attract an audience with an average age the other side of 35, we decided the best home for Please Like Me was ABC2.”
Thomas isn’t convinced.
“They told me it (the switch to ABC2) was a compliment. I don’t believe them,” Thomas says. “I don’t know if what they were really saying was, ‘Josh the show is a bit s—‘ or, ‘Josh the show has too much suicide and gay sex in it’.
“People have suggested to me that (too gay) is why they did it (put it on ABC2). I would be shocked if that’s why but I also wouldn’t be.”
Not to pre-empt our upcoming review of Please Like Me, but did you notice the missing word in that article? Here’s another clue: later on in the guide Vickery reviews Please Like Me and surprise surprise, he actually likes it (of course he does – he couldn’t argue the ABC were evil gay-hating bastards for shafting the show if he thought the show was crap). It’s not available online that we could find, so here’s his review in full – again, keep an eye out for the missing word:
I am still struggling to understand why Please Like Me has been shunted to a digital channel. The ABC reckons it is because Josh Thomas’ comedy is aimed at a young audience. If that is the case, Chris Lilley’s new comedy should land on ABC2 as well. We know that isn’t going to happen. Thomas, of Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation fame, plays Josh, who lives with his best mate Tom (Tom Ward). Josh is devastated when he is dumped by his girlfriend, Claire (Caitlin Stasey). She reckons he is gay. He hasn’t quite accepted the fact. Young hunk Geoffery (Wade Briggs) certainly hopes Josh is gay. he wants to stay the night. Josh also has to contend with divorced mum Rose (Debra Lawrence) and dad Alan (David Roberts), who has a young girlfriend, Mae (Renee Lim). Some will find the gay content in Please Like Me confronting, but at heart this is a sweet – and very honest – look at relationships and growing up. Thomas more than holds his own in a challenging lead role. File next to A Moody Christmas.
So, did you spot the missing word? The word that’s nowhere to be found in all this supposedly “positive” coverage of Please Like Me?
No-one – and by “no-one” we mean “Colin Vickery” – dares to come out and claim that this “comedy” is actually funny. It gets described as “sweet” twice and “confronting” and “boundary-pushing” once each – the dog-whistle you now hear is aimed entirely at Herald-Sun readers, by the way, so you may want to get your hearing checked – but no-one there seems willing to use a single word to describe Please Like Me that might even hint at anyone at home getting a laugh out of it.
Whether that’s a nod towards what they actually think of the show or just that the Herald-Sun doesn’t want to admit to laughing at a program that features 20-something gay characters who have sex and aren’t mincing queens, we don’t know. We’d like to think it’s the former; it’s just that the latter is a heck of a lot more likely.