Please Like Me~

MOST of us probablyNone of ONTD know Josh Thomas as the young comic with the much imitated drawl, slightly weird Irish accent and stream-of-consciousness riffs from Shaun Micallef's Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation. With his new ABC series Please Like Me, which kicks off this week on ABC2 with a double episode, the 25-year-old has become a TV star in his own right. And, surrounded by some first-class talent, he also has written the show and is an executive producer.

Inspired by Thomas's award-winning stand-up comedy show of the same name, the six-episode series was in development for more than three years - so long that in the original story-line Thomas's character was still "pretending" to be a red-blooded heterosexual. Just as, it seems, Thomas himself was, until he came out. The comedy show changed, as did the plot for his series.

"In the original pitch I was making out with girls and then we changed it to boys," he said during pre-production.

Thomas is Josh, kind of playing himself at 20, his 21st birthday just around the corner, sharing a house with his best (and only) friend, the lugubrious Tom (Tom Ward), but instead of his life becoming grounded, it falls apart. His girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Stasey) drops him, telling him he's gay. And Tom's good-looking friend and odd colleague, Geoffrey (Wade Briggs), who is very gay and strangely drowsy, spends the night with him, perplexing Josh.

"I can never really trust when someone that good-looking is into me - I just don't get it," he tells Tom after his strained first sexual encounter with Geoffrey. "If they are mediocre-looking I can appreciate how low their standards are, but when they are that pretty it's, 'Oh, what are you hiding?' " (Geoffrey is played with quiet wit and a nice physical presence by Briggs, a newcomer to TV, who is good indeed.)

It's been a Big Night in Josh's adult life but then he discovers his divorced mother, Rose (Debra Lawrance), living alone in the five-bedroom family home and battling bipolar disorder, has overdosed on paracetamol and a half bottle of Baileys. It looks as if he will have to move back into the family home to look after her.

There's a touch of The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield about Thomas in this very clever coming-of-age comedy, which is directed with economy and flair by the award-winning Matthew Saville (The Slap, Cloudstreet and The King). Like Holden at the start of The Catcher in the Rye, when Please Like Me begins Josh, despite his aversion to confrontation, stands poised on the cliff separating childhood from adulthood.

His inability to negotiate the chasm leaves him on the verge of emotional collapse. Intelligent and sensitive and already a bit jaded, he finds the hypocrisy and ugliness of the world around him almost unbearable, and through cynicism he tries to protect himself from the pain and disappointment of the adult world he's entered.

Uncomfortable with his own weaknesses, Josh often displays as much phoniness, meanness and superficiality as anyone else he encounters. He appears selfish and impatient at times, too, but there's an underlying sweetness that is beguiling.

Forced to accept his gay identity, which he does with nonchalance - except for his first bedroom encounter with the somnolent but handsome Geoffrey - he re-evaluates his notions of family, adulthood and love as painful truths emerge about all of them.

starts Feb 28 on ABC2