If you keep close eye on the cable channel lineup on your TV, you’ll see a new entry appear beginning today. Pivot TV, from Participant Media, is off and running with a mix of favorite movies (Chuck And Buck and Hotel Rwanda), reruns of beloved shows (Friday Night Lights, Farscape) as well as the nightly interactive news show, TakePart Live. Other new entries like Meghan McCain’s docu-talk series, Raising McCain, and the reality soap, Jersey Strong, premiere in September.
Also airing today is the first original scripted comedy series for the network, Please Like Me. We’ve already been talking about the Aussie import on TheBacklot, but you can see all six episodes of the first season when a marathon airs today starting at 8pm EST.
The star and creator of the series, which has already been renewed for a 10-episode second season, is popular 26-year old Australian comedian Josh Thomas, who sat down with us at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills to talk about the origins of the show and how closely it may relate to his own life.
TBL: Tell me the genesis of Please Like Me. I know you created it and Todd Abbott produced it…
JT: Yeah, we made it with ABC1 in Australia and there was this lady that really likes my standup called Debbie Lee and she was like, ‘we should make a TV show, right?’ I was like, ‘yeah sure,’ and that took four years of development rounds because government television in Australia is like making a TV show at the post office. [The series ended up airing on digital channel ABC2]
Then we made it and it went well there. Then Pivot found it and they called us and were like, ‘we love this show, this is what we want. A show that’s for young people that’s issue-based without being annoying.’ And they were talking about doing a remake, like doing an American remake of that. And then one day they called us and they were like ‘actually we think maybe we won’t do that horrible thing that American’s do where they take a show from overseas and then make it but worse.’ We think maybe young people don’t want that, and that they’re comfortable with accents and things, so they instead invested in series two.
Thomas Ward, Caitlin Stasey, Thomas and Debra Lawrance
(photo by Narelle Sheean)
TBL: Talk to me about the content of the show and being called a ‘gay series’ and having that label on it. Do you think that’s a plus? Is it a minus?
JT: It’s really funny when people talk about the gayness of the show because the show is really very honest. It’s fiction but it’s, honestly, how things kind of go in my life sort of vaguely, right. And that’s just how my coming out was, and that’s what I spoke about because it was a thing that happens. I wasn’t thinking about that as far as how it was going to play out as a political statement.
TBL: Is it true you originally pitched this as more of a drama as opposed to a comedy?
JT: No, we pitched it as a comedy drama. It was made for the comedy department. To me, just making a show where everybody is just honest and dramatic is ridiculous, and making a show where everybody is wacky and funny is ridiculous. That doesn’t make sense, I know that’s what normally happens, but that’s nonsense. That’s not a thing that exists in the world. So I wanted to do a mix.
TBL: In the first episode when you go visit your mother in the hospital and she’s vomiting in front of you. But there’s a part of me that thought it was kind of funny but I felt guilty for laughing.
JT: What I kind of like about the show is we never tell you whether it’s a joke. We never say ‘a joke is coming.’ Some people will hear a line and be like ‘oh f**k,’ and some people think that it’s really funny, and other people just think it’s really sad and I kind of like that.
TBL: So it’s open to interpretation.
JT: Yeah, different people come at it with a different sense of humor, because I’m often not sure if I really think it’s funny or not.
TBL: What will we see with the Josh character in the show in the course of the season that people can expect? Does he find love with Geoffrey…?
JT: The thing about Geoffrey (Wade Briggs) is he’s actually not that likeable. They’re not that fun together. I don’t know if you thought that, that he’s kind of…
(L-R) Wade Briggs, Nikita Leigh-Pritchard, Thomas and Ward
(photo by Giovanni Lovisetto)
TBL: He takes his shirt off and we’re all just like ‘woo hoo.’
JT: It’s incredible, right? This is kind of the point in our relationship is, he really likes Josh, and he’s really beautiful and Josh thinks that’s an opportunity that you can’t let up but then, also, having dinner with him is horrible. That’s kind of the story, then deciding whether…
TBL: Which again, that’s very real life.
JT: That’s very real life. You know it’s a thing that happens to me a lot, a lot of really boring pretty guys. I think they want to seem more eccentric or something and so they try to date me and I don’t know how to like them. I really want to like them because I would like to have a boyfriend with those dumb little muscles, but I don’t know how to like them.
TBL: Australian audiences and American audiences, do you see any difference between when you’re doing something comedic?
JT: I just don’t know anything about American audiences. I’ve been here a week. I know there are a lot of American people that have downloaded it illegally and they’ve liked it and messaged me. I would not recommend doing that because that would be bad for me to do What part of America are you talking about? America is very disparate, right? Like Texas. I don’t know if they are going to love this show. I’ve never been to Texas.
TBL: To me the show feels different but still relatable and it’s very funny…
JT: American journalists have been really freaking me out.
JT: You’re so honest. We’re used to in Australia, if I was doing publicity I’d be just be self-deprecating about the show and make fun of it and people would understand that, that was a joke. That’s what we do in Australia, but here they just go, “oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” They just think you’re being really sincere, because in Australia you have to be phony humble and here you have to be phony confident.
TBL: Since you’re getting ready to jump into the second season, is there a difference between the first and second? Is it like a whole new chapter?
JT: I don’t know. We just announced it today but I’ve got some ideas down, but we haven’t really hashed them out. So I’d hate to say them and then they’d disappear.
Thomas with his dog, John
(photo by Narelle Sheean)
TBL: With social media, have you had that become a bigger part of your life since this show has come into your life?
JT: I’ve been using Twitter a lot. I’ve got like 220 thousand Twitter followers, which for an Australian that’s a lot because there is only 24 million people there…I really don’t know how to talk about social media because I grew up with it. It’s not interesting to me. It’s like if somebody is like “so how’s driving a car changed your life?” I don’t know how to talk about that because I always had a car.
TBL: Because the family that we see on the show is prominent on there, is it a mirror of your own family?
JT: Vaguely, there’s some truth in it but it’s actually more difficult for them because they don’t like bits that aren’t true and people think it’s them. People see a few things and so they’re like, ‘oh yeah, that’s Josh’s dad.’ People know them and then they think other stuff is true, but it’s fiction, it’s a fictional show. I’m writing about what I know, and what I’ve experienced sort of and it really needs to be viewed as fiction.
TBL: And I love the theme song. I thought it was just really fun. Where did you find that?
JT: It’s this straight little Australian band. We couldn’t find anything and I stumbled across it a week out from production…but it’s not a hit. It’s a song this band has and we just cut it down. It’s funny. [The theme song, “I’ll Be Fine” is by Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes)