In new Apple TV+ comedy Platonic, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play old pals who, after taking a hiatus from their intense friendship, learn that rekindling such a thing is a fraught proposition this far into their lives.
Created by Francesca Delblanco and Nicholas Stoller, Platonic is a lovely, lazy-day kind of a comedy that charms even when it seems like it could stand to straighten up and fly right.
Platonic recap: Season one opener
Season 1, episodes 1, 2 and 3: Sylvia (played by Rose Byrne) and Will (Seth Rogen) used to be best friends. They were so close that when Sylvia married her husband, Charlie (Luke Macfarlane) — who’s now the father of her three kids, Frances (Sophie Leonard), Simon (Max Matenko) and Maeve (Sophia Kopera) — Will was her maid of honor.
However, they haven’t spoken in a while. Sylvia didn’t return the favor at Will’s wedding to Audrey (Alisha Wainwright); indeed, she said they shouldn’t be getting married at all. That drove a wedge between them that’s lasted so long that neither of Sylvia’s three kids has any memory of him.
One day, Sylvia sees Audrey posting about her divorce from Will, so Sylvia decides to reach out at Charlie’s urging (she doesn’t think men and women are really “friends” at their age). Their first meeting doesn’t go very well, with the awkwardness of their long disconnection weighing immediately and inextricably on top of their every word.
Friendship can be awkward
Will talks this out with his friends and business partners at his brewing company: Omar (Vinny Thomas), Andy (Tre Hale), and Audrey’s stepbrother, Reggie (Andrew Lopez). They concur with Sylvia’s initial assessment that men and women can’t really be “friends,” though Will disagrees.
Sylvia agrees to go to a party at Will’s brewery, but brings fellow mom Katie (Carla Gallo) with her as protection. Things are still awkward, and made worse when Audrey shows up at the party with a date (Aramis Merlin). Katie tries to talk Sylvia out of comforting Will, but it doesn’t work. She takes Will to another bar to talk. Things go very well until they start arguing about the divorce and Sylvia’s response to Audrey. But by the end of the night, they’re texting each other to make plans again anyway.
It becomes clear that Will really is desperate for a friend right now. He comes over to Sylvia’s house to return the credit card she left in his bar, and winds up helping her fix her toilet. Then he offers to go with her on an open house tour, which she secretly is very happy to let him do because the realtor (Francesca Delbanco) intimidates her.
Maybe Sylvia was right about Will and Audrey
Will admits that he and Audrey still see each other all the time, and they fight and sleep with each other a lot. This confirms Sylvia’ s suspicions that they weren’t good for each other — and are not being healthy about their breakup now.
So Will and Sylvia make each other a deal: He will help her say no to the terrible house (a converted nursing home that’s expensive and depressing). In exchance, she will help him get back his things from Audrey — most importantly, his lizard Gandalf, who Audrey kept after the divorce.
The more time they spend time together, the more Sylvia starts to behave like Will, and the more everyone starts to wonder about their relationship. It’s enough to make people say, “There’s something not right about the two of you.”
Men and women don’t really hang out with each other
The Seth Rogen/Nicholas Stoller comedy machine is a well-oiled one. Rogen and Stoller are writers and directors of their own material (Stoller’s best-known movie is either The Five-Year Engagement or Get Him to the Greek; Rogen’s is probably This Is the End, which is a little funny considering how momentarily infamous his movie The Interview was back in the day). They also produce a whole host of popular material (The Muppets, The Boys).
Not to take anything away from having built a brand off of stoned charm (Rogen’s emergence as the unlikeliest leading man in the late ’00s is something he should be proud of for the rest of his life). But the system they use to make their movies and TV shows is very simple: Largely it’s about real people dealing with exaggerated circumstances — sometimes slightly, as is the case of Rogen, Byrne and Stoller’s Neighbors movies — and sometimes enormously, as with the Rogen-produced Future Man and Preacher.
A funny show about married life and, yes, platonic friends
Platonic falls squarely in the former camp. Though the show is interested in the deeper (and frequently depressing) aspects of married life, the meat of the show is the effortless interplay between Byrne and Rogen. Stoller needs only turn the camera on, and the two carry the show into the promised land.
There’s an argument to be made that even something as loose as Platonic becomes a more necessary work because there’s so little else on TV that’s as effortless and fun. Could it be more exacting? Sure, but even so, Stoller has some good visual ideas, like a montage in episode two of Sylvia’s family getting ready for their day.
Platonic’s jokes don’t all land (a riff about how good notorious domestic abuser Shia LaBeouf is at sex is uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons, and even worse, it’s not funny) but they don’t need to. The rhythm and the star power carry most of them over the finish line.
Did the TV landscape need Platonic? Who cares? Turns out I did.
Watch Platonic on Apple TV+
New episodes of Platonic arrive Wednesdays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.