Television Review: “Platonic” — The Power of Friendship

By Sarah Osman

Realistic storylines ground Platonic‘s comedy in recognizable trials and tribulations — and usefully steer it away from the tired “can men-and-women-be-buddies” debate.

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen star in Platonic on Apple TV+.

It’s a question old as cohabitation: can women and men be friends? In the classic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, Harry (Billy Crystal), claims no. Of course, as in any conventional love story, he and his female pal end up together, happy to have their journey to wedded bliss recounted. In most stories involving a man and woman who start out as “friends,” you know that they will discover that they want more — cue the cuddly ride off into the sunset. Of course, this standard formula doesn’t take the fluidity of sexual preferences into serious consideration: two members of the opposite sex — bam! They must get together. We’re even seeing this expectation in queer stories: Two gay men? Two lesbians? They gotta get married. In real life plenty of people maintain platonic friendships but, even so, others gossip about just how “platonic” they actually are.

Apple TV+’s newest comedy, Platonic, sets out to explore what a genuine platonic friendship would look like. An additional challenge: what if it is a bestie you haven’t been in touch with for several years? The series, co-created, co-written, and co-directed by Nick Stoller (Neighbors) and Francesca Delbanco (Friends from College), reunites Neighbors stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as Will and Sylvia, two estranged buddies. After Sylvia discovers via Instagram that Will has gotten divorced, she reaches out to reconnect. The two meet for an awkward cup of coffee (Will briefly updates her on the bar he owns; Sylvia briefly updates him on her children). It isn’t until they properly reconnect at Will’s saloon that the pair slip back into their relaxed banter and reckless behavior.

Part of what makes Platonic work so well is that Rogen and Byrne have a natural chemistry. At times, this means that Will and Syliva’s relationship veers into flirty territory, but not to the point that it descends into the sitcom-y trope of “will they/won’t they.” Instead, Rogen and Byrne supply plenty of physical comedy, from Byrne sliding through a doggie door in order to save Will’s beloved lizard to the pair zipping around on scooters (and kicking them to the ground, which in my humble opinion, one should do with a scooter. Seriously, screw those things). Weirdly, despite the fact that both are hot messes, they end up supporting one another (in particularly manic ways).

The truth is, rather than focus solely on Will and Sylvia’s friendship, Platonic finds a lot more to say about the difficulties that come with being seen as “middle aged.” Sylvia was once a successful lawyer who worked in the same law firm as her husband Charlie (Luke Macfarlane). She stopped to raise her three children. At this point, she has grown bored with the PTA crowd, a fact she often bemoans to her female bestie, Katie (Carla Gallo, a scene stealer). Sylvia’s plight will be familiar to many women: you’ll be ignored if you stay home to raise your children, or you’ll be shunned if you choose to go out to work. On the other hand, Will struggles with his divorce, especially as he watches his ex-wife move on via social media (a new, modern form of bedevilment we’re still grappling with). He tries dating a zillenial, which makes him feel O-L-D. These realistic storylines ground Platonic‘s comedy in recognizable trials and tribulations — and usefully steers it away from the tired “can men-and-women-be-buddies” debate.

For the most part, Rogen is simply playing Rogen, but he does lovable crazy well, so it works. Byrne adds far more complicated layers to Sylvia. This is one of the more interesting and sympathetic female protagonists in recent TV history. A few comedy standouts pop up in the supporting cast, including Janet Varney, Andrew Lopez, and Guy Braum, mostly known for being one of the funniest parts of Bros.

Platonic doesn’t provide a definitive answer to whether or not men and women can be “just friends,” but it does serve as a reminder of the power of friendship. Not to be a complete cheeseball, but Platonic supplies at least one Platonic truth: a real friend will always be there for you, no matter what.

Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, NC. In addition to writing for the Arts Fuse, she has written for Watercooler HQ, Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywood, and Matador Network, among other sites. Her work was included in the anthology Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era. She is currently a first year fiction MFA candidate at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. When she’s not writing, she’s dancing, watching movies, traveling, or eating. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos. You can keep up with her on Twitter and Instagram: @SarahMinaOsman

1 Comment

  1. Ralph Locke on May 26, 2023 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for giving me a sense that this is a show I definitely want to watch–and for not giving away too much info! I like your point that some of the issues raised in the show could apply to other kinds of couples than heterosexual ones. This is the kind of sophisticated writing that I often regret not finding in TV and movie reviews elsewhere.

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