Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are an ideal comedic duo, and paired with Nicholas Stoller—director of their two Neighbors film, as well as the recent Bros—they make Apple TV+’s Platonic a consistent riot about middle age, the tensions between the personal and the professional that inherently arise during that period in life, and the difficulty of growing up and still maintaining old friendships.
It’s also a series about whether men and women can be friends without benefits—an eternal question that proves particularly complicated once one passes the age of 40 and spouses, children, jobs and early bedtimes factor into the equation.
Akin to their prior collaborations but stretched—smartly, and without any detriment to its humor—to ten half-hour episodes, Platonic (which premieres May 24) revolves around Sylvia (Byrne) and Will (Rogen), who were best (sexless) friends until Will married Audrey (Alisha Wainwright), whom Sylvia hated, thus causing a seemingly permanent rift.
Years later, Sylvia hears that Will is splitting from his spouse and decides to reach out. Having been spurned and insulted, Will doesn’t immediately warm to this attempt at reconciliation, what with Sylvia proving unapologetic about loathing Audrey (who’s now shacked up with a Norwegian stud). Yet when Sylvia takes him up on a pity invite to the brewery he’s founded with his close buddy Andy (Tre Hale) and Audrey’s greedy stepbrother Reggie (Andrew Lopez), they slowly begin to rekindle their relationship, bickering their way past their hang-ups with each other.
Platonic’s comedic friction emerges from multiple aspects of this newfound situation. For one, there’s something naturally unusual about an adult man and woman being romance-free buds, especially given that Sylvia is a mother of three and wife to lawyer Charlie (Bros’ Luke Macfarlane), a likable if high-strung professional who strives to be open-minded about his wife’s closeness to Will but is invariably beset by insecurities. It doesn’t help that Sylvia has a habit of turning to Will before Charlie, not to mention sharing secrets with him. Further intensifying everything is the fact that Sylvia and Will’s reconnection is an outgrowth of their respective struggles with their current circumstances.
A stay-at-home mom who gave up her own legal aspirations and now amusingly ridicules her domestic existence at grade-school drop-offs with friend Katie (an excellent Carla Gallo), Sylvia is in the midst of a fortysomething crisis, unsure of how she got where she is, who she should be, and what she wants. Will is no better off, destabilized by divorce and at odds with his business partners, who care more about money than artisanal beer artistry.
Anxieties about marriage, love and career run throughout Platonic, and are employed for the type of winning ridiculousness that’s Byrne and Rogen’s specialty. As imagined by co-creators/directors Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, Sylvia and Will are two of an absurd kind, both of them using their revived bond as an outlet for their frustrations and a distraction from their problems. They’re also, more simply, kindred clowns on the same doofy wavelength. Rogen and Byrne have such unaffected chemistry—whether they’re reminiscing about past exploits, enthusiastically agreeing to each other’s flights of idiocy, or playfully insulting each other’s appearance and inept decisions—that the show thrives courtesy of their funny back-and-forths.
With the same easygoing energy and bright aesthetics as Stoller’s movies, Platonic charts Will and Sylvia’s efforts to help the other find happiness—even though the precise nature of that isn’t clear to either of them. From Charlie taking Will to his first baseball game, to a business trip visit to the home of a burger magnate (the reliably great Ted McGinley) interested in partnering with Will’s brewery, to a late The X Files-style encounter with the otherworldly, the series delivers a steady stream of scenarios that are plausible enough to resonate as recognizable, and wild enough to generate laughs. Just as apt to elicit chuckles, however, are the random gags and one-liners peppered throughout the series, the best of which is Will’s habit of taking out his fury and disappointment on Los Angeles’ ubiquitous rentable scooters.
As in Neighbors, Byrne and Rogen’s rapport is marked by a juvenile eagerness and excitability that rests upon a foundation of shared exhaustion and discontent about getting older, and there’s a sense throughout the show that Will and Sylvia really did, and do, know and understand one another. That goes a long way toward selling their smartass-y banter, be they at an assisted living facility that Sylvia is considering renovating as a new home for her clan (something Will correctly views as a horrific idea), or snorting ketamine-laced cocaine in a bathroom with Will’s moronic mates.
Platonic takes everyday incidents and settings and juices them with Rogen’s man-child wittiness and Byrne’s earnest exasperation and liveliness. The result is a barrage of ace jokes delivered not only by the show’s leads but by Gallo, Macfarlane and scene-stealing Bros alum Guy Branum as Charlie’s coworker Stewart.
Between Byrne devouring Charlie’s boss’ speech and then wink-wink quipping, “I kinda know what his speech is going to be like in my gut,” and Will stating about Machine Gun Kelly, “He looks like a dead body with tattoos. He looks like something from the Simon Wiesenthal Center,” Platonic riffs with reckless abandon. Furthermore, it doesn’t skimp on the physical lunacy, with Rogen performing a Coyote Ugly dance and crashing through a glass door, and Byrne sabotaging her new lawyer job by sleepily destroying a prized office decoration.
Age-related bits are, of course, rampant (the best of which involves the faux-elderly roommate of Will’s new fling). Better still, however, is the way in which the characters’ shenanigans serve as outgrowths of common, relatable worries—is coolness still important? Does achieving my dreams mean losing my previously uninhibited self? Which traditional gender roles are reasonable and which are nonsensical? Is growing up the best or the worst?—that accompany transitioning out of young adulthood.
Platonic trades in real issues without ever prioritizing them above wacko comedy, and moreover, it never resorts to turning its tale into a will-they-or-won’t-they slog; only outside parties ever consider Will and Sylvia’s romantic potential. A series about rediscovering joyful solidarity in the face of misery, and the bittersweetness of transcending that tumultuous stage, it’s a triumph of heartfelt humor—and reconfirmation that Rogen and Byrne are an unbeatable team.
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