Like Bad Sisters, Seth Rogen's Platonic is Apple at its best
Apple has another hit comedy on its hands with Platonic, which like Bad Sisters, feels distinctly authored.
At this point, as the so-called 'streaming wars' reach what seems to be a tipping point, each of the major platforms has been working to carve out its niche.
For years now, Netflix has gone big on quantity of content, pumping out a huge variety of series and seeing what sticks. In recent months, this appears to be political thrillers, period dramas and reality shows.
Meanwhile, Disney has, expectedly, gone all-in on IP, capitalising on its brands and ongoing franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.
Then there's Apple TV+, which for years has been defining itself by its star power, roping in big names such as Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston and Meryl Streep to front its movies and series.
While they have certainly had success with dramas and more high-concept pieces, such as Severance and Slow Horses, the streamer has particularly been carving out a space in comedy, with shows such as Ted Lasso, Trying, Shrinking and Bad Sisters.
So, along comes Platonic, a brand new series which once again leans into the Apple formula. It's made up of 10 episodes which will be released weekly. Its stars are Hollywood staples, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. And it's utterly, immediately charming.
In the show, Byrne plays Sylvia, a former lawyer and now full-time mother of three who is settled but embarrassed by her lack of career success when compared with her hotshot husband Charlie (Luke Macfarlane).
Meanwhile, Rogen plays Will, her former best friend from university days with whom she has subsequently lost contact following a rift.
When Sylvia learns that Will is getting divorced, she reaches out and the pair rekindle their friendship. However, it isn't long before it becomes all-consuming, threatening to destroy Sylvia's family life and Will's career.
It's a series which works for so many reasons - for one thing, it has a surprising amount on its mind, exploring themes around ageing, friendship and gender dynamics.
It also plays thoroughly to its stars' strength and exploits their on-screen chemistry perfectly. Their friendship feels genuine, and not in a way that feels cloying, like the stars are having more fun than the audience.
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Instead, the episodes are made a delight to watch because we enjoy spending time with these people, even when they're behaving in the worst possible ways.
The series is also a prime example of where Apple's formula works best. It has been created by Bad Neighbours director Nicholas Stoller along with Francesca Delbanco, and the pair have been allowed to capitalise on what works best about Rogen's specific kind of comedy.
Just like with Sharon Horgan's Bad Sisters, the series is a perfect distillation of a singular vision. The two shows could not be more different, but what they both have in common is that they feel distinctly authored.
Watching Bad Sisters, it felt that no one could have been behind it other than Horgan. Here, you know within moments, even before he has appeared on screen, that this is a Rogen joint.
It might have been a stretch to extend Rogen's comedic sensibilities - the drug use, the buddy shtick, the chaotic improvisation - over a 10-episode series, but Apple took a gamble and here, it has paid off.
Each episode clips along at a pace, while still allowing enough time to explore the themes in full and engage in quieter moments. It might be slightly overlong when all is said and done - but isn't that the case with most of Rogen's movies?
That's not to disparage the show or Rogen as a creative, but just another example of how specific this feels.
The closest Netflix has come to this level of creative authorship with an established comedy presence is perhaps Rowan Atkinson's Man Vs Bee, but that effort had its sizeable bumps in the road. Atkinson's style of comedy and the thin premise didn't make for a natural stretch to series length, even when the episodes were bite-size.
There's been a lot of talk in recent years about how much creative freedom should be given to writers and directors in the new media landscape, and how much oversight producers should have over projects.
Who's to say how much oversight they have had here. But based on the end products, when it comes to series such as Platonic and Bad Sisters, it certainly feels as if a fair amount of creative rein has been allowed to these comedy powerhouses to do what they do best.
Whether it makes sense from a financial perspective, who knows. Who knows if it even really matters when it comes to a behemoth company like Apple?
Whatever the case, from a creative perspective, it works. Apple has struck gold with its current comedy formula - long may it continue.
Platonic will premiere on Apple TV+ on Wednesday 24th May – you can sign up to Apple TV+ here.
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