Platonic gets the When Harry Met Sally question—can men and women be friends without attraction getting in the way?—out of the way early in the first episode. It directly name-checks the film for few laughs, then dispenses with it altogether, never to return to the topic again. The half-hour comedy’s (somewhat misleading) title inevitably calls to mind its opposite, but don’t look for a romantic “will they or won’t they?” storyline here. Platonic, which premieres May 24 on Apple TV+, isn’t about that, nor is it remotely interested in exploring the question. The show’s dual protagonists, college besties Sylvia (Rose Byrne) and Will (Seth Rogen), give no indication that they are, or ever have been, anything more than friends. With that much taken for granted, there’s room to tackle more complex themes, like how fundamentally people change as they get older, and whether our relationships and self images can be flexible enough to adapt to those changes.
Now in their early forties, Sylvia and Will have one of those friendships that’s frozen in time. Whenever they hang out together, they revert to the people they were when they first met, as long-term friends tend to do. At the start of the series they’ve been estranged for five years due to Sylvia’s dislike of Will’s wife, Audrey (Alisha Wainwright). When Sylvia finds out through social media that they’re getting a divorce, she reaches out. They meet for coffee and try to pick up where they left off. It’s awkward at first, but before long they’re laughing and gobbling fries at a Denny’s in the middle of the night, high on weed gummies. For the other people in their lives, this isn’t a welcome reunion. “I just forgot how annoying the two of them can be together,” Sylvia’s lawyer husband, Charlie (Luke Macfarlane), complains to a colleague. “It’s like their friendship excludes everybody, including me.”
Sylvia’s marriage to Charlie is mostly happy, and she’s got her hands full raising three children in a too-small house in the suburbs. Will owns a minority share in a hipster bar in Downtown L.A., where he spends most of his time brewing craft beers and arguing with his partners about their enterprising business ideas. On paper, Sylvia and Will are grown adults living respectable lives, and maybe they resent that a little. Whenever a problem comes up they don’t want to deal with, they run to the shelter of their emotionally stunted relationship. On some level, they know it’s not the healthiest coping method. Yet no matter how many times they fight (and they fight a lot), they always wind up drifting back together again. Giving up their friendship would mean putting that part of their lives, and the young people they used to be, behind them. They’re not yet ready to do that, so around and around they go.
Rogen and Byrne, who played a married couple in the feature comedy Neighbors and its sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, team up once again with the director of those films, Nick Stoller. (All three are executive producers here.) If you enjoyed the Neighbors movies, you’ll probably find a lot to like in Platonic, as it leans into aging millennial angst in similar ways. There’s a multi-episode storyline in which Will dates a much younger girl and is forced to directly face the intra-generational divide at her 26th birthday party. “We are bookend millennials,” he insists when Sylvia points out the problematic age difference. “And that is very romantic, I think.”
The show also employs a similar tonal blend of naturalistic, dialogue-based comedy and slightly heightened physical gags. One fun ongoing bit is Will’s impulse to trash every rental scooter he passes on the sidewalk. And the most entertaining story arc involves a restaurant conglomerate that wants to sell Will’s beer at a Johnny Rockets-like chain called Johnny 66. Rogen and Byrne have a great time sending up these palaces of Boomer nostalgia, and we even get a cameo by Ted McGinley (on a roll after his hilarious turn in another recent Apple TV+ series, Shrinking) as the company’s cartoonishly oily founder and CEO, Johnny Rev. It’s not all silly fun, though. The episodes don’t ever float too far along without delivering some kind of emotional gut punch to bring us back down to Earth.
Rogan has never been the kind of actor who disappears into a role; his characters usually come across as some version of himself not too far from the real thing. That’s not a problem here. If anything, it makes for a more authentic performance. Meanwhile, Byrne is great at playing the kind of woman who seems like she might be uptight but is actually goofy and down for whatever. The two of them have just the right amount of chemistry to make you believe they’re friends without any romantic sparks. (There could have been more between Byrne and Macfarlane, though.) They get some terrific comic assistance from a cast of reliably funny supporting players, especially Carla Gallo as Sylvia’s mom friend Katie, Guy Branum as Charlie’s work confidant Stewart, Tre Hale as one of Will’s business partners, and Vinny Thomas as his beer-making protege.
Platonic doesn’t break any molds, but it’s nice to see another example of a breezy comedy that’s not afraid to let its characters be human and even unlikable at times. The question of whether men and women can be friends without romance getting in the way seems hopelessly outdated now. Of course they can. As this series suggests, men and women can also be awful, co-dependent, selfish friends who spread their destructive messes into everyone else’s lives. And weirdly, that feels like progress.
Platonic premieres May 24 on Apple TV+