Culture

Television

Party of three: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’

By Craig Mathieson
Australian comedian Josh Thomas brings his unique brand of comedy to the classic American sitcom format

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Photograph courtesy of Stan.

In his new series, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Australian comic actor and writer Josh Thomas plays a young man who agrees to replace his dying father as the guardian of his two teenage half-sisters. As the idiosyncratic entomologist Nicholas, Thomas plays a millennial who finds himself inhabiting a luxury Californian home, trying to make sense of his unexpected responsibilities and opportunities. As a creator, Thomas is in a similar relationship with the classic American sitcom: he’s an outsider placed in charge.

Commissioned by Disney’s US cable channel Freeform and streaming here via weekly episodes on Stan, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay both pays homage to and subverts the traditional Hollywood half hour. The show is both endearingly amusing and sharply funny; it might turn a life lesson into a petty rebuke, but a pretty rebuke can equally lead to a life lesson. What remains integral from Please Like Me, the celebrated ABC comedy that became an international calling card for Thomas, is his knack for writing laugh-out-loud lines that believably cut through convention. Witness Nicholas with his new boyfriend, Alex (Adam Faison), blithely confessing that “I haven’t ejaculated since my dad died.” Narcissism, sexual anxiety and grieving are memorably mashed together.

The bittersweet Please Like Me was one of the few Australian series that placed twenty-somethings at the centre of the story. Working in America, complete with a writers’ room working to his outline, Thomas has broadened his outlook. While the vagaries of Nicholas’s relationship with Alex are ever present, the most intriguing portraits are those of his siblings: 17-year-old Matilda (Kayla Cromer, who, like her character, is on the autism spectrum) and 14-year-old Genevieve (Maeve Press). Thomas up-ends the fallacies of the American screen teen, while the duo’s performances remain warmly authentic despite the comic necessities. High-school crushes and mean girls permeate the episodes, and the show ably deconstructs these tropes to reveal the everyday needs and desires that feed them.

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay exists in a wealthy Californian enclave – Nicholas’s twice-married and briefly met father (Christopher May) was an IP lawyer – that in the initial episodes easily accommodates the unorthodox family unit. Thomas appears interested in American mores but not its contemporary politics, with little sign of the newcomer’s critique that he might be expected to at least reference (equally, though, he doesn’t exploit Australian cultural quirks). The most fearsome figure here is Tellulah (Ivy Wolk), a snarling sprite of a schoolyard frenemy to Genevieve who messes with Nicholas by telling him “your torso’s too large”.

It’s a silly dig, but it hits home as Nicholas spends several scenes fretting over it when he should be attending to domestic responsibilities. But turning minor contrivances and petty retorts into illuminating plotlines is indicative of how Thomas puts his own stamp on Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. While the program isn’t filmed on multiple cameras before a live studio audience, giving a needy young man responsibility he’s not ready for is a sitcom staple. But in this instance the mayhem is sweeter, the feeling more genuine, and the sex more gay and physical than this lineage has previously allowed. It’s a surreptitious step forward, and proof we should keep liking Josh Thomas.

 

Streaming Successes: Little America (Apple TV+) is an intimately powerful anthology series about the experiences of immigrants in contemporary America that speaks to the struggle of individuals trying to make sense of their new home; liberally doused in the supernatural, The Gloaming (Stan) is a Hobart-set thriller that draws the police procedural into Tasmania’s bloody colonial legacy.

Streaming Misses: From the team behind Sherlock, Dracula (Netflix) is a lurid and sometimes self-aware remix of Bram Stoker’s vampire fantasy that artlessly tries to be several shows in one; the second season of Shrill (SBS on Demand) is vivacious and amusing, but the stakes for Portland writer Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) never match those of the first season, where it felt as if she was fighting to take control of her own life.

Catch-up Viewing: Netflix will release the third season of the compelling Weimar Republic thriller Babylon Berlin on February 28, giving you several weeks to catch up on this vivid, timely German series if you haven’t already succumbed.

Notable New Movies: The Queen (Netflix), a ground-breaking and recently restored 1968 documentary about New York’s competitive drag scene; Justin Kurzel’s deconstruction of historic mythmaking with True History of the Kelly Gang (Stan); Uncut Gems (Netflix), with Adam Sandler starring in a frenzied New York drama from the Safdie brothers. Uploaded on his 74th birthday, David Lynch’s surrealism-tinged short What Did Jack Do? (Netflix) is neo-noir (capuchin) monkey business.

Craig Mathieson

Craig Mathieson is a television critic for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, an author, and the creator of the Binge-r streaming newsletter.

@CMscreens

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Photograph courtesy of Stan.

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