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With Grand Crew Gone, Platonic Is on Track to Be TV's Next Great Hangout Comedy

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne currently headline a fun relationship comedy, but they could be leading an excellent ensemble show.
  • Luke Macfarlane, Seth Rogen (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Luke Macfarlane, Seth Rogen (Photo: Apple TV+)

    Understandably, the primary draw for audiences seeking out Apple TV+’s Platonic was the re-teaming of Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen. The pair co-starred in the 2014 comedy hit Neighbors and its 2016 sequel, showing off a quick and playful married-people chemistry that ended up outshining even the flashier frat antics of Zac Efron. When Neighbors director Nicholas Stoller and his wife and creative partner Francesca Delbanco embarked on this new comedy series about a pair of estranged best friends, Will and Sylvia, who reconnect after Will gets divorced, Rogen and Byrne were the ideal pair to take the starring roles. Accordingly, Platonic primarily exists as a comedic examination of the ins and outs of this particular relationship. Will and Sylvia are close. They're too close! They're dealing with mid-life crises about parenthood, re-entering the workforce, resuming dating after divorce, and the inevitable loss of cool as they've aged. Byrne and Rogen make this relationship pop off the screen and sell the premise of the show with ease. But as the season has gone on, one fact has become increasingly clear: Platonic is good as a relationship comedy, but it could be great as a hangout comedy.

    It takes Platonic a while to build up its group-hang potential. Sylvia has her best friend, Katie (Carla Gallo, Rogen’s Undeclared co-star) and her husband, Charlie (Bros’ Luke Macfarlane), and her three kids, of course. Will has the gang at the bar/brewery he owns: Andy (Tre Hale), who remains wary of Sylvia and her re-emergence in Will's life; Reggie (Andrew Lopez), who's kind of a d-bag and his stepbrother to Will's ex; and Omar (Vinny Thomas), who is sweet and uncomplicated and, it must be said, very cute. Charlie is a lawyer who has his best work friend, Stewart, a glass of dry white wine played by Guy Branum. Omar is friends with Peyton (Emily Kimball), who dates Will for a minute and is all of 26 years old.

    As the series has progressed, these satellite characters have been making more and more of an impression. And then came Episode 5, "My Wife's Boyfriend," in which Charlie invites Will to a Dodgers game with his work crew under the guise of being friendly, but really to size up the guy who his wife is suddenly spending all her time with. It's incredibly awkward, and Charlie is not really fooling anyone, but just when you think it's about to go truly bad, they wind up back at Will's bar. Andy, Reggie, and Omar are already there. Stewart has followed along from the baseball game. Everyone's getting progressively drunker, and they all start playing a game called Secret Skills, which is exactly what it sounds like, and is exactly as funny as you might imagine, given how drunk they all are.

    Sylvia eventually joins them, and there's some plot stuff that needs to be hashed out between Sylvia and Charlie, and Sylvia and Will. Then Will gets a shard of glass stuck in his arm and there's honestly quite a bit of blood. It's the best episode of a very strong season of television, and it's proof positive that inside this very charming comedy about platonic friends in their 40s is a tremendously fun hangout comedy waiting to break free.

    Obviously, any ensemble antics in a half-hour comedy that take place in a bar are going to call to mind Cheers, the platonic (no pun intended) ideal of a hangout comedy. It's an ideal setting: a large group of people with varying relationships to each other hang out in the same place, get involved in low-stakes shenanigans, engage in funny-back-and-forth, and have any number of new faces and transient interlopers pass through. Hangout comedies don't have to be set in a bar, of course. Friends made coffee shops culturally significant for an entire generation. Happy Endings never really had one central hangout space and did just fine. It's about the group energy and the show's producers having faith in its ensemble cast. Platonic has proved its bona fides for both.

    Even better, Platonic can just lean into its existing strengths to embrace a hangout comedy vibe. It doesn't have to surrender its central premise, it can just act more like a TV show. The story of two estranged best friends whose rekindled platonic friendship functions differently now that they're fortysomethings would make for a fantastic movie. As a TV show, though, it runs the risk of exhausting its premise without the kind of episodic structure in which hangout comedies thrive.

    Platonic has shown it can pull off that structure. "My Wife's Boyfriend," as described, is perfectly episodic. Episode 7, "Let the River Run," is a tight half-hour that tracks Sylvia's first day back in the workforce with pacing and jokes and transient characters and a pair of bookended beginning and end shots that tell a complete and very funny story. And what's happening in the B-plot? There's a party at the bar, where we find out Katie and Andy have been sleeping together, and the guys are launching a brand of hard kombucha behind Will's back. Hangout comedy gold!

    We already have too few hangout comedies on TV, especially now that NBC has canceled Grand Crew after two very promising seasons. Platonic could be that next great hangout show if it relies on its strengths and continues on the path it’s already on. What's more platonic, after all, than a group of friends hanging out, sharing their secret skills, and helping each other when they get stabbed with shards of glass?

    New episodes of Platonic drop Wednesdays on Apple TV+ through July 12th. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Platonic, Apple TV+, Andrew Lopez, Carla Gallo, Francesca Delbanco, Guy Branum, Luke Macfarlane, Nicholas Stoller, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, Tre Hale