In news that should surprise absolutely no one, Apple TV+ has yet another hit comedy on its hands. Platonic, a delightful new series co-created, directed, and co-written by Neighbors director Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco (Friends From College) is here to remind us that Neighbors co-stars Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen are one of Hollywood’s most hilarious, charming duos.
In a modern-day revisiting of When Harry Met Sally‘s core question, “Can men and women remain strictly platonic friends?” the aptly-named series reunites estranged besties Sylvia (Byrne) and Will (Rogen) after five years apart. Fresh off a divorce, Will is a lost brewmaster lacking ambition who — in Sylvia’s words — dresses like “a ’90s grunge clown.” Though Sylvia may be more of “a normal, functional adult” in Will’s mind, the wife and mother of three who’s been out of the workforce for 13 years is suffocating under the weight of “what ifs” as her law degree gathers dust. When her stable husband Charlie (Luke Macfarlane), a successful lawyer, encourages her to reconnect with Will, the old pals make amends and quickly fall back into their wild, co-dependent, unintentionally destructive rhythm.
Sylvia establishes early on that Will is not an ex, nor was he ever so much as a friend with benefits. The two were once so close that Will served as the Maid of Honor in her and Charlie’s wedding, but unlike the characters in Nora Ephron’s rom-com, there’s no known physical attraction complicating Sylvia and Will’s adult opposite-sex friendship. Despite that fact, as their unique connection becomes increasingly consuming, loved ones like Charlie — who thinks “they’re getting off on the fact that they could be fucking” — grow concerned. And who can blame them? Even when you’re sure this series won’t replicate When Harry Met Sally‘s narrative, Byrne and Rogen’s off-the-charts chemistry makes it impossible not to wonder if the two will cross the line.
As Sylvia’s midlife crisis intensifies, she gradually drops her filter and starts giving into silly, uninhibited desires. Whether housing french fries while high at Denny’s, shit-talking a mom outside of school, mumbling brutally honest thoughts under her breath, or attempting to stomach her husband’s boss on a business retreat, Byrne skillfully portrays a woman who’s desperately trying to keep her cool while bursting from the boredom and maddening monotony of her straight-lace lifestyle. But when she’s with Will, she never has to pretend. Rogen, who effortlessly slips back into a familiar man-child role, perfectly plays a hot mess with a heart of gold. In frantically assaulting electric PYGYN (not Bird) scooters or trying to convince himself he has the stamina and millennial chops needed to happily date a girl who’s barely turned “the big two six,” the actor holds his own in solo scenes. But as Neighbors fans likely assumed, he and Byrne shine brightest when they’re sharing the screen.
Unlike Will and Sylvia, who enable each other’s self-destructive shenanigans for a decent portion of the season, Rogen and Byrne always make each other stronger. Their physical comedy will make you cackle, dialogue seamlessly flows in drunk and sober scenes alike, and their ability to play off of each other — which grows more remarkable with each passing episode — makes you feel like you have a front-row seat to a brilliant buddy comedy. It bears reminding that Platonic isn’t an hour-and-a-half film. It’s ten half-hour television episodes (all made available for review), which is a long time for even the funniest adults to make horrible decisions without viewers screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” at their screens. (My scream came in Episode 7 when Sylvia accidentally ruins a painting and all hell breaks loose, even though it definitely doesn’t have to!) But plot lines don’t veer too far into WTF territory without a payoff. Through vulnerability and introspection, Platonic strikes a nice balance between lighthearted and serious storylines. And though Will and Sylvia struggle to help themselves, they thankfully learn to hold each other accountable in ways no one else can.
Platonic‘s ending wasn’t quite what I expected, but it’s a surprisingly satisfying sendoff that perfectly tees up a potential Season 2. The real joy lies in watching Will and Sylvia’s journey; in remembering that best friends have the power to make you laugh, forget, dream, and feel accepted even when life feels like it’s falling apart.