Remember dating? Remember how exciting it used to be to meet new people, have a drink in a bar together, and think about what your life together — or your night together — could be like? Sigh…
Platonic, a new web series on YouTube August 12th, takes place “in a memory of New York City just before the pandemic,” according to the official description. It’s a golden-hued, warm series about two best friends — Olive, a gay woman, and Billy, a straight man — who are both firmly in their 30s and both still hopelessly single. They’re the kind of friends who call each other regularly to update each other on their romantic foibles, but who can never seem to actually find the time to catch up and instead wind up leaving each other voicemails. They hang out with the same people, but never, it seems, at the same time.
The ten episodes are all quite short, ranging in length from between a little over than three minutes and a little more than six. This makes the whole thing a nice and easy little binge, less than the length of a feature film. For the most part, each episode is made up of a voicemail between the friends and then a scene of one of them on a date; sometimes we get short scenes of both on dates. Sometimes the dates are lushly romantic and full of breathless possibility; often they’re awkward and uncomfortable, and the show is fascinated by the way one wrong statement or a misplaced laugh can sour a whole evening, a whole relationship.
I was especially drawn to Olive. As played by Summer Spiro, she’s a funny, empathetic, heartfelt character who I enjoyed spending every minute with. In the show’s third episode, “Straight Friend Interlude,” Olive goes into seduction mode, and it’s easy to see why so many women quickly fall under her spell, even if they don’t always stay there. It’s to Summer Spiro’s considerable credit that she manages to make Olive feel like a richly-imagined person with a full interior life, even though we only get to know her for a relatively short period of time compared to a feature film or a long form television series.
Along those lines, it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering a web series to be simply a calling card for everyone involved to move on to bigger things. It really is an art form all of its own though, and writer/director Erin C. Buckley treats it as one. The dialogue is simple yet intimate, each line conveying years of history, of hopes and dreams and the quiet pressure of reality. Much of the show is filmed in gorgeous close-up, with warm, intimate lighting and lingering shots that allow the actors to really shine. Ryan King as Billy isn’t in the show as much as Olive, but he gets a few quietly devastating moments where we can read an entire lifetime of frustration and self-doubt on his face.
And now I’m going to intentionally fall into that trap: I would happily watch these actors and these characters in something longer or bigger-budget. Platonic as it currently stands wouldn’t exactly work as something longer — part of the attraction is the way the show is a freewheeling, kaleidoscopic patchwork of vignettes. However, when I finished the final episode, I found myself wishing I could spend more time with these characters and in this world; I want more from them and for them, and I hope this leads the eminently talented Erin Buckley to make whatever she wants next.
By Eric Langberg
PLATONIC launches exclusively on YouTube on Wednesday August 12th 2020. For more details head to the official series website.