It has not been a vintage year for romantic comedies. (It hasn’t been a vintage year for this undervalued genre for quite some time.) There have been just a couple of brighter spots: Rye Lane’s colorful walk-and-talk through the streets of South London, Red, White & Royal Blue’s fanfic-adjacent queer romance. In series, Apple’s Platonic, with the ever-delightful pairing of Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen, attempted to twist the genre to focus on an obsessive, semi-toxic friendship. It found some rich material on the way, but predictably floundered when it came to the payoff because it had nowhere to go. This is the thing with rom-coms: More than almost any other genre, they are incredibly strictly codified, and you really do have to play them by the book.
The trick is to follow the rules while making it look natural. That’s exactly what Colin from Accounts does. This very funny, very charming Australian series, which debuts on Paramount Plus this week, works so well because it hits all the marks a rom-com needs to, but does so with a little bit of spice and a lot of casual, lived-in authenticity.
That authenticity might stem from the fact that the show’s stars and creators, Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, are a real-life couple. That’s not necessarily a guarantee of on-screen chemistry, let alone the wit and perception to summon it on the page in the writing process. But Dyer and Brammall capture the exhilarating, painful, confusing frisson of two people realizing they’re into each other perfectly. They’re both just enormously likable, ensuring the most important love affair — between the audience and the characters — is also requited. (They both appear to be successful, jobbing TV actors you have probably heard of if you are Australian. Brammall provides a voice in Bluey, because of course he does.)
Dyer plays Ashley, a rootless, 29-year-old medical student recovering from a breakup. Brammall is Gordon, a terminally single, 40-something brewpub owner (actually an uncanny match for Rogen’s Platonic character) going through a premature hipster midlife crisis, complete with drum kit and unused unicycle. One morning, Ashley impulsively flashes a boob at Gordon as she crosses the street in front of his studiedly cool vintage Toyota, causing him to run over a stray dog. Suddenly the strangers find themselves jointly responsible for a dog with wheels for legs and 12,000 Australian dollars of vet bills, while Ashley finds herself homeless and searching for a pet-friendly apartment.
It’s a perfect setup, putting the pair in opposition (over the bills and Ashley’s living arrangements) at the same time as it throws them together, all instigated by a dash of anarchic sexual tension. It also means Colin from Accounts — the title refers to the name they bestow on the hapless dog — is perfectly poised to exploit the differences and similarities in the lives that these two confused, mildly messy, sharp-witted, and kind people are drifting through.
Gordon has a business, a family of co-workers (Genevieve Hegney and Michael Logo, both brilliant), and an ambivalent relationship with dating apps. Ashley has an overbearing drama-sponge of a mother (Helen Thomson), demanding studies, hedonistic friends, and a vague sense that the feeble grip on life’s practicalities that goes with being in your 20s is starting to get old.
Neither of them knows what they are doing. When they’re together, the unpredictable spark between them — usually manifesting in thrillingly unstable banter — only makes things more confusing, but sometimes in a good way. In the second episode, they tank one of Gordon’s dates by perversely pretending to be brother and sister; the following scene, as they revel in their triumphant failure across Gordon’s kitchen island, crackles with an irresistibly weird energy. Here are two people who are not remotely ready for each other but clearly won’t be able to leave each other alone, and it’s a joy to watch.
Because Colin from Accounts is a series rather than a movie, it ventures through one or two setups too many on its way to its inevitable conclusion. There’s an accidental dick pic, a power outage at the bar, the passing of a racist aunt. Others, however — like an excruciating birthday dinner at Ashley’s mum’s house with her odious boyfriend in the episode “The Good Room” — productively deepen the drama and sharpen the humor, keeping it right on the edge of unsafe. This is the genius and pleasure of Colin from Accounts: It’s a deeply comforting show, with adorable leads, that still feels like it can surprise you with the tartness of its jokes and the depth of its feeling.
Colin from Accounts is now streaming on Paramount Plus.