Physical Review on Lost in the Reel

Physical is created by television veteran Annie Weisman, but the main draw here behind the scenes will be that of Craig Gillespie, who just directed the Emma Stone vehicle Cruella and the Oscar-winning I, Tonya. His flare for snarky dark humor is alive and well in this new series, and just like in I, Tonya with Margot Robbie, he has found the perfect foil to deliver this special brand of material, in Rose Byrne. While this show will certainly not be for everyone, as the season progressed I found myself falling in love with Physical, despite its flaws.


Rose Byrne and Rory Scovel in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

The series follows Sheila, a woman that has always lived in the shadow of her husband, Danny.  As he decides to run for local election, she finds her life taking a tailspin that seems to never end.  She struggles with an eating disorder that causes her great agony and she also cannot seem to ever speak her mind, especially when it’s important.  One day she comes across, a young woman named Bunny’s fitness studio, where a group of women get together to do aerobics.  Sheila finds that this release of fitness allows her to overcome her obstacles and gives her a whole new inspiration in life. As her husband delves deeper into politics, she decides to go behind his back to start a fitness empire.


Rose Byrne in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

There is something so utterly satisfying about watching an underdog conquer their fears and to trample everything that is standing in their way, to finally find success in life.  While Sheila isn’t your typical “underdog”, it is still impossible not to root for her.  One thing that makes this series stand-out, and what might repel some viewers, is that the entire show is narrated with Sheila’s thoughts.  While she might be timid on the outside, her inner-monologues are filled with expletives, harsh critiques and self-deprecating humor.  This makes Sheila very unlikable at times, but also extremely easy to relate to.  It’s also refreshing to see her be able to rile up the courage to say her thoughts out loud, as the season progresses.


Della Saba in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

This series reminds me a bit of AMC’s new original program Kevin Can F*** Himself, in that both shows follow women who are trying to reclaim their lives from their bumbling, moronic husbands.  But, while in Kevin it was difficult to relate to the protagonist Allison because she went off the deep end by trying to murder her spouse, here, Sheila’s plight to start her own empire, despite her husband’s political exploits… is a much easier pill to swallow.  There is something so vindicating about seeing Sheila open up, find her voice and not stand in her husband’s shadow any longer.  


Rose Byrne in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

Rose Byrne is absolute dynamite in this series.  She is miraculously able to pull off the self-deprecating humor and darker aspects of Sheila’s personality.  Many performers would not be able to make this character compelling, for the sheer fact that Sheila is the definition of a flawed human being. But, I also found that to be another very refreshing aspect of the series; that they didn’t try to make this character perfect, rather they let Sheila bask in her weaknesses.  


Lou Taylor Pucci and Della Saba in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

The rest of the cast is also quite good, though there are a few very unlikeable characters here.  Her husband Danny, played by Rory Scovel, can be a selfish, sad little man much of the time.  He’s also a bit gross and immature, so spending too much time with him on screen is not the most pleasant thing in the world.  Tyler and Bunny, played by Della Saba and Lou Taylor Pucci, are the couple that Sheila works with to start her aerobics journey, and they are both endearing and have a lovely chemistry with each other.  I just hope that in a second season, we get more of a story arc for the both of them. 

It is Dierdre Friel, as Sheila’s friend Greta, who is the real MVP of the series for me.  She brings a genuine earnestness to the show that is much needed, and it is also a joy to see her journey of taking back her life, as well.


Dierdre Friel in Apple TV+’s Original Series, Physical. Courtesy of Apple.

Physical has an issue that many will not be able to look past.  It’s just not all that funny.  It’s hard to mine a lot of laughs out of a show about eating disorders and fitness, and if self-deprecating humor is not your thing… well, you’ll probably find the series flat-out laugh-less.  I also must say that I was not sold at all from this show by its first two episodes and it wasn’t until the end of the third, where you can finally see where Physical is actually going, that I became invested.  (I am so happy that Apple TV+ is dropping the first three episodes for the premiere…)  Lastly, no spoilers here, but I was really turned off by the season finale and wish they had left it with the ninth episode, which ended perfectly.

But, despite some unlikeable characters, a rocky first couple of episodes and a dark tone that was initially off-putting… I became truly riveted by Sheila’s journey in Physical and CANNOT wait to see her continuing rise to the top.  

Physical’s first three episodes are Streaming Now on Apple TV+.

Are you excited to see Rose Byrne leading a new series? What are your thoughts on Physical?

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