I may not have Season 1 of Physical, the Rose Byrne series on Apple TV+, but I’m glad the streamer announced that it is bringing the ’80s-flavored dramedy back for Season 2, as there may be a great show buried somewhere in there.
Annie Weisman created Physical, which takes place in the idyllic but fragile beach paradise of sunny San Diego in the 1980s. The half-hour dark comedy follows Sheila Rubin (Byrne), a quietly tortured, seemingly dutiful housewife as she supports her smart but controversial husband’s bid for state assembly. But behind closed doors, Sheila battles a complex set of personal demons relating to her self-image…. that is, until she finds release through the unlikeliest source — the world of aerobics.
Sheila quickly becomes hooked on the exercise itself, but her real road to empowerment comes when she discovers a way to merge her newfound passion with the burgeoning market for VHS tapes to start a revolutionary business. Physical tracks her epic journey from a stifled, overlooked enabler to a powerful, confident economic force as Sheila transforms into someone we take for granted today but was entirely radical at the time — the female lifestyle guru.
Comedian Rory Scovel co-stars as Sheila’s hippie husband and the rest of the ensemble includes Dierdre Friel, Della Saba, Lou Taylor Pucci, Paul Sparks, Ashley Liao and Geoffrey Arend.
“We couldn’t be more proud to showcase Annie Weisman’s singular take on this darkly funny, heartbreaking, and bold story,” said Apple‘s Michelle Lee. “And then we got to watch Rose Byrne inhabit this incredible, multi-layered character, giving us an unforgettable tour de force performance. We have been thrilled to see audiences around the world fall in love and feel seen by this show and we can’t wait for everyone to experience the next chapter in Sheila’s journey towards personal empowerment.”
There’s certainly no doubt that Byrne is excellent on Physical. Her comedic work has always impressed me, and she’s given a three-dimensional character to play here. The problem for me was the tone of the show, which was decidedly sour. Byrne‘s character has some nasty thoughts about overweight people, and in many ways, Physical plays like the anti-Ted Lasso, as its protagonist is constantly judging people and screwing over her friends. As a result, Sheila comes off as fairly unlikeable. The show also spent way too much time with Scovel’s aspiring politician, who is simply not the reason anyone is watching this series.
Of course, both of these issues can and should be addressed in Season 2. For a show that’s all about self-improvement, Physical has an opportunity to look inward and improve itself thanks to this renewal decision. Here’s hoping Weisman makes the most of it because the series really is quite watchable. Even though I didn’t love the show, I must admit that I burned through all 10 episodes, which is always a good sign.
In addition to creating and writing Physical, Weisman serves as showrunner and she also executive produces alongside directors Craig Gillespie and Stephanie Laing, Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements of Tomorrow Studios, Alexandra Cunningham, John McNamara, Sera Gamble and Byrne. The Season 1 finale of Physical drops on Friday and finds Sheila entertaining an intriguing business proposition, so be sure to tune in, as the episode offers hints as to where Season 2 may lead.