Yes I’d Hang Out With This Single Drunk Female
Freeform Takes Another Sharp Comic Look At A Dark Subject
I think I’ve made more than clear over the last two or three years in particular how much I love the cable network Freeform. I already miss like hell The Bold Type, can’t wait for the second season of Cruel Summer and wish I could find more time in my schedule for brilliant spinoffs like grown-ish and Good Trouble. The lion’s share of these series center on young female protagonists — but they never fit the model of the ones that too much Peak TV designs them for, and the network is usually better for it.
Take the newest comic offering from them: Single Drunk Female. Samantha Fink is fired from her job as a website for clearly drunken behavior, abetted by the fact she assaults her boss trying to ‘protest’. She does thirty days in rehab, gets sober and goes back to live with her mom (oh I’ll get back to that). It’s pretty clear she’s a full blown alcoholic early on (when a former one-night stand tries to talk her, she clearly has no memory of it and there are similar implications that she’s been missing of a lot of appointments because she got drunk) and she celebrates her thirty-day chip by getting wasted, partying and crashing into a former best-friends car.
This is where she hits bottom. Samantha, unfortunately, has no real support system. Her probation officer basically mocks her behavior (her sister inherited a fortune and is ‘grieving). Her new sponsor (Rebecca Henderson) is a brilliant mind, but has little patience for her problems. And don’t even get us started about her mother.
I have always loved Ally Sheedy — yes even when she gave a half incoherent rant five minute speech at the Independent Spirit awards after winning Best Actress for High Art. (YouTube it.) She always seems to play the girl who never quite fit in during her days in the Brat Pack and its not hard to see her character Carol as sort of a Breakfast Club-St. Elmo’s Fire character thirty years later. Our sympathy should be with her — she’s lost her husband to leukemia years ago, her daughter is clearly a problem to her, and you get the feeling she should be moving on with her life when she brings a man home. But Sheedy goes out of her way to play her in such an overbearing fashion that when Samantha says she basically spent her time in therapy blaming her for everything, she might not be exaggerating by much. You get the feeling that Carol doesn’t think she should bare any responsibility for her daughter’s condition specifically when she drinks in front of her and refuses to accept Samantha’s idea that alcoholism is a disease. Watching Sheedy only reminds me how much I’ve missed her over the past twenty years.
We know watching Samantha that it’s going to take a lot of work to dig her out of the hole she’s in, especially she keeps digging deeper. She’s working in a supermarket job she can clearly barely handle. Her former best friend is marrying her former boyfriend and neither can escape here. Even at her own AA meetings, she seems to be suffering from a caste system — her boss at the supermarket won’t even let her sit with her there and Olivia her sponsor, really seems to be regretting she’s helping her. The only person who seems to be completely on her side in James, the man she remembered she had a one night stand with by the end of the pilot and we know a part of really just wants to screw him.
Sofia Black D’Elia is neither endearing drunk or sober. You get the feeling every time Samantha’s in a scene that at least one character wants to either shake or slap her, possibly both. She doesn’t seem to clearly have a picture of what AA is and you get the feeling she is completely unequipped for life in general. And yet somehow D’Elia manages to make her appealing and amusing at the same time. Much of this comes from her situation — she is in a desperate scenario that she has never dealt with and every time she comes a little closer to digging a shovel out, two more go in. (The second episode ends with her getting a paycheck. She’s about to send a picture of it with a nasty comment to her friend’ and then she drops and breaks her phone.) This is funny and very real.
This is the time where I mention that Single Drunk Female is co-produced by Jenni Konner. The same Jenni Konner who helped create the notorious Girls which so many people either loved or loathed. I was among the latter, and I thought her follow-up for HBO Camping was one of the biggest wastes of talent I’ve ever seen gathered on any medium for a very long time. (For wasting Jennifer Garner and David Tennant, she should have been made to listen on a continuous loop to Garner’s tone of voice until she gnaws her own arm off.) And you can sort of see what might have drawn her to the project — its pretty clear Samantha Fink is cut from the same cloth as Lena Dunham’s Hannah and the rest of her ‘friends’. But maybe it’s getting away from HBO; maybe it’s the fact that everybody on the show keeps putting Samantha in her place in a way no one was willing to go for Girls for almost the entire series. Whatever the reason I don’t loathe Samantha the same way I do almost everybody else in a Konner series — I’m actually rooting for her. I want things to work out with her, even if she may not know how they can. And I want the series, like its title character, to succeed. It’s not quite the gem that so many other Freeform series already are, but like the calendar Samantha uses to keep track of her sobriety, it’s moving in the right direction.
My score: 4 stars.