Jan 18, 2022
By Lily Moayeri
Photography by Freeform/Koury Angelo
Don’t be fooled by Single Drunk Female’s positioning on the teen-centric Freeform network, or by the fact that it is billed as a comedy, or that its cringe-y tagline is “Please adult responsibly.” The series comes from a strong team of women-led producers and executive producers with serious writing pedigree, including Girls’ Jenni Konner and The Connors’ Simone Finch. As such, the half-hour series’ 10-episode season is a sharply defined look at alcoholism in your late 20s with snappy dialogue and wonderfully developed characters.
Single Drunk Female centers around Sam, portrayed by the luminous Sofia Black-D’Elia, a 28-year-old writer who accidentally assaults her boss, gets fired, is assigned to 30-day rehab and picking up trash with the addition of 90 days of Alcoholic Anonymous. “The best deal I’ve ever seen,” according to her parole officer Gail (Madison Shepard) who is the American version of the fabulous Janice on the Showtime series, Back to Life, but far less inappropriate.
Sam ends up back home in Massachusetts with her widowed mother, Carol, a tense individual played by a tightly-wound Ally Sheedy. Carol is never seen without a glass of wine and thinks just one glass of wine for her daughter doesn’t count as drinking. The second Carol shows up, talking about her spiritual book club, it’s clear that she is at least half the reason for Sam’s drinking. Her father slowly dying of cancer might be the other half. Bob (Ian Gomez), Carol’s new love, from spiritual book club of course, and his upbeat attitude isn’t helping matters.
Upon her return, Sam almost immediately starts drinking, wrecks a party bus and her mother’s car. This results in her rehabilitation being extended to a whole year.
Old friends turn up: Brit (Sasha Compère) the doctor who is marrying Sam’s ex-boyfriend and Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington) a party girl yet very responsible single mom. And new friendships are very slowly developing with Sam’s center-parted, podcasting superstar lesbian sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson) whose overbearing wife Stephanie “pronounced Stefani, like Gwen Stefani” (Madeline Wise) makes it very difficult not to fall off the wagon. James (Garrick Bernard), a drunk hook-up who is part of Sam’s AA group. Also part of this group is Sam’s trans-woman boss at the supermarket, the amazing Mindy (Jojo Brown), “You can’t sit with me until you work on your aesthetic.”
Sam is the gravitational core around which this expertly cast group revolves, but each one of them is a star in their own right. Instead of sloppy and irritating, Sam is convincing and sympathetic as a still young person who has a very difficult time staying sober. She skips forward in her recovery steps way ahead of being ready for them. The most terrifying part of her recovery is accepting who she actually is without alcohol. She has never written anything without alcohol, or had sex, or gotten through a day for many years.
The humor of Single Drunk Female is present in every moment, but in a wry and dry way with the occasional dip in bold and brassy from Felicia and passive-aggressive from Carol. Despite its young cast, Single Drunk Female is not a Zoomer-focused series. The sensitive and relatable approach to its subject matter treats the seriousness of alcoholism and the difficulties of recovery with respect and dignity, the laughs a tonic rather than gratuitous. Recommended for all generations at the end of the alphabet. Episodes available on Hulu the day after premiering on Freeform. (www.freeform.com/shows/single-drunk-female)
Author rating: 8/10
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