For the better part of a decade, the half-hour dramedy has been a staple of premium cable. Led by shows like Sex and the City and Weeds, many of these series combine biting humor, sympathetic yet edgy female leads, and serious themes. Often, this combination can be a delicate balancing act, and even the best dramedies can occasionally fall too far on the comedy–drama continuum and cause tonal whiplash. It takes truly talented writers, directors, and actors to keep this balance intact.
That’s part of the reason why SMILF is so impressive. Created by and starring Frankie Shaw (who also directed the pilot), SMILF follows Shaw’s Bridgett Bird, a 20-something single mother in Boston. The title stands for “Single Mother I’d Like to…” (you can probably complete the rest), but don’t let that stop you—the title betrays what is ultimately a realistic portrayal of single motherhood with a tone that, although comedic, feels true to life. Throughout the series, Bridgette tries to navigate life as she balances work and her audition schedule, attempts to have a normal sex life, worries that her sex life will never be normal again, struggles to pay the bills, and acts like she’s fine with her ex and his new girlfriend all while raising a toddler mostly as a single mother. Bridgette is an easy character to sympathize with, and every plot point is in service of her wants and herself as a person.
Although much changed between Shaw’s original draft and the final product, the framework for the series can be clearly seen in the script, and if anything, the changes helped refine Bridgette, her goals, and her relationships with those around her. Each of the series’ actors brings it—Shaw fully and perfectly embodies Bridgette, and the supporting cast (which includes Miguel Gomez, Samara Weaving, Rosie O’Donnell, and Connie Britton) also deliver.
Ultimately, SMILF is an exquisitely funny show that doubles as an honest, unapologetic look at a character we hardly see.