I FEEL BAD -- Grade: D
NBC aired a preview of its upcoming single-camera sitcom I Feel Bad this week, and I feel like they're going to regret that title, as it puts working-mother politics behind a few decades.
This half-hour show was on #FemmeCritic's list of Fall Series to Watch, thanks to its female creator-showrunner Aseem Batra (Scrubs, Marlon, AP Bio) and co-EP Amy Poehler. Actually, the pilot was directed by a woman too. And the show stars W.O.C. Sarayu Blue (NCIS: Los Angeles). But it's actually kind of regressive when it comes to its premise.
Blue stars as Emet, the totally traditional overextended working mom (complete with a stack of binders to carry around), in this totally traditional family sitcom. But the husband, grandparents and kids aren't all that cute or clever, the male-dominated workplace setting is a disaster, there's no snarky best friend to cut through the treacle and Blue just doesn't have the chops to pull this off, sorry. #IFeelBad could've used a much stronger personality for the lead -- Maya Rudolph or Mindy Kaling would've been great.
The main problem is that it's so not funny. I mean, I get it, it's a network sitcom, so yes, it's bound to be sanitized. But The Good Place, black-ish and Mom are all consistently more successful at eliciting true laughs, with at least a little bit of creative edginess.
And despite putting Emet in the video-game industry so she can fight for female representation (on the nose, much?), the show perpetuates the stereotype that working moms must, BY LAW, feel guilty at least 12 times a day, whether it's failing at being the "totally cool" mom or wanting to spend 20 minutes a day by yourself. And you must also be horribly overextended at work and have a lot of cooking and cleaning to do at home.
I mean, it's cool if you have a career and all, but you better be worried about the effect it's having on your kids, your marriage, your house and whether you're considered "nice" by your neighbors. After all, it's not really about feeling bad, it's about looking bad. And I get it, the premise of the show is supposed to subvert those stereotypes by having its main character be aware of them.
But then it undercuts its own message by having her manipulate the hell out of said kids and husband to meet those goals. Literally, the pilot has Emet trying to "Inception" her daughter into quitting a twerky dance squad, until of course, it blows up in her face. And then the second episode has her going over to her neighbors' empty house to carve out her own "me" time by hanging out and taking a bath. Which is just ... ew. And then her husband finds out. (Sad trombone.) Just saying no to this one. And I don't feel the least bit bad about it.
Femme Critic Score:
Female Writer/Producers: 3 women (including show-runner and creator), 2 men
Female Directors: Yes
Female Cast: 3 women, 2 P.O.C.
Passes the Bechdel Test? Yes, but ... perpetuates female stereotypes at the same time.