I am all in for television’s new found love of half hours. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to commit myself to one hours. Maybe it’s a byproduct of working on a half hour that I’m finding one hours are boring me to tears of late. Or maybe it’s because Netflix has possibly ruined one hours for everyone by fostering this culture of ’13 hour movies’ – ie. one long A-story with not enough in it to sustain even one of the hours. See Marvel’s Netflix shows for prime examples of this.
Or maybe our culture is just getting so damn good at storytelling that we are now able to tell funny, deep, complex, full, rich, amazing, touching, heartfelt stories in the space of half an hour when we couldn’t before.
Whatever it is. I’m loving them. Mozart in the Jungle. Transparent. Atypical. Search Party. Lovesick. All those and more. One of the newest is SMILF. You can check out the pilot script here.
Now, I’ve only watched the first episode so far, but from a first taste, this is another which looks like an absolute winner. What I love particularly about these half hours is their looser way of telling stories, which often work better because they’re unencumbered by longer run times. I love how Mozart and Transparent leave you thinking, piecing together its different parts to find their overlap. I love how Search Party plays around with comparative meaning without feeling the need to shove the thematic connections down your throat. And things like Atypical and Lovesick, they’re full of heart, even in their shorter runtime. SMILF is the same. Light, fun, but full of heart.
There’s some things that really grabbed me about this first episode of SMILF. The first of which is the fresh, original takes on stories which have been commonly tread before. Undoubtedly, this comes from the fact creator and lead actress Frankie Shaw has lived this show. She’s picked up on the small, incongruous moments in her life and has mined them for all their worth here.
My most fav? This for sure.
The relationship between protagonist Bridget and Archie, the father of their son, is wonderfully constructed. Their romantic relationship has broken down, but the familiar bond between them is still alive. Things don’t just disappear, get buried, when people break up. Separated couples often linger in non-physical intimacy. This dynamic is probably even more likely when a child is shared between them. The dialogue between them flies back and forth. It’s smart, clever. Clearly written, but not overdone. Like the below.
Possibly more interesting is how this interpersonal dynamic, which underpins the whole pilot script, doesn’t quite make it to screen in the same way. In the aired episode, the Archie character, which has been renamed Rafi, is reduced and given more equal weighting with Bridget’s mother Tutu (played by Rosie O’Donnell) and and Ally (played by Connie Britton). Surelyyy this is a result of script tweaks after the two heavyweights were cast and Frankie Shaw realised what a good thing she was on. And so Archie/Rafi’s role in the main story of the first episode, that of Bridget’s struggle with her identify as a single mother, which plays out in an obsession with finding out whether her vagina has gotten looser after having given birth, is pretty much eliminated. Unfortunately, it means we miss out on the below, where she asks her ex to have sex with her in order to get an independent judge of comparison.
This is a fun show, and also has really nice examples of the comedic undercut. You know it, scenes played for heart and emotion, which at the last moment are interrupted by a comedic beat when least expected.
There’s a brilliant example of it here. Bridget goes in to audition for a role in a PSA and , surprisingly enough, knocks her portrayal of an affected returned soldier out of the park. She’s complimented on the authenticity of her portrayal by the casting agents, and delivers this reply:
Love it. And look at that, rape jokes can work. It just needs to be made by a tone deaf male. And then there’s this, at the very end of the episode. After thirty minutes of caring about herself, Bridget course-corrects and cleans her apartment. The scene itself is incredibly beautiful on screen, as the light of the rising sun pokes through the window.
Can’t wait to dig into the rest of SMILF. Looking forward to some more fresh fun, and the occasionally well timed undercut. May the half hour continue to reign.