Providing a raw and insightful look into the life of Bridgette Bird, a single mom and struggling actress, SMILF takes bold steps in giving audiences an earnest narrative that’s more than just raunchy, sex-based comedy. Based on her award-winning short film of the same title, Frankie Shaw all at once writes, directs, and plays Bridgette — a feat not many can shoulder, but definitely attests to the heart and soul Shaw devotes to this show.
The first episode drops us right in the middle of the South Boston-set world Bridgette weaves through, toddler in tow. We witness almost immediately one of the most pressing problems that our single mother has to deal with: dating. While we’ve all had our own problems in that department, you can only imagine how much more difficult that all becomes when you have a toddler calling out for you. Thanks to this show though, you don’t have to imagine all that much. The exchange is painfully uncomfortable and brutal, but the attitude by which Bridgette brushes it off with sets the tone for the entire show: being a single mom tougher than most of us might think, but Bridgette is soldiering on.
While she might be a single mom, Bridgette is by no means raising her 18-month-old son, Larry, alone. It takes a village to raise a child, after all, and the village in her world comprises of her ex and father of Larry, Rafi (Miguel Gomez) and her mother, Tutu (Rosie O’Donnell).
The presence of Rafi in Bridgette and Larry’s life battles the clichéd bitter-ex, lousy-father storyline and instead treats viewers to a modern, semi-functional family set-up. It’s not perfect, but it works for them – maybe a little less however, when his new girlfriend (played by Samara Weaving) enters the scene. It’s a whole new minefield for Bridgette to maneuver, but she does so anyway, in her own (very) personal way.
Bridgette’s mom, Tutu, underscores the theme of motherhood in this show. Being the other main caretaker of Larry, Tutu proves to be a force in Bridgette’s life that fluctuates between tough-love and non-stop-critic – a relationship that maybe too many of us can identify with when it comes to our own mothers. O’Donnell plays the character perfectly; creating an incendiary tension that inhabits the mother-daughter relationship. As a viewer, there is so much more of about this story that you just want to unearth.
The first episode alone also treats us to the sprawling facets (or obstacles, arguably) that appear in Bridgette’s life: Her part-time job as a nanny – where we see her exposed to life and motherhood in greener pastures, her ex-boyfriend – which becomes an awkward opportunity for sex, and of course, her struggles as an actress – which punctuates the episode with a surprising display of talent and an even more surprising reveal.
The complexities and battles of motherhood is a world of it’s own – but layering that with the struggles of dating, creating a career, managing potentially-problematic family relationships, and keeping it all afloat makes for a deeply remarkable and authentic narrative that has the potential to explore moments that we’ve never seen before. SMILF fervently and bravely takes viewers into this journey, and based on its first episode, we’re glad to be taken on a ride where we’re shown that more than just sex, this show is about heart.
All episodes of SMILF can now be streamed exclusively on FOX+.