November 5, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “SMILF”


SMILF:  Sunday 10PM on Showtime – In the Queue

SMILF is TV’s latest auteur dramedy, a semiautobiographical work from star/writer/producer/director Frankie Shaw.  (She was Elliot’s ill-fated neighbor on Mr. Robot.)  As the title suggests, the show is the story of young single mom Bridgette (Shaw), who has a friendly relationship with her son’s dad Rafi (Miguel Gomez) and an unsettled one with her mother Tutu (Rosie O’Donnell), and who struggles in a one-room Boston apartment as she pursues her acting career and tutors to make ends meet.

Shaw is a likable performer, and as a writer she moves the pilot along, giving viewers a brisk guided tour of Bridgette’s life and fantasies.  There’s not much dramaturgy on display in the opening half-hour, though, and what there is is heavily waited toward pay-TV sexuality:  Bridgette spends much of the pilot obsessing over the post-childbirth size of her vagina, and a set-piece sequence has her masturbating to Facebook photos of Rafi’s hot new girlfriend Nelson (Samara Weaving).  (The fact that there’s a woman behind the camera was probably instrumental in SMILF featuring as much male nudity as female.)

There are hints of backstory to come, as Bridgette mentions almost offhandedly at the close of the pilot that she’d been molested as a child, and one assumes that Connie Britton’s brief appearance as the mother of Bridgette’s tutoring client is to establish her for later appearances, unless she just showed up for the pilot as a favor.  So SMILF may have more ambition than is evident from the pilot.  It’s hard, though, not to compare the show to Better Things, another semiautobiographical story of a single mom, written/produced/directed by and starring Pamela Adlon, and for now SMILF, which is an expansion of a Sundance prize-winning short, seems less thoughtful and complex.  It will be worth seeing whether Shaw has more to say as the series goes on.  At the very least, though, her sensibility is something of a relief after the borderline rancid sausage party worldviews of Showtime’s other recent half-hours Dice and White Famous.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."