Freeform’s Single Drunk Female, created by Simone Finch, revolves around recovering alcoholic Samantha Fink (Sofia Black-D’Elia) as she navigates her ongoing sobriety, friendships, dating, and an ever-tumultuous relationship with her mother, Carol (Ally Sheedy). While comedic, the show does not shy away from discussing delicate and very real topics and instead blends the funny moments with the harsh ones, creating a truthful representation of what many people experience.
While I cannot personally speak to whether the portrayal of alcoholism is accurate, Finch can. She used her experiences as an alcoholic to inspire Sam’s character. Finch started drinking at 15 and became sober at 28. Now 36, she uses her own pain and platform to tell her story and the story of many others like her. And in Single Drunk Female, Finch uses her voice to discuss two very real problems in society: the glamorization of drinking and addiction.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Finch addresses these issues, saying, “I think that, for a while, I thought drinking was this romantic thing. And I think Sam has that too. Then, you get into it, and it’s actually a coping mechanism for all these other things. It’s not romantic at all.” In a society where drinking is engrained and portrayed in every type of media, it’s important for there to be counter-media as a way to challenge these problematic ideals.
In writing from such a dark place, Finch admits she cried on set a few times. But she says, “That’s how I knew we were doing a good job because if it hit me like that, then I know it would hit somebody else like that.”
Among all of the pain seen and experienced, Finch also creates humorous plots that portray the complexities of life. And these plots are much needed for both Sam and the viewers, as she and her loved ones experience some pretty harsh moments.
We first meet Sam in Season 1, living in New York City and working at Bzzz. Sam’s life quickly takes a turn for the worse when she gets fired and hits her boss on the head with a phone. Sentenced to community service and a 30-day rehab program, Sam moves back home to the Boston suburbs, moving in with her widowed mother. She starts attending AA meetings, where she meets James (Garric Bernard) for the second time. They first met on a previous Thanksgiving when the duo ditched their families to go drink at their favorite bar, Good Time Sally’s. Sam also copes with her ex-best friend Brit (Sasha Compère), getting ready to marry her ex-boyfriend Joel (Charlie Hall). Sam and Brit gradually repair their friendship despite this, showing the beginning of Sam’s growth as she learns to forgive.
Fast forward 10 episodes and the season leaves us with James falling off the wagon, therefore ending his and Sam’s relationship, and Brit confiding in Sam on her wedding night that she shouldn’t have married Joel.
In season 2, we jump back into Sam’s life on her 549th day sober. She now writes for Hit Pause, a Boston-based online publication, and is celebrating her 29th birthday. It’s the first one she says she’s ever felt like celebrating. Some of Sam’s birthday party guests include her ex-boyfriends Joel and James, former boss and soon-to-be boyfriend Alex (Ricky Velez), her sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), and her friends Brit and Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington).
While Sam navigates dating and friendships, season 2 largely focuses on the mother-daughter relationship. In this context, the focus is also on loved ones of alcoholics, as Carol finally comes around to going to Friends and Family of Alcoholics meetings after a huge blowout with Sam.
Ally Sheedy adds an entirely new depth to Carol, who in season 1 was greatly portrayed to be narcissistic, heartless, and a huge trigger for Sam’s sobriety. Though some of these characteristics carry into the new season, Carol ends up hitting what seems to be her rock bottom and has to work on herself in order to save her relationship with Sam.
The scenes of Sam and Carol fighting are difficult to watch, as they portray a very real relationship dynamic that many mothers and daughters experience. Black-D’Elia gives an excellent performance (per usual), as she tackles telling someone else’s very raw and in-depth story of their own alcoholism.
The other characters also serve their own purpose— James shows how alcoholism is a daily battle, Brit and Joel tackle a very short marriage and quick divorce, Felicia struggles with intimacy in a new relationship, Olivia leaves Boston to be on bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy leaving Sam to find a new sponsor, and Bob (Ian Gomez) shows tough love and honesty within relationships.
Season 2 of Single Drunk Female is even better than the first. With more depth, commentary, and new guest stars (Molly Ringwald and Busy Phillips,) the show demonstrates that Sam’s (and Finch’s) stories should be told.
All episodes are now streaming on Hulu and fuboTV.