It’s not easy being single.
A lifetime of television shows has existed just on that very premise. “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Will & Grace,” “Living Single,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Insecure,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” … from sitcoms to crime dramas, any show with an unmarried character is going to take on dating as a storyline somewhere in its existence. Even “Law & Order,” a show lauded for its reluctance to delve into the personal lives of its ever-changing roster of characters, dipped its toe into the dating pool more than a few times.
But add a kid into the mix – and a toddler, no less – and the picture becomes quite confusing indeed.
For Bridgette Bird, the title character of Showtime’s latest comedy, “SMILF” — an acronym not suitable for a family newspaper; suffice it to say, the “S” stands for “single” — her 2-year-old son, Larry (yep, Larry Bird; it’s Boston, so…), is an appendage not many guys anticipate. In the show’s opening scene, Bridgette is playing pickup basketball with a group of guys, and one of them shows some interest in her afterward. The sound of a crying baby interrupts his thought and, when she goes over to pick up the kid and soothe his tears, the whole package changes his demeanor when he finds out she’s not the nanny but the mom. “This isn’t what I want to get into,” his cool and hasty exit says, and Bridgette’s reaction indicates she’s seen this play many times before. “Maybe we could go for a drink later,” she says to the nothingness left by his retreating form. “OK, cool.” Cue eye roll and exasperated sigh.
Bridgette, it’s safe to say, is desperate for some male attention.
So let’s be frank here: The title is a big clue as to what consumes Bridgette’s mind. Suffice it to say that the act that created her son hasn’t recurred since his birth, and Bridgette is getting a little antsy. Well, more than a little antsy; the pilot would imply she’s a little obsessed and her pursuit of, well, satisfaction is both endearingly comical and poignantly heartbreaking. There’s never a denial of devotion to her son, but Bridgette is desperate to be seen again as a vibrant and sexual young woman.
“SMILF” is loosely based on creator and star Frankie Shaw’s life. Shaw may look familiar to fans of “Mr. Robot” — she played Elliot’s neighbor and dealer Shayla in the series’ first season. Shaw grew up in Brookline, Mass.; her mother grew up in the predominantly Irish section of South Boston. The show takes place in that area, where Bridgette is scrappily trying to make ends meet as a tutor for a wealthy family and an actress trying out for small parts here and there. Rosie O’Donnell plays her mother, Tutu, who serves as baby-sitter and comfort zone, giving Bridgette the care she doesn’t have time to give herself.
Bridgette’s goal is to give her son a better life than she had herself; she gets some unreliable help from Rafi (Miguel Gomez), her baby-daddy, who shows up for bedtime … but not always. Bridgette is not unlike Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the de facto matriarch of the Gallagher clan of “Shameless,” the eighth-season premiere that precedes Sunday’s premiere of “SMILF.” Fiona spent much of her young adulthood looking after her younger brothers and sister while her alcoholic father, Frank (William H. Macy), showed up for money and other handouts. Much like Bridgette, she’s scrappy, opportunistic, and always looking out for her own – and herself. “Shameless” starts up at 8 p.m. Sunday, followed by the premiere of “SMILF” at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
Like a … well, you know: A magazine’s purpose is to tell stories, and for 50 years, Rolling Stone has done just that. But in a new two-part documentary, “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge,” premiering with part one Monday, we’ll get the stories behind the scenes of the venerable entertainment institution. Directed by Alex Gibney and Blake Foster, and narrated by Jeff Daniels, the documentary explores the society and atmosphere of a magazine that influenced politics, music, television, movies, and popular culture for half a century. With musical performances by Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and many more, the feature also examines ground-breaking stories that came from the magazine. From Hunter S. Thompson’s coverage of the 1972 presidential election and the inside story of Patty Hearst’s abduction to the late Michael Hastings’ story that brought down Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the retracted story of sexual assaults at the University of Virginia, the words of Rolling Stone have changed lives and affected history. It’s an engrossing look at what has gone into creator Jann Wenner’s pivotal publication, including interviews with musicians and writers (Elvis, John Lennon, Matt Tiabbi and Cameron Crowe) and rare photographs and footage of familiar faces. “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge Part 1” premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on HBO.
Rich vs. poor, 1930s edition: It’s Holden, Iowa, in 1931, and the small town is feeling the crush of the Great Depression. The story within “Damnation,” starting Tuesday on USA, involves a preacher who is really a union organizer (Killian Scott) and a professional strikebreaker (Logan Marshall-Green) hired by a rich industrialist to protect his interests, mostly monetary but also power-centered. The plot may take place some 80 years ago, but echoes of the eternal struggle between the haves and the have-nots reverberate today; the few who have the money also have the power in controlling what happens in the town. “Damnation,” which also stars Christopher Heyerdahl, premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday on USA.