When it was originally on: 2019-present
Original network: Hulu
Where you can stream it now: Hulu
Had I seen it before: No.
What I liked: Pretty much nothing. I mean, I guess its hard is in the right place but I feel like the botched the execution so bad it doesn’t even deserve that much. Oh, also she dumps her stupid fuck buddy so that was nice.
What I didn’t like: Within the first five minutes I couldn’t help but think “okay, so we’re just doing Girls again?” Our protagonist is a writer who feels she’s not getting a fair chance. There’s a not-terribly-likable dude she has casual sex with, even though *GASP* this protagonist doesn’t fit into conventional norms of what “sexy women” look like. There’s a somewhat bossy best friend, but her heart seems to be in the right place. We also have an abortion plotline. Okay, technically I don’t think Girls got to their abortion plot until episode 2, but you can understand my confusion.
The fact that the show quickly spiraled into a Great Value version of a show I already didn’t like too much soured me to it. But even as I watched on, it only got worse. The biggest problem I had with the Shrill pilot is that it tries to distill what should have been a full season’s worth of growth into 30 minutes.
At the beginning of the episode, Annie feels so bad about herself that she’s essentially an on-call fuck buddy for a total douchebag. She clearly wants a real relationship, but he doesn’t. Despite the fact that they’ve been fuckbuddies for six months now, he still makes her sneak out the back door so his friends don’t have to know they’re together. Seriously, the guy is a total asshole. She doesn’t even make him use a condom for fear of him dumping her, that’s how low this girl’s self esteem is. After getting pregnant, she even considers having his baby simply because she’s scared no other guy would want to have a baby with her.
Then she has an abortion, and suddenly she’s a new person. She wears that cute dress she didn’t think she could pull off. She dumps her shitty would-be baby daddy, after boldly proclaiming to his friends that she’s been having sex with him. She storms up to her editor and demands an opportunity to write about the ineffectiveness of the morning after pill. She tells off the stupid fitness trainer lady that wants to help her lose weight.
I really don’t think people struggling with a severe lack of self esteem and serious body image issues can just magically decide to stop having those issues. It’s actually kind of offensive to suggest they can. The pilot should’ve given us a glimpse of Annie’s growth without rushing it. Instead, we get a story that feels sloppy and hard to believe. I’m left wondering where we can go from here. I mean, if Annie can just decide that all her inner demons and external obstacles aren’t going to affect her anymore, what the fuck is the point of this show? Why should I bother watching more of it if all the struggles and character growth that make television interesting are just going to disappear in the blink of an eye?
What if Annie had actually signed up to train with the stupid fitness lady. What if we had to watch her endure all the passive-aggressive comments for a couple episodes, all the while feeling the tension build? Then maybe in Episode 4 Annie snaps, and lashes out at the trainer. She quits and goes on an articulate rant about how she doesn’t have to lose weight to be valuable.
A good pilot inspires us to imagine such moments yet to come. The Shrill pilot leaves me uninspired because it tries to give us all those moments in 30 minutes, and it feels inauthentic and unearned. We don’t get the same fulfillment out of watching Annie declare that she doesn’t need to lose weight in order to be valuable.
Then there’s the fact that her best friend essentially exists to be a manic pixie black person. She doesn’t get any characterization of her own, besides us learning that she does hair and is fucking two people. But ya know, we need someone to give Annie pep talks and teach her how to love herself. It also begs the question, if Annie has had this positive go-forth-and-believe-in-yourself presence in her life for what appears to be a long time, why has she just never bothered to listen to it until now? It’s just hard for me to get a sense for what kind of a friendship these two had before now, and I don’t like that.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Honestly, not really. This is the first pilot I’ve done that actually made me angry, and left me feeling worse than before I watched it. I don’t need more of that negativity in my life. Sure, there’s a chance that the season-long arc redeems the shittiness of the pilot. A lot of people like this and there’s presumably a reason why. But for this project we don’t review shows, we review pilots, and the pilot doesn’t give me a lot of hope.
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