A middle class young woman pithily negotiating life's ups-and-downs is TV's new favourite genre. But while it would be easy to dismiss Single Drunk Female (Disney +, Wednesday) as another riff on the Fleabag/ This Way Up formula it's actually something more interesting.
Starring Sofia Black-D’Elia as a deadpan Gen Z-er forced to move home when alcoholism rips apart her life, it has a zinging irreverent energy that goes down like a tall glass of fizzy water.
It is also one of those rare explorations of addiction to sidestep misery-porn. You can laugh along without feeling like the worst person ever.
Booze has cost Samantha everything: her career, her fiancé and the final vestiges of whatever respect she received from her emotionally-withholding mother. There’s darkness here obviously and a more cumbersome series would have wallowed in it. However, Single Drunk Female, shepherded to screen by the producers of Girls and Netflix’s Russian Doll, zigs instead of zags – starting with a hilarious opening scene in which Samantha attacks her boss after she turns turns up for her job at a Buzzfeed-type content mill chugging on vodka. This shouldn’t be funny. And yet Black-D’Elia sells it effortlessly.
One assault charge later Samantha is back home in Boston, living with her hippy mom (brat pack icon Ally Sheedy, playing the middle-age negative image of her goth teen from the Breakfast Club). She is also trying avoid her ex and his new bride-to-be (also Samantha's former best friend).
That Black-D'Elia is able to uncork her comedic powers without trivialising the themes of dependence and redemption is hugely impressive
Single Drunk Female is honest about the long journey Samantha faces as she tries to heal herself. There are Alcoholic Anonymous meetings – where she reconnects with a casual hook-up from her drunken days – and a career reset which sees her swapping Manhattan media for a job in the deli counter at her local supermarket.
These details feels acutely observed. So it comes as no surprise to learn that show-runner Simone Finch has been rifling through her own life for inspiration. She was still drinking heavily when she started on the script 10 years ago (while working as an assistant on cable drama Madam Secretary).
And so Single Drunk Female isn’t just about redemption – it is, in itself, a mechanism by which an addict put themselves back together.
Samantha is clearly a mess but Black-D’Elia sells a quippy script that at moments locates the series in a parallel universe adjacent to the Marvel films. In those movies, heroes crack wise when faced with unspeakable evil.
In Single Drunk Female, Samantha’s world falls apart over and over and yet she always has the perfect one-liner to hand. That Black-D’Elia is able to uncork her comedic powers without trivialising the themes of dependence and redemption is hugely impressive.
And it makes Single Drunk Female one of the year’s most quietly radical new shows.