Being a mom is a bit like high school — and not just because some of us still feel like we did back then. There are different types of mamas out there and you’ve either run into them at the school, the playground or at a kid’s birthday party. Hell, you might even be one of them. There’s the woman who volunteers for everything, the know-it-all, who likes to educate everyone around her and the organic granola type whose daughter shares the same name as Gwyneth Paltrow’s oldest. There’s the braggy one-upper whose kid can do everything better than yours, the sporty one who runs from yoga to Pilates and the scatterbrain, who’s late for everything and is basically tragic. And then there’s the perfect mom, who has wonderfully behaved kids who get all their homework done, and whose Instagram page looks like a Gap commercial.
That last one, the one who always has her shit together? That most definitely isn’t Emet in NBC and Global’s new comedy, I Feel Bad. On the contrary, she’s the hot mess who can’t ever seem to catch up. But what’s perfect about Emet is that she’s not; she’s simply trying to figure it all out and learn as she trudges along. Just like the rest of us.
“It’s really fun to get to play a role that I relate to, and I relate to being average — or below,” laughed Emet’s portrayer, Sarayu Blue to the media at Corus’ upfront presentation. “Enough with the perfect people who have everything. Show us the people that are like us.”
Those people who have sexy dreams about someone other than their spouse, who pretend to not know their kids when they act like miscreants in public, who try to solve their problems by posting anonymously on a Facebook mom board? That IS us and that’s totally OK. Right??
“Emet’s really struggling with trying to be perfect in every area — and really coming up short, left and right,” explained Blue. “She has this idea of feeling guilty and never being enough.”
Co-star Paul Adelstein, who plays Emet’s husband, David, insists, however, that’s not the case and that she’s pretty perfect to him. “David looks at Emit like, ‘You are all these things, you’re giving yourself too hard a time.’ I think we have this internalized thing of it being perfect. But marriage and parenthood and aging parents, you don’t know how challenging it is until you’re in it. This is hard.”
I Feel Bad comes from executive producer Amy Poehler and if you’re familiar with her brand of comedy, then you’ll recognize it from a mile away.
“She shepherded it and her touch is all over it,” gushed Adelstein. “It’s a kind of delicate alchemy putting together a pilot because that’s the culture and bones of what the show’s going to be. And she is instrumental in finding the cast, finding the producers and the look and the final scripts and the comedy and the essence of it. Her DNA is all over it which is a huge boon to us because she’s clearly incredible and has the skills.”
With Poehler comes a quirkiness but at the same time, it’s a network show billed as a modern comedy; how edgy does it get? Blue refers to it as “adorable edge,” describing it as “as edgy as you can go but it’s still going to be pretty charming.” The modern tone, however, comes from its relatability: having a woman of colour in the lead role, her white husband, their biracial kids, with Emet’s South Asian parents always dropping by. And Emet and David’s interracial relationship? Adelstein pointed out that “we don’t often get to see this on television.” And by “this,” he means the average, day-to-day stuff. Now we do.
“What’s exciting for me is to be able to see that kind of interracial family, South Asian family without making it only about where South Asians are weird,” said Blue. “You actually get to see how relatable we can be as well, which is invaluable for any marginalized community. There are things that make it culturally specific but it isn’t all about that.”
Adelstein — who worked for years in Shondaland, a beautiful place where it was all about open casting and the best person for the role got the role — couldn’t agree more, and that representation of interracial couples and their children has long been missing from the TV landscape. “It’s almost mind-boggling that it’s taken this long for this to happen but the fact that they are a couple and the show isn’t about an interracial couple is pretty wonderful.”
Blue added, “I do think [the show is progressive]. I think inherently because of what’s happening in the world, in a lot of ways, there’s some political stuff that comedy’s tackling which is phenomenal to see because it can be done with such a clever touch. It’s really unique, actually. I think that comedy is really what people are looking for right now. It’s a nice reprieve from an endless news cycle and in that sense that’s really valuable.” And what makes I Feel Bad the diverse series we need in 2018, a show made all the more relatable by centring on a woman who feels bad about something all the time. Forgetting about a kids’ bake sale, ignoring that sink full of unwashed dishes, being late for work … it happens. We’re human, not robots, and if we can’t get it together, so be it. Jobs will get done; just not yet. And that’s OK. Now, we just need to get to a place where “just OK” is enough. Until then, feeling bad comes with the territory. Just ask Emet.
Are you curious about I Feel Bad? Thinking of checking it out? Add your thoughts below!
I Feel Bad premieres with back-to-back episodes Wednesday, September 19 at 10 p.m. ET on Global and NBC before moving to Thursday nights beginning October 4.
Denette has been a TV junkie for decades, since escaping the womb and watching the entire ABC soaps lineup that her mom recorded on their trusty Betamax. She freelances in the worlds of celebrity gossip, movies, love, sex and parenting — but TV is where her heart lies. Her tastes vary between The Walking Dead, The Goldbergs, The Good Wife, Scandal and Dancing With the Stars. Don’t judge her. Twitter: @DenetteWilford