Attention, all 20-something Jews who feel like frauds in that weird space between being a teenager and a full-fledged citizen of the world: I think I’ve found a show that sees us in all our messy and confusing glory.
When I first saw a commercial for Freeform’s “Single Drunk Female,” my ears perked up at the sound of the lead’s best friend calling her a “Jewish Jaguar” as she posed for Insta-worthy pictures. The idea of a young, recovering alcoholic learning how to put the pieces of her life back together after hitting rock bottom intrigued me. I couldn’t help but feel both hesitant and hopeful: Would this finally be a show that acknowledges the main character’s Jewish aspects as more than just a trope?
One focus of “Single Drunk Female” is the mother-daughter relationship between the Finks. For Samantha “Sam” Fink, played by Sofia Black-D’Elia, rock bottom begins with a debacle at work which leads to her firing. She then muddles her way through rehab and moves back into her childhood home, where her probation officer attempts to hold her accountable for her actions. Her mother Carol, portrayed by Ally Sheedy, is a former “smother” (in Sam’s opinion) who isn’t too happy to see her daughter back under her roof — and struggles to grasp the severity of her daughter’s problems.
Both actresses are Jewish; Black-D’Elia specifically identified both herself and Sheedy as “culturally Jewish.” From the start, the show embraces Sam’s Jewish roots in what I thought was a casual, yet authentic manner. The dialogue contains Jewish references in almost every episode; my favorite quotes include “You’re the Russian-Jewish tank!” and “it’s like being the only Jewish kid in town on Christmas,” and they’re just a taste of the many relatable lines. A menorah is visible in the Finks’ living room while a mezuzah greets visitors at the front door. Jewish influences can be seen in episode arcs as well, such as when Carol’s book club discusses generational trauma.
Diversity is woven into the show’s framework beyond Jewish representation. Rounding out the cast is Sam’s best friend and TikTok stage-mom Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington), former one-night stand turned sober buddy James (Garrick Bernard), Sam’s former best friend and now ex’s bride-to-be Britt (Sasha Compère), her sponsor Olivia (Rebecca Henderson), and fellow Olivia sponsee/fashionable new manager Mindy (Jojo Brown).
The show introduces big topics in a casual way that made it even cooler in my eyes. Nothing ever feels forced. Instead, it’s often in low-key exchanges and conversations that we learn more about each person, gaining insight into what makes them who they are. When turning to Olivia in a moment of potential crisis, Sam learns more about her sponsor’s life and love life — including that she and her wife are trying to have a baby. Felicia reaches her limit and tires of her role in Sam’s life as her stereotypical “fat funny friend” and drinking buddy. Sam explores her bisexuality while attempting to land her first sober hook-up; James and Mindy bond over the struggle of staying sober through St. Patrick’s Day, with the latter mentioning how she previously learned to “gamify” a difficult process when she was transitioning.
As Sam slowly begins to understand her alcoholism and learns how to be a functioning-ish human, she hits a roadblock in the form of her mother. Carol should be part of Sam’s support system, but won’t even allow Sam to call alcoholism a “disease” under her roof. Their issues tie into their unresolved grief: The Fink family lost Sam’s father to leukemia years back. Carol lacks understanding of her daughter’s very real illness, often undermining Sam’s recovery because, to her, nothing can compare to the battle against cancer her husband faced. Meanwhile, Sam pushes away those who were there for her father when she couldn’t be — including her mom.
There may be hope for the duo nevertheless —foreshadowing points to a plotline focused on the spreading of Mr. Fink’s ashes. I’m looking forward to seeing them confront grief head-on. Hopefully, we’ll get to see on screen how their faith affects their healing journeys as they deal with the pain of losing a loved one. That’s the thing about grief and religion: You can either lean into it or away from it. I’ve found myself simultaneously doing both in the face of grief; Carol and Sam will have to forge individual paths as they each try to find a way to live with this trauma.
“Single Drunk Female” wonderfully captures what trying to grow up today feels like. We’re legally and technically considered adults, but, like Sam, most of us haven’t quite found our footing yet — and we have plenty of inner demons to fight. I once believed that if you went to college, those years were the transitional time to leave adolescence behind and cross the threshold of responsible adulthood. But I no longer think that’s quite true. The next phase is when we’re truly thrown into the deep end of adulthood and must balance our personal lives, careers, and, of course, bills. None of it is easy, and it’s not meant to be.
While many shows glamorize this, “Single Drunk Female” leans into the realism, giving us a range of characters simply trying to hold everything together — with Jewish women at the center. Now all I’m waiting for is the obligatory reference to Sam’s bat mitzvah.