In a scene that appears early on in Freeform’s new series Single Drunk Female, the show’s protagonist, Sam, a newly-realized alcoholic in her late-twenties, joins her best friend on stage and sings karaoke at the beloved Boston-area dive bar of their youth.
“Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other siiiiiide,” they belt in less-than-pitch-perfect unison, at once a reminder not only that the Miley Cyrus anthem is conservatively one of the top 20 best karaoke songs of all time, but of the abiding bond these characters share amidst Sam’s struggles with sobriety. “It’s the climb,” they tenderly sing to each other. And despite resolving herself to the knowledge that recovery will be exactly that, Sam is only just beginning to atone for the damage her drinking has done to herself and the people she cares for the most.
It’s these moments—sincere without being saccharine—that make Single Drunk Female my new favorite series that seemingly few other people are watching.
According to Freeform, when the show premiered in January, its first episode was the most-watched Freeform comedy series premiere on Hulu and boasted over 2.4 million multiplatform viewers. That’s not to mention it also currently holds the highly-coveted — and increasingly rare — score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, by its finale, viewership had significantly waned, with numbers suggesting swaths of people who started the series dropped off with every new episode. Considering the story only got better as Sam got sober, it’s just plain puzzling that a lessening few actually stuck around to see it.
When we meet our deeply relatable anti-hero, portrayed by the ultra-charismatic Sofia Black D’Elia, she’s just assaulted her boss at a BuzzFeed-esque media company that hawks listicles almost certainly beneath Sam’s skill-level (truly genius satire)—an incident that results first in a court-ordered rehab and, later, Sam moving back into her childhood home with her neurotic mother in a suburb of Boston.
Sam’s earnest, albeit messy, attempts at rebuilding her life from the ruins that alcohol has wrought are the stuff that makes the series shine. From getting a minimum wage job at a local grocery store to attending daily AA meetings, she works to make amends for the person she was when day-drinking at work. The journey is anything but easy, and some, including her mother and former best friend, Brit, are skeptical. But with the help of a supporting cast of lovable, laught-out-loud funny characters, Sam is able to redeem herself, making peace with her past and truly imagining a life sans social lubricant. She’s clearly worth second and third chances, not that audiences needed much convincing.
In a recent review, an Autostraddle critic theorized about what makes the show so worth watching, concluding that it never reduces itself simply to “a show about an alcoholic.” It’s about forgiveness and grace, repairing relationships with friends and family who never quite gave up on you, and the ability to laugh at hilarious moments that arise even through our darkest times.
A second season of Single Drunk Female, sadly, hangs in the balance, but it deserves to be renewed. The series could’ve been just a 10-episode trauma dump in which a one-dimensional protagonist is brought to the bottom of the bottle by addiction, grief and heartbreak and simply stays there, or conquers her addiction in a cliché kind of way wrapped up with neatly-tied bows. Instead, it’s a refreshing love letter to anyone getting honest with themselves amidst the hangover of their life, hoping it’ll get easier and managing to have a little fun in the process.