I feel bad that I don’t like NBC’s new show, I Feel Bad. So here’s the premise — mom of three kids who works in a video game company running project teams has Mom guilt about lots of things. Each episode therefore will be her starting off “I feel bad about…” something as she goes through the day.
The show stars Sarayu Blue as Emet, the daughter of a stereotypical Indian family — the mother is overbearing, the father is mentally absent, but they’re available for childcare, so they’re relatively close. Her husband is aware enough to spot a question as a trap but not aware enough to be really part of what’s going on in the pilot. She has four male coworkers at the office and one good female friend, and she consults them all about her problems of the day. Which likely is going to continue to revolve around her kids. In the opening, it is about her daughter being quite young but wanting to be on a highly sexualized dance team. Emet is afraid she’s turning into her mother, so she wants to be the cool hip supportive mom even though she hates the dance style.
So why do I feel bad? Emet’s mom is so bad as to border on farcical, almost Corner Gas style and I hate Corner Gas. She’s so passive aggressive it feels like they’re parodying mother-in-laws when in fact she’s the mother/grandmother. I don’t know her previous work, but her husband Brian George is a perennial Indian character actor, often in comedies, and most recognizable lately as Raj’s gynecologist dad on The Big Bang Theory (hard to believe he’s only been in 15 episodes in the last 11 years, he seems more regular than that) although older fans will recognize him as Babu from Seinfeld. Not for nothing, the guy has 283 credits since 1976. He keeps busy. But he has never been more than a bit player to me and he has almost no role in the first episode.
Husband David is played by Paul Adelstein, who has been in multiple shows in recent years, but nothing I saw him in, and as I said, he’s not very well-developed in Episode 1. Throw in the four coworkers, kids, and the female best friend, and you don’t get much of an impression (although the coworkers do cover a bit of ground — almost like if you put them all together, you would have a functional person to talk to at work).
Which therefore leaves the show, as always, squarely on the main character’s head, and the reason I feel bad is I just don’t care what happens to her. I didn’t like her when she was Lalita Gupta, Raj’s would be girlfriend on The Big Bang Theory, but that’s probably not relevant at this point. You see her right from the start in the middle of chaos, so there’s no time to bond with her, she’s just in it. She narrates the episode, which is another problem we’ll come to in a second, so you think it would feel almost intimate. You know her, you’re in her head, instant bond. Not so much. The narration might be the problem…rather than showing us her reactions to various things, the episode just tells us what she’s thinking. And while it is slightly deep, her actual behaviour with coworkers is ludicrously shallow and naive. I have no reason to root for her in any of this, nor care to watch her.
Which brings me to the plot device of the narration. There is no real plot to the episode, and instead it is her saying “here’s something” and then “here’s something else”. More like a disjointed set of skits rather than an actual script joined together in any way other than sequence of scenes. Add to it that her solution to her problem is to be a horrible, manipulative person to fake her daughter out, and I REALLY don’t care about the show with no structure or likable characters.
I read a review by someone who said they’re Indian and could totally relate to the mother and the main character. Good news, as a friend likes to say, there are over a billion Indian people and someone is related to all of them, so maybe the show will find a home. Not with me, cuz I’m out. I didn’t laugh once in the entire episode.
When I did my initial prediction sight unseen, I said, “Oh, look a story about a mom with lame plot ideas each week = CANCELLED”. I didn’t re-read that before I watched the episode, trying to keep it unbiased as I start, but I would stick with the same review afterwards, as well as the prediction. CANCELLED.