The millennial franchise led by women is dead. Long live the millennials.
It wasn’t exactly surprising when Freeform’s beloved critically acclaimed “Single Drunk Female” was canceled this month after just two seasons and immediately pulled from Hulu. Sure, Freeform touted the sitcom as the highest-rated original comedy during its New York City season 2 premiere before the series returned with all-new episodes on Hulu in April. But its cancellation is just one of many reminders that networks don’t invest long-term in women’s shows centered around “messy” millennial women.
While we pour one for ‘Single Drunk Female’, it’s best to go back to the roots of the series with Lena Dunham and executive producer Jenni Konner’s explosively disruptive HBO series ‘Girls’, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022. After that huge success , why has TV abandoned the generation of people who grew up watching “Girls”?
There are plenty of frothy caramel colored shows targeting Gen Zers masquerading as millennials. Netflix’s cerebral hit “Emily in Paris” follows a marketing executive (Lily Collins) whose biggest existential crises are deciding between polka dots or stripes, two sexy men, and plotting how to ship Trader Joe’s products internationally. It’s not quite like having an abortion (“Girls”), overcoming addiction (“Single Drunk Female”) or questioning mortality through self-sabotaging tendencies.
“Single Drunk Female” centers on Sam (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a struggling journalist forced to move in with her mother (Ally Sheedy) while she attends AA. Sam is constantly in limbo between slipping – not into her alcoholism but in the controlled impulse to flit between three men, all of whom are unfulfilled in different ways, just to have some semblance of emotional support. Sam’s mother is a well-meaning narcissist and season two rooted in Sam about her coming to terms with losing her father years before her. It’s not something Emily is doing in France… but that means public Not Want to see those recognizable fights on screen?
The success of Freeform’s series ‘The Bold Type’, which brought Meghann Fahy to the small screen long before the success of ‘White Lotus’ season 2, proved that there was still a market for messy women. “The Bold Type” had a central trio of rising twenty-something female reporters (like Sam of “Single Drunk Female,” as well as the more reachable locales of 2000s rom-coms) who balanced dating with their careers. The series, which starred Fahy, Katie Stevens and Aisha Dee, ran from 2017 to 2021. Everything from double mastectomies to egg freezing to fighting systemic racism has been featured in the series, with varying degrees of success. Yet those conversations were still happening on screen, opening a wider dialogue between the audience and the culture itself on the difficulties of post-adolescent femininity in the 21st century.
“The Bold Type” was ultimately canceled due to declining ratings over its five-season run; however, the plug on “Single Drunk Female” was pulled while still consistently atop audiences. It’s addiction mashed potato messy and not sexy enough for a sitcom?
The one-season wonder “Girlboss,” about the birth of the Nasty Gal clothing brand and troubled real-life founder Sophia Amoruso, was shot down almost as fast. The series starred Britt Robertson as a fictionalized version of the San Francisco-based tailor. Ellie Reed, RuPaul, Johnny Simmons and Dean Norris rounded out the cast behind the 2017 Kay Cannon-created series of ‘New Girl’. What should have been a hit – and was still loved by its core target audience – was axed by Netflix after just 13 episodes.
Freeform’s “Younger,” another Darren Star vehicle, though smarter than “Emily in Paris,” tapped into the frothiness of ambitious binge watches but didn’t go deep enough into the grittier elements of being a woman she should have All. Sutton Foster played Liza, a recently divorced who lies about her age to get back into the job market; Hilary Duff and Molly Bernard are her new (and presumably contemporary) colleagues. While “Younger” relied primarily on the love triangle between sexy young Williamsburg tattoo artist Josh (Nico Tortorella) and Liza’s boss Charles (Peter Hermann), the emphasis on female friendships was still the show’s root, with Miriam Shor and Debi Mazar who completed out of the cast.
And alongside the universe of elevated lifestyles created by Darren Star comes the recent Netflix series ‘Glamorous’, rekindling the same magic as ‘The Bold Type’ courtesy of ‘Sex and the City’ icon Kim Cattrall and by famous “Sex and the City” costume designer Patricia Campo. Created by Jordon Nardino, “Glamorous” seems the most promising answer to the void left by “The Bold Type”, even if not as deep as “Single Drunk Female”. We can only hope that the series receives a second season with an all-star cast, queer storylines, and a female lead. There is a fun mess, and then there is disorder. “Glamorous” lives up to its name in the upbeat tone rooted more in self-esteem and canny commentary on sexual and gender politics in America today than the frills of “Emily in Paris,” despite not having the same viral audience .
As for the millennial mess of ‘Girls’, Dori (Alia Shawkat) in ‘Search Party’, Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) in ‘Broad City’, Issa Rae in ‘Insecure’, plus Fleabag (Phoebe Waller) -Bridge) in the series of the same name, are more like Hannah than Lena Dunham. But none of those series really lean into the wide-ranging tones that “Single Drunk Female” is most closely aligned with. Perhaps if Freeform hadn’t burned down so quickly with “Single Drunk Female,” the show could have delved deeper into the pressurized mess of being a twenty-year-old woman and become a time series.
There’s a reason the nostalgic “Girls” fandom still endures more than a decade later: It’s because no series has been given a chance to replace it.