TV Review: “Shrill” (Hulu)

I’ve seen every episode of Hulu’s new half-hour comedy Shrill, which reminded me in many ways of the two episodes of HBO’s Girls I once watched. As a Saturday Night Live fan, I was excited because it’s co-produced by Lorne Michaels and Aidy Bryant, who stars as Annie. But overall, the series is more quirky than funny and it spends its entire run on a character metamorphosis rather than an actual story arc.

Annie (Bryant) is a 30-year-old writer in Portland who lives with her best friend and has a man-child FWB. Within the first episode, she begins to take a stand for herself, tearing down anyone who takes issue with her weight and fighting for a chance to prove herself at work. But it will take several opportunities to boost her confidence enough to take a bigger, more meaningful stand.

Aidy Bryant brings along her signature charm from SNL, but in a role that’s more subdued than her usual sketch comedy style. She is surrounded by an appealing best friend played by Lolly Adefope and an off putting side piece played by Luka Jones. One of the show’s highlights comes from her parents, played by SNL alumni Julia Sweeney and Daniel Stern.

The journey that Shrill takes you on finds Annie transitioning from a meek pushover to a strong ball buster who loves herself, warts and all, and stops settling for anything less than what she deserves. It’s an important message and one that a lot of women are likely to identify with and feel empowered by. But it lacks a compelling story and I was tempted to stop watching before the first episode was over.

Shrill works best when Annie is having eye opening experiences. The highlight of the series for me was the episode “Pool” where Annie and her friend go to a plus-size pool party that is so well attended that Annie’s coverage of the event becomes the top read article at the website she writes for. It’s also the most fun episode in the series, without all the drama that the others contain.

The show’s biggest detriment is Ryan, Annie’s man-child friend who strings her along and convinces her to “Raw dog,” getting her pregnant in episode one. The skeezy, creepy, disgusting aspects of this character get amplified as the show goes on and you want to scream at your TV for her to just dump him already. His presence underscores her low self esteem, but he’s more drama than comedy.

By the end, Shrill left me with a lot of mixed feelings. I wanted to like it a lot more than I did and it’s easy to appreciate the themes and the underrepresented audience the show exists to serve. I hope it finds that audience, but it alienates more than it like intends to.

I give Shrill 2 out of 5 titles that reveal nothing about the show

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).