The Showtime series SMILF has caused concerns after the mishandling of sexual and racial allegations that were made during filming. Based on the award-winning film by Frankie Shaw, the creator and star of the show, the half-hour dramedy begins its second season on January 20th amid turmoil. There have been several reports that Disney’s ABC Studios did not act appropriately when sexual allegations surrounding the filming of the series were brought to their attention.
SMILF is one of Showtime’s lesser known series, and it features a single mother in her twenties named Bridgette Bird (Frankie Shaw) who struggles to make a living while also taking care of her son, Larry. The show first aired in 2017, and although it wasn’t very well-known, it received good reviews. The critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes stated: “A questionable name and superficially familiar tropes mask SMILF‘s raw, tender core and surprisingly fresh perspective.” More importantly, it was considered a forerunner for such woman-centered series that focused on the struggles of women in modern society. According to Refinery29, “If there’s one new fall 2017 show you’re going to watch, let it be Showtime’s SMILF,” adding that “Sadly, television rarely allows women to be so layered.”
Unfortunately, there were allegations made during the filming of the second season regarding mishandling of sex scenes, with one actress, Samara Weaving, claiming breach of contract. It was reported that Shaw had ordered the monitors to be turned on during filming even though it was supposed to be a closed set. This would mean that what was filmed would have been visible to crew viewing monitors outside of the closed set. Shaw articulated her concern in a reply: “I work daily to create an environment in which everyone should feel safe, and in which I can continue to grow as a leader and manager. I am now and always have been open to hearing and addressing all concerns and issues that fall within my control. It pains me to learn that anyone felt uncomfortable on my set. I sincerely hope we can work together to resolve any and all issues, as I am committed to creating a workplace in which all people feel safe and heard.”
Another major complaint was that writers were being separated by race. To this, Shaw’s attorney Andrew Brettler responded that “There was never an intention or desire to group the writers based on gender, race or sexual orientation, nor was that ever consciously done by anyone. Smaller ‘breakout’ groups are formed solely based on ability and the strengths of the individual writers.”
ABC Studios claimed that it would investigate, but Showtime declined to make any comment concerning the allegations. Some are now questioning how Showtime could be so bold as to not investigate and leave no comment, especially one year following the Time’s Up movement. It can be questioned whether the matter was deemed of less import to Showtime considering its minimal viewership. However, Disney and ABC also seemed to handle the matter inappropriately, instead releasing Weaving from her contract with no questions asked rather than pursuing the other complaints and reports that were made. It is unclear if, when, or how ABC Studios will conduct its investigations.