Every September the PTC attends they Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest — where episodes of new television series are screened ahead of their broadcast TV premieres – to get a jump-start on the fall television season and to identify those shows that are likely to be problematic and also to look for shows that offer some promise of family-friendly entertainment.
At this year’s PaleyFest, the new NBC comedy I Feel Bad stood-out as particularly problematic. In our review of the series, we pointed out the hypocritical way this series presents itself as a critic of our hypersexualized culture – only to exploit it for cheap laughs.
The female protagonists Emet criticizes her male co-workers for designing female characters with “bowling ball boobs,” yet then deliberately invites them to sexually harass her by asking, “Be honest: am I still do-able?” Elsewhere, Emet is horrified when her nine-year-old daughter who has joined a danceline, performs sexually suggestive dance moves, including “twerking,” rubbing against a boy’s midsection, and allowing the boy to lift her by her legs so that she straddles him, while he thrusts his crotch into her.
In this age of #MeToo, content like this is out of place and hypocritical, especially when it involves a young girl.
In addition, the first episode featured multiple profanities, vulgar anatomical references and sexualized dialogue, while the show’s producer has promised that such content would continue and even expand.
The grossly inappropriate content in this series cannot be lightly dismissed as social commentary. Not when it is wallowing in the very behavior it purports to condemn. And not when it is rated as appropriate for children as young as fourteen.
The PTC has been reaching out to the show’s sponsors, and many of the companies that appeared on the first episodes have not returned for subsequent episodes – only 1 of the 20 advertisers we reached-out to in the last month has returned – and that company is a local media buyer, not a national sponsor. Meanwhile, many of the top-dollar, blue-chip sponsors seem to be abandoning ship and those ad availabilities appear to be going to bargain-shopper advertisers.
All of which could spell trouble for the series.
But given the problematic content, the disturbing sexualization of young girls, and the hypocritical way this program approaches workplace sexual harassment, there’s no reason to feel bad if I Feel Bad gets cancelled.