'Shrill' Comedy On Hulu Forgot To Be Funny

The TV Blog has never claimed to be an encyclopedia of television, but the first episode of the new Hulu comedy “Shrill” contained an abortion scene that might represent a “first” in the annals of TV comedy.

Not that the subject has not been brought up before. That is old hat by now. But in the first installment of this new streaming comedy, produced by Lorne Michaels and starring Aidy Bryant from “Saturday Night Live,” Bryant’s character actually underwent an abortion.

Such is the state of TV comedy -- and possibly comedy in general today -- that the very definition of comedy, or of what audiences are expected to accept as comedic, is an elastic concept, to say the least.

The TV Blog has been on top of this subject for a while now, in the context of a number of comedy series (a phrase in which the word “comedy” should perhaps be positioned within quotation marks) that have appeared in recent years, most notably on FX.



That network's examples of comedies that are not particularly funny -- at least not in the traditional and obvious way that comedy is expected to produce a sensation leading to audible laughter -- include “Better Things,” “Atlanta” and “Baskets.”

These half-hour scripted TV shows are often positioned as comedies. At best, you could say they keep the comedy pretty well-hidden. At worst, you could say they do not qualify as comedies at all. They are set pieces showing the sad lives of their protagonists.

The scripts are often literate and the acting is equal to the material. But comedy? No. Despite this, these kinds of shows are almost universally critically acclaimed.

This no doubt emboldens others to develop comedies for television or streaming that are equally devoid of laughs, which the last time I checked, was the object of comedy.

This is all a long-winded way of getting into this discussion about this new Hulu comedy called “Shrill,” which started streaming on Hulu on Friday (March 15). Not only was the premiere episode completely barren of any situation anyone would actually laugh at, but the experience of watching it was among the most unpleasant such experiences in recent memory (yes, even including last week's assignment to watch the dreary new Netflix comedy “Turn Up Charlie”).

“Shrill” is a new comedy in the non-comedic mode. Bryant plays a plus-sized young woman living in Portland, Oregon, who feels persecuted because of her body type. The show is based on a collection of essays assembled in a book called Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West.

In the TV show, Bryant plays a fictionalized version of the author. She is single, supposedly in her 20s, has a boyfriend who uses her for sex, and she works as an aspiring journalist for an alternative newspaper in Portland.

In the first episode, she became pregnant, which is where the abortion scene came in. Needless to say, the scene was not funny. How could it be?

In “Shrill,” vulgarity has taken the place of comedy. As the first episode wore on, it became clear that provoking laughter was not the goal here. So if that is the case, what are we left with? Basically, a character study of this young woman as she copes with her travails. And there is no fun in that.

“Shrill” premiered Friday (March 15) on Hulu.

6 comments about "'Shrill' Comedy On Hulu Forgot To Be Funny".
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  1. Ken Kurtz from creative license, March 18, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    I don't know, Adam. Aren't you being too hard on Shrill? Surely the abortion scene had some hilarity attached to it, no? What's funnier than ending the life of a baby?

    I recently had a discussion about abortion with a long time friend that holds the opinion that ending the lives of babies is a "right" that should be protected, supported, and enhanced by taxpayer dollars across the board. We engaged in a bit of tete-a-tete, which devolved fairly quickly (as discussions around such potentially volatile subject matter are wont to do). I quickly deflected with, "Really, Ron... I cannot speak with any certainty about the absolute science of any of it. There is only one thing I know, and know absolutely. If your mom had exercised her "right" to abort you, or my mom had exercised her right to "abort" me... we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. Nor would our beautiful children be alive..."

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, March 18, 2019 at 12:16 p.m.

    So what ? Nothing known, nothing missed. Pregnancy and child birth prevention has been around since time immemorial. From animal intestines to leaving a born child out in the wild, poisons, women murdered were other methods. By the way, those methods are still being used including dress hangers. After a man reaches a certain age, let's just snip it off. 

  3. Ken Kurtz from creative license, March 18, 2019 at 1:49 p.m.

    Paula's middle name is Shrill. Her Elizabeth Warren "Indian" name is No Moral Compass.

  4. Ilyssa Somer from James G. Elliott, March 18, 2019 at 3:17 p.m.

    I didn't get that at all from SHRILL -- I heard a voice -- that is often overlooked because they're not hot milennials -- abortion is unfortunately an option for women in situations NOT supported by a man and the bottom line -- is your best friends get you through it. It is a right and a rite of passage -- sometimes humor is about familiarity and compassion -- and I think SHRILL is a great "underdog's" story -- and I for one love how confident and flawed these characters all -- aren't we all? Best line --told from a stripper -- You have the big ass and tits so you get to tell them WHAT YOU WANT!

  5. Debbie Coffee from WHTM-TV, March 18, 2019 at 3:33 p.m.

    This character does not "feel" persecuted- she IS persecuted!

  6. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, March 18, 2019 at 4:07 p.m.

    I have yet to watch "Shrill" (though I plan to check it out), so I can't comment on it. What I can and do say is that the idea of categorizing content by running length is absurd and always has been. There are two types of content: scripted and unscripted. That's it. The funniest scripted work I ever saw was "Some Like It Hot." It ran almost two hours. I rest my case. Like something or don't like something, but geez, don't categorize by length. That is just dumb (even when TV networks and streaming services do it).

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