The central idea of NBC’s I Feel Bad is that women “feel bad about something almost every day.” As Emet (Sarayu Blue) narrates, “I never know what I’ll feel bad about but I know it’s always just around the corner.” It’s an immediately relatable statement brimming with comedic possibilities, and creator Aseem Batra (along with Executive Producer Amy Poehler) dive right in, hoping to find the humor within the daily insecurities that plague women. Unfortunately, the sitcom (based on a book by Orli Auslander) often fumbles the landing. The show isn’t, well, bad — there are many moments of promise within the first three episodes — but it sometimes falls short with its characters and tends to amplify the worst aspects over the better ones.
At first glance, I Feel Bad is typical sitcom fare: a married mother trying to find a balance between her work and personal life while struggling to get everything right. Her husband is fine, but needs more coddling than Emet has time to give; her children are adorable but their many demands cut into her downtime; her frequently-visiting parents are loving but frustrating, chock-full of passive-aggression. Throughout, Emet flails, schemes, succeeds, fails — all, of course, in comic fashion. On the surface, I Feel Bad is forgettable but it’s clear there’s something special underneath its standard offerings.
Much of the greatness of the show is propelled by Blue’s charming performance: she’s skilled at finding the proper rhythms (even when the show struggles), commits to the physical comedy, and can deliver her voiceover with the right mix of levity and pathos. The show also has a notable willingness to engage with the material — a sitcom mother who knows she’ll never be perfect, and who also has many lives outside of her children — with wit and honesty. The focus on a mixed-race family (Emet is Indian-American while her husband David (Paul Adelstein) is white) is refreshing, as are many of the subplots involving her parents. In fact, her mother (Madhur Jaffrey) and father (Brian George) get many of the best and most straight-forward funny lines — George’s delivery in particular is a standout.