How Andrea Savage is Changing the Female Narrative on Television
The scene opens with Andrea and Mike Warren eating al fresco with their five-year-old, Amelia.
“Mommy, I forget. Does a baby come out of your tushy or your vagina?” Amelia asks, comfortable enough to pull this question out of thin air to find the answer she needs.
“Your vagina. Why?” Andrea replies nonchalantly, crunching on potato chips.
“Well, my vagina hole is so small. How could a baby even come out of there?” Amelia questions.
“Well, that is a very good question. Your body is magical. When there is a baby in there, all grown and ready to come out, your body knows to make your vagina hole really, really big, and the baby can just shoot out. Isn’t that cool?”
“So, you have a huge vagina?” Amelia asks, loudly and mildly confused.
“No. It, uh, snaps back into place,” Andrea replies, caught off-guard but staying true to the integrity of her conversation, now aware that fellow diners are listening.
After a beat and some awkward eye contact with the older gentleman a table over, she adds, “Well, it snapped back for me,” with a wink. “No complaints from this guy over here,” she says, motioning to her husband.
And that is how Andrea Savage, and her semi-autobiographical show I’m Sorry on truTV, is changing the face of mothers, and female leads, on television.
Season 1 of I’m Sorry debuted on truTV during the summer of 2017, and picked up a large following when it launched on Netflix in December 2018. On paper, this may seem like something we’ve seen so many times before: a 24-minute sitcom focusing on a comedian let loose in the real world. But I’m Sorry differs from similar predecessors like Seinfeld and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” by offering a fresh perspective from a female lead. The show drops the traditional sloven husband/supportive wife formula of sitcoms passed and instead delivers a married couple full of mutual admiration, grounded in real-life. (In fact, Savage and TV husband Tom Everett Scott are so convincing as a married couple, they had to clear the air during a Q&A session of the show’s season 2 premiere in January 2019. “Spoiler alert, Tom and I are not actually married. We’re both happily married to other people, I’m sorry,” Savage told the audience.)
On the surface, I’m Sorry follows a standard comedy formula. It’s a single-camera, non-serialized, episodic series that follows the lives of an LA-based family. But where other comedies rarely show the matriarch’s orbit outside of her household (see: Deborah Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond; Beverly Goldberg in The Goldbergs; and, during the show’s first few seasons, Claire Dunphy in Modern Family), Andrea’s character has a personality that transcends motherhood.
"Why does every ‘mom’ role have to be married and sexless and boring, or a terrible mother? I'm a mom, but I also do a lot of other things, and I'm layered and nuanced. I have funny stories that have to do with parenting but also have nothing to do with parenting. I wanted to show a female character on TV that I had never seen before,” Savage told the LA Times during the show’s inaugural season.
And that’s exactly what she has done.
In the opening scene, Andrea removes all pretense when it comes to conversing with your children. Instead of formulating an entire episode around a “birds and the bees talk,” the way we’ve seen overplayed so many times before, it's simply responded to matter-of-factly in this cold open. During a time when more women are taking control over their bodies and voicing their opinions to be truly heard, it is refreshing to see a mother address a question about the female body without introducing any shame into the conversation.
In one scene in Season 1, Andrea is outside her daughter’s elementary school prior to pick-up time, making awkward small talk with a group of parents. In a rather predictable fashion, one mother in the bunch looked at a baby boy in a stroller and remarked that he was a little flirt; he was going to be a heartbreaker someday. Andrea turns to another mom’s daughter and, in a similar upbeat tone, jokes, “I bet she’ll grow up to be a real cocktease.” Silence. She goes on to explain that she made the joke because it's weird how people assume future sexual lives of babies. The other parents aren’t laughing, and Andrea is grateful for school dismissal so that she can get out of there quickly.
But isn’t that life? Don’t people occasionally make a joke that would have been better left unsaid? And, how often is parenting in real life as simple as it is on television? Not many mothers fit seamlessly into the school’s PTA, befriending all other women, able to prepare homemade cupcakes the night before a fundraiser. This true-to-life depiction is all of us at some point, mother or not.
The show isn’t groundbreaking. But it is certainly invigorating to see an authentic, unapologetic portrayal of a 40-something working mom. The show is a comedy, and certainly delivers laughs, but those moments come authentically as Andrea tries to navigate territory familiar to most people: raising a child, dealing with aging parents, keeping the flame burning in your marriage. I’m Sorry doesn’t rely on Andrea’s husband and daughter as a crutch; instead, it quickly builds out her circle of friends and confidantes. The candor, dimension and realism the show brings to the female lead seem to still be lacking in several fictional matriarchs, even in today’s era of #MeToo and #TimesUp.
I’m Sorry is a reminder to women that you can continue to be brash and unabashedly confident as you add additional titles to your life’s resume. The show reminds viewers that a woman doesn’t need to lose or change herself simply because she’s now wearing a wedding ring or raising a tiny human. When Andrea (the character) finds herself in a delicate situation of which she needs to work herself out, she uses the same language and tactics she (seemingly) used years prior. The only difference is that now she’s using that language and those tactics to raise a child, just like many of her viewers. And, after all, don’t we all have human anatomy chats with our children while dining outside on a nice summer’s day?