Hailed by critics, the first season of Sorry For Your Loss debuted just over a year ago. It stars Elizabeth Olsen (famous for her role as the Scarlet Witch in Marvel's Avengers films) and shares many of the hallmarks of the best series of the Peak TV era. So why have most TV viewers never heard of the show (let alone watched it)?
The short answer is because it's marooned on Facebook's fledgling streaming service Facebook Watch, where it's one of only a handful of under-the-radar scripted series. Which is a shame, because this is a show that deserves more attention.
In a truly powerhouse performance, Olsen plays Leigh, a young woman who has moved back home after the death of her husband. The first season picks up three months after her hisband's death, as a giref-striken Leigh struggles to adjust to her new life, including a new job as a fitness instructor at a family run business. Backed by strong performances from the incredible Janet McTeer as Leigh's mother, Kelly Marie Tran as her sister Jules, and Mamoudou Athie as her late husband Matt, the relationships feel lived in from the first episode. Much more than a meditation on death, Sorry For Your Loss is a love story told in reverse and a portrayal of family dysfunction that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
If that's not enough to entice you to watch the series, which begins its second season today, below are reasons fans of five of our very favorite Peak TV shows should give Sorry For Your Loss a try:
Let’s get the obvious connection out of the way first. Both Dead to Me and Sorry For Your Loss center on a woman whose husband has died unexpectedly. A grief support group provides the introduction to both Leigh and Jen (Christina Applegate), and there is also a bigger mystery at play. The notion that you never really know someone -- even the man you're married to -- underscores dramatic elements in both series. Like Jen, Leigh doesn’t sugarcoat her rage to make others feel better. Sometimes it comes from a place of being tired of it all, on other occasions, she's just being an asshole.
Through Judy (Linda Cardellini), Jen finds a piece of herself again, and the same can be said for Leigh when she befriends eternal optimist Becca (Lauren Robertson). In the episode Jackie O. and Courtney Love, Leigh admits she is stuck in the "raging bitch" stage of grief. Becca is the antithesis, the Jackie O. to her Courtney Love. But everyone is faking something, so when Leigh realizes they have this in common, she takes a moment to step out of her rage, and disovers that Jackie O. and Courtney Love can be friends after all.
Matt is dead, but he comes alive through flashbacks in every episode. Moments both monumental and mundane fill in the blanks of their relationship as the non-linear structure keeps his memory alive. Midway through the season, the perspective shifts to Matt’s, which reveals more about his history of depression, and answers some of Leigh’s questions, including why he put his credit card in the freezer. Earlier in the 10-episode run, they discuss mental health and his medication, but in “17 Unheard Messages,” therapy sessions underscore how much Matt struggled. At the end of this episode, we find out how Matt died. A voicemail from his brother Danny (Jovan Adepo) raises the question of whether or not it was an accident. They are still no closer to an answer by Episode 10, but this ambiguity, combined with Leigh not realizing the level of despair her husband felt, is a driving force for the rest of the season.
In Russian Doll, Alan’s (Charlie Barnett) mental health and his initial hesitation to talk about it are the reason he can’t remember his first death. When he does recall it, he is devastated by the truth. But when Alan does open up, he finds he isn’t so alone. Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) can’t promise to make those feelings go away, but she will stand by his side. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and both Russian Doll and Sorry For Your Loss underscore why it's important for television to examine this often unaddressed subject.
Everyone is trying to find the next Fleabag, and while Sorry For Your Loss is more drama than comedy, there is a thread of dark humor running through it that is very Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Grief is the undercurrent flowing throughout Fleabag's Emmy Award-winning second season, as Fleabag continues to deal with the death of her best friend. “I just want to cry all the time,” she confesses in Season 1. A difficult but ultimately loving relationship with her sister is something Sorry For Your Loss. also shares. Jules is in recovery and often on the receiving end of her sister’s scorn. In fact, Jules is a lot like Fleabag, while Leigh is similar to Claire (Sian Clifford). Leigh holds everyone to a standard that is impossible to meet, including her family. Jules is seen as a perpetual mess, who only decided to get her life back on track after Matt’s death. She is impulsive and uses sex as a way to feel something. Even when she's sober she hooks up with a random guy she meets in the line for the bathroom at a wedding.
Perception is at the heart of The Affair, shifting POV depending upon which character is in focus. The non-linear format advances the plot forward, but it's also shown different aspects of the central romances over time, revealing what went wrong, but also why they fell for each other. There is a blissful afterglow to Matt and Leigh’s relationship, but the rough times are just as well documented. One incident that plays out in the first episode is repeated from Matt’s perspective in “17 Unheard Messages” much like The Affair’s signature style.
Sex also plays a big part in both series, again showcasing the good alongside the bad. Complications arise with Matt’s brother Danny, who Leigh wasn’t fond of when Matt was alive but has since grown close to. A burgeoning moment of intimacy causes Leigh to flee to Palm Springs for a weekend away that had been booked while Matt was still alive. There, Leigh meets a mysterious guy (played by The Marvelous Mrs Maisel's Luke Kirby) who is also running away from a past relationship.
The LA-set Hulu comedy Casual has dysfunctional family dynamics down cold, and while Leigh is very much the center of Sorry For Your Loss, her nearest and dearest playa pivotal role. Leighs’s mom and dad haven’t screwed their kids up quite as badly as Alex (Tommy Dewey) and Valerie (Michaela Watkins), but there's still room to do so. They divorced when Leigh and Jules were kids, after Richard (Don McManus) cheated on Amy (Janet McTeer), but have since made peace. Apparently dealing with one daughter just out of rehab and another in grieving after an unimaginable loss has a way putting things into perspective. Both shows are about love, and how families can get us through the worst experiences, even if they drive us crazy half the time.
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Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina.