The star and creators of Starz’ new half-hour drama series Sweetbitter came to TCA today, where they took some uncharacteristically tough questions. The series is based on Stephanie Danler’s national best-selling novel of the same name about 22-year-old Tess who, shortly after arriving in New York City in 2006, lands a job at a celebrated downtown restaurant, where she’s introduced to drugs, alcohol, love, lust, dive bars, and fine dining.
TV critics, however, had #MeToo on their minds.
It’s a show about “strong women,” insisted book author and series EP Stephanie Danler.
TV critics weren’t necessarily buying it, some seeming to think it played more like a Harvey Weinstein dream, and said so, in so many words.
It’s about who Tess will become, turning from an inarticulate young woman into a strong woman who does not apologize, who knows how to say ‘no’ and is self-possessed, Danler insisted.
“Sex is a part of life, as is food,” chimed in actress Ella Purnell, who plays Tess.
The first season takes place across just two weeks as Tess goes through waitress training and getting to know her co workers, Danler said.
We see her doing a lot more than “getting to know” them, snickered a TV critic.
There is a lot of kissing, acknowledged Purnell.
They’re doing a lot more than kissing, one reporter snarked, noting he’s French.
The conversation starting to resemble too closely a Groucho Marx routine, Sweetbitter EP Stu Zicherman stepped in to explain that the series is about “complete sensory awakening.” Danler, meanwhile, described the series, visually, as a “sensory assault.”
One critic wondered whether the series was out of step with our #MeToo age. Danler did not think that takes any of the fun out of the series, adding, “I don’t think sexual harassment in the workplace is fun.” The current conversation about workplace sexual harassment has not changed “the way we are telling our story,” she said, when asked.
Zicherman said he did not want everything that’s going on in our culture to “squash what’s beautiful about romance,” pulling out that statistic about 50% of relationships beginning in the workplace.