There’s a line in the pilot of NBC’s new comedy series I Feel Bad where the show’s working mom and boss Emet, played by Sarayu Blue, asks her millennial staff “Am I still do-able?”
Batra said that the comedic instance “was really real for me.” That being a woman in a male-dominated writers room “I had to cut it up with the guys like that. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if I said, ‘Stop it. This is wrong.'” If the moment is uncomfortable for people, “I want people to talk about that,” added the creator of I Feel Bad whose credits include such TV comedies as Marlon, Uncle Buck and Scrubs.
I Feel Bad follows Emet as the perfect mom, boss, wife, friend and daughter –however, she knows she’s not perfect. She’s just figuring it out like the rest of us. She may feel bad when she has a sexy dream about someone other than her husband, or when she pretends not to know her kids when they misbehave in public, or when she uses her staff to help solve personal problems.
When asked after the session about other instances in which she had to be one of the boys to be accepted in a writers room, Batra said there were times where she was “undermined” and pitched the right idea, but “no one heard it until a man said it.”
She remembered having to sit through comments about women and their age. Women’s ages, she said, is “only a problem because it’s a problem for men.”
“I was a couple weeks pregnant and walked into a writers’ room and they were all talking about how Natalie Portman looked terrible now that she was pregnant,” said Batra.
Asked if there was some issue specific to motherhood that she thought could not be presented on primetime broadcast TV today, Batra said she wasn’t sure if a story about breast feeding would make the cut. “It makes people nervous” she said. The EP also spoke about I Love Lucy, which depicted the female lead pregnant and as a new mother. Back then, they were not allowed to use the word “pregnant” but did show Ball in maternity outfits.
In the 13 years though since the comedy EP has been working in the business, Batra says that the attitudes in the comedy writers room “are changing”. Batra told the TCA ballroom that she was excited to assemble her writers room for I Feel Bad.
Said the EP, “It wasn’t checking off boxes or mandates, but I finally brought in voices that aren’t always heard, to create an opportunity to make something fresh, from age to sexuality to ethnicity.”