Showtime’s ‘SMILF’ Facing Probe From MA Politicians Over Civil Rights Violations


A little over 48 hours before the second season of SMILF debuts, the Showtime series finds itself under siege from Massachusetts politicians seeking an “independent investigation” into allegations of “harassment, civil rights violations and unfair labor practices.”

Led by state Senator Nick Collins, about half a dozen representatives in the Codfish State signed a letter on January 16 to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development demanding that the acclaimed Frankie Shaw created and starring comedy be denied any Massachusetts tax credits until a probe is completed.

“It is important that our tax dollars are used to create jobs and opportunities for Massachusetts resident, not workplaces where employees’ rights are violated,” the very timely one-page letter (read it here) this week declares of the series that shot its January 20 premiering second season last year in Boston. Democrat Senator Collins’ district covers a vast amount of Titletown, include the South Boston areas where the now wrapped Season 2 of SMILF were filmed in 2018.

After there were complaints about badly handled nude scenes and the claims that writers of color to were designated seemingly lesser duties and lesser credits on the show, producers ABC Studios started its own probe of Shaw and the series last fall. In recent press for the upcoming season, filmmaker Shaw has repeatedly expressed that she “was learning on the go” and “grateful that I can take these lessons of being a more aware and in tune showrunner moving forward.”

Any project that spends more than $50,000 in Frankie Shaw’s home state qualifies for a lucrative a 25% production credit, a 25% payroll credit, and a sales tax exemption

Neither ABC nor Showtime responded to request for comment on the correspondence from the MA politicians this week. Though the staff of the politicians themselves were very open to discussing the impetus behind their letter to the state agency.

“They weren’t eligible for tax credits last year, we understand they are eligible for them this year,” Senator Collins’ chief aide Ceferina Murrell told Deadline today of why the letter was sent so close to the SMILF Season 2 opener. Murrell also note that while reports of complaints on the show hit Hollywood media in December, it was the articles in the local outlets like the Boston Globe and Boston Herald that really first brought the situation to their attention.

As the Writers’ Guild continues to look into the matter of the minority writers, a January 15 letter from the civil rights organization New Democracy Coalition may have pushed the state politicians into action too.

“Concern has arisen regarding discriminatory accusations made against the show,” said the non-profit’s founder Kevin C. Peterson in a letter to Collins and the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus that Deadline has obtained (read it here). “Namely, black writers for the show are said to have been segregated in separate work space quarters. There are also claims that the creative products of black artists working for the show are not being appropriately credited.”

“One of the show’s creators recently said in the Boston Globe that she would ‘do better’
at producing a higher quality product,” Peterson added in the letter, quoting Shaw. “That’s laudable. But these accusations, if proven true, are problematic. And in light of the perception that Boston is a city that is inhospitable to African-Americans, these accusations should be looked into with all seriousness.”

The influencial Urban league of Eastern Massachusetts has also weighed into the matter. “We listen, we believe and we support — and if we can do that with #MeToo, then we should be doing it with these black writers,” said CEO Darnell Williams.

“It is common practice for writers’ rooms to split into smaller groups to accelerate the work flow and SMILF is no exception,” EP Michael London said to Deadline last month when the allegations became public.

“Occasionally the room was split up based on seniority and in some cases, this left more African American than white writers in a group room,” London added. “There was unequivocally no intent to divide the room along racial lines. Upon hearing that somebody may have felt left out and interpreted the division as racially motivated, Frankie was mortified. This issue spoke to one of her core values and it was a deeply painful learning experience for her. I know that moving forward Frankie will be even more vigilant about making sure that diverse voices in the room feel empowered and appreciated.”

SMILF has not yet been renewed for a third season. No word if it will be shot in Boston if it comes back, either.

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