Facebook Watch launched a year ago with a lot of content, but in the Peak TV era, none of it has really managed to break through, even on a platform with such a massive reach.
However, the outlet finally has its first show worth seeking out, and one that can actually hold its own among the hundreds of other scripted shows (more than 319 and counting this year) from broadcast, cable and streaming outlets: its new drama, Sorry For Your Loss.
Premiering today on Facebook Watch—the four episodes will drop tonight at 9 p.m. ET, with two additional episodes released each Tuesday through Oct. 9—the half-hour drama stars Elizabeth Olsen as a widow who is still reeling from her husband’s unexpected death a few months earlier.
Olsen, who also executive produces, carries the series with her compelling, raw portrayal of mourning and healing—but she’s assisted by a strong supporting cast, including Janet McTeer as her mother and Kelly Marie Tran (from Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as her sister, who is struggling with sobriety.
Throughout the first four episodes, Olsen struggles to piece her life back together—“I’m just mad all the time,” she admits at one point—while discovering that there is a lot about her late husband she didn’t know.
In addition to starring Olsen—best known from her role as Scarlet Witch (also known as Wanda Maximoff) in the Avengers films—Sorry For Your Loss also boasts a strong pedigree behind the camera. The show was written and created by playwright Kit Steinkellner (Z: The Beginning of Everything), with Lizzy Weiss, who created Freeform’s Switched at Birth, serving as showrunner. And James Ponsoldt, who directed the Master of None pilot for Netflix, directs several episodes.
Sorry For You Loss is the first Facebook Watch series to appear on Metacritic, where it currently has a strong 75 rating, which puts it on par with HBO’s acclaimed summer miniseries, Sharp Objects.
It’s still early going, but Sorry For Your Loss could be the calling card that Facebook Watch has been looking for—like House of Cards and Netflix, Transparent and Amazon, The Handmaid’s Tale and Hulu, and Cobra Kai and YouTube Premium—to attract audiences to the upstart platform.
That said, the series highlights Facebook Watch’s continued struggle to articulate what differentiates its shows from those at other outlets. During the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in July, Ricky Van Veen, head of global creative strategy for Facebook, said he has a litmus test for any potential show execs consider ordering for the platform: “Would this series either not work or not be as good if it wasn’t on Facebook?”
Fidji Simo, the company’s vp of product, said she wants to focus on “content that brings people together” instead of just having them passively watching shows.
But the truth is that Sorry For Your Watch would feel right at home on a variety of platforms; it just happens to be on Facebook Watch.
In July, Van Veen said he knows that Facebook Watch isn’t yet at the level of other TV outlets, but feels that the platform is on its way.
“It takes a show that breaks through and becomes part of the cultural zeitgeist,” said Van Veen, pointing to basketball reality series Ball in the Family, which has been spoofed on Saturday Night Live. “It will be a long way to go before we’re at the level of other platforms … but we’re seeing encouraging signs.”
And Sorry For Your Loss is the most encouraging sign yet.