Twice now, I have used my platform to decry all things Mayim Bialik. I don’t think she’s very charismatic, and I think her whole nerdy contrarian thing is extremely grating. However, I am not above admitting that there is one acting role that clearly should have gone to her. The role in question is that of Libby in the TV adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel Fleishman Is in Trouble, which for some reason has gone to Lizzy Caplan instead.
Caplan’s casting was announced today, and is the first role to be filled for the upcoming show about a newly single father (the titular Toby Fleishman) who gets on dating apps, drowns in pussy, and then has to deal with the disappearance of his ex-wife. Ostensibly the story is about him, but it is narrated by Caplan’s character Libby, and becomes about her own views on marriage and divorce and children and being a woman and all the other things a good American novel is about.
Having read and enjoyed Fleishman Is in Trouble when it came out, I can tell you one thing: Lizzy Caplan should not be playing Libby. Other than the fact that they are both Jewish women with L-I-consonant-consonant-Y names, they have little in common. Libby is supposed to be a harried mother pushed out to the suburbs, thinking about her former life as a writer for a men’s magazine (sound familiar?). One of her few small rebellions is sneaking cigarettes from time to time. Of the qualities I just mentioned, the only one I can envision Caplan portraying convincingly is “occasional cigarette smoker” — it’s kind of her whole vibe.
Caplan looks like a famous actress. She has beautiful, shiny hair and the kind of body women have when having that body is part of their job. If she ever showed up in New Jersey, where her character is supposed to live, she would immediately be offered a modeling contract to be the face of the Short Hills Mall. I’m sure Brodesser-Akner is thrilled to have such an accomplished actress playing what is obviously her self-insert character, but it’s also not the character that she originally wrote.
Bialik, on the other hand, looks normal. It’s part of her appeal, I imagine. You can imagine her driving a minivan in the drop-off line at school, you can imagine her spilling something on a white shirt, and you can imagine her as someone who used to live an almost cool life in the fast-paced world of writing celebrity profiles. It brings me no joy to say this, but the role should have been hers to lose.
Perhaps she was too busy with her groundbreaking sitcom Call Me Kat, in which she plays a professor who opens a cat café. In that case the role should have gone to Melanie Lynskey, who is not American, but is talented.