'American Housewife': TV Review

Courtesy of ABC
Katy Mixon in 'American Housewife' on ABC.
One of the fall's worst new comedies.
10/11/2016

ABC's new comedy about being overweight in the skinny suburbs is awfully thin on good jokes.

ABC's latest comedy, American Housewife, might have been more truthfully called American Crime. But honestly, how do you make a television series in 2016 – in the midst of the Platinum Age – that is as poorly conceived and executed as American Housewife?

ABC should know better – it has a strong track record of solid comedies. But American Housewife, originally titled The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, is a one-note show fleshed out (no pun intended) with ridiculously transparent quirky characters who also happen to be mostly annoying children.

That is not a good look. And American Housewife is not a good show.

Of the two episodes ABC made available, neither was remotely watchable and both felt like works in progress. But, honestly, progress toward what? More fat jokes?

Maybe the worst thing about American Housewife is that what it really wants to be is a comedy that says, at every turn, how ridiculous and unfair it is for women in their 40s with kids to somehow feel pressure to look like thin 19-year-olds with high, tight asses. No, really, that's pretty much all it talks about in the first two episodes, punctuating the anger at said societal pressure with the suggestion that suburban housewife Katie Otto (Katy Mixon) is perfectly fine with herself as she is.

And yet, she's not. If she were, she'd say, "Whatever, I'm good with who I am." And American Housewife tries to play that card, but it's never believable since the next joke is always about Katie's fear that neighbor "Fat Pam" is moving away and that will make Katie "the second fattest housewife in Westport."

Sigh.

Mixon is a likeable personality, but the series does her no favors by allowing her to do voiceovers that both undercut the narrative and don't add much humor; those voiceovers are often followed by Mixon smirking at the camera, and, frankly, her smirks are not the kind that make you laugh. Just when you're hoping Mixon's character will actually move away from this obsession with her weight, she says stuff like, "I might as well accept it – I'm going to be vice fattest."

Oh, there's also an O.J. Simpson joke that doesn't even reference the recent FX series or the ESPN documentary and just appears to be, well, really dated. You know, like fat jokes.

There's an unseen housewife who is clearly the fattest in all of Westport. And once "Fat Pam" moves out, Katie tries to scare away all the "skinnies" who want to buy Pam's house with talk of how terrible the house is in hopes that someone fatter than her will come along and put an offer in. And one does – but she ends up being racist and homophobic and Katie can't really live with that (well, she can for a few minutes) so finally relents and scares the heavier woman away.

If American Housewife wants to be progressive on issues of body image it has a strange way of showing it. It's both unfunny and ceaseless, which is probably why creator Sarah Dunn (Spin City, Bunheads) has tossed in a series of paper-thin supporting characters with outsized quirks. The best thing about the show is Diedrich Bader (Veep, The Drew Carey Show) as husband Greg, who delivers his lines with perfect timing (a real rarity in this show) and charm.

Less appealing is eldest daughter Taylor (Meg Donnelly). Mom thinks Taylor wants to be "perfect" (like all the thin moms she hates), so she ends up being frustrated with her popular, thin, exercise-loving daughter. Then there's middle son Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio), who likes the wealthy, superficial Westport lifestyle because he longs to be rich. It's the kind of caricature only a bad TV show can dream up. Lastly, there's youngest daughter Anna-Kat (Julia Butters), who has an anxiety disorder played for laughs because this is a stupid series.

If that's not enough to send you elsewhere, there's the pandering duo of black and lesbian Angela (Carly Hughes) and Asian Doris (Ali Wong), Katie's best friends in otherwise lily-white Westport.

American Housewife is a paint-by-numbers sitcom that's relentlessly stupid around the edges and deeply misguided at its center.

Cast: Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Meg Donnelly, Daniel DiMaggio, Julia Butters
Created and written by: Sarah Dunn

Airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.

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