If you’re thinking of watching (or recording) tonight’s premiere of “American Housewife” — the ABC sitcom previously known as “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport” — you may want to save your time.
The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger is not a fan. His review today begins:
“American Housewife,” an awful attempt to transplant “Roseanne” into the age of economic inequality, mistakes sophomoric for subversive. The show, which begins Tuesday on ABC, seems to be angling for what it views as an underserved demographic, all those malcontented Americans we keep reading about in connection with the presidential election, the ones who are stuck in a can’t-get-ahead life because the privileged class has mucked things up and taken all the money. In this show’s interpretation, the down-and-outs spend their days telling potty jokes, thinking the whole world hates them because of their weight, and in general emitting contempt for everyone and everything, including their own children.
It’s a domestic sitcom with a fish-out-of-water foundation: The Ottos, a family of five, rent in wealthy Westport, Conn., a town full of entitled snobs. The Ottos, in contrast, are down-to-earth people. We can tell they’re down to earth because two minutes into the premiere we get to see the father, Greg (Diedrich Bader), sitting on the toilet.
The real focus here, though, is the mother, Katie (Katy Mixon), who is fat. That’s her description, not mine, and it’s the preoccupation of the premiere because another plus-size resident is moving out of town….
Yes, fat shaming is dismaying, but this show’s answer is fit shaming: Katie has contempt for all those well-toned bodies in Westport. To her, fitness equals shallowness and obsession with wealth. Counter one set of stereotypes by promoting another? That might work in more skilled hands, but here it just makes for sour, spiteful comedy.
At least Katie is an equal-opportunity hater. No one escapes her disdain, including her children, especially the two older ones (Meg Donnelly and Daniel DiMaggio), who she feels are in danger of being converted to Westportian elitism.
The youngest child (Julia Butters) is supposedly the reason the family rented in Westport. She has, we’re told, special needs that require Westport-caliber schools. What special needs, you ask? Whatever ones might garner a cheap laugh. In the first two episodes, we learn that she washes her hands a lot and prefers to urinate outside. School-district shopping is a real challenge for parents whose children have serious needs — see ABC’s own “Speechless,” where cerebral palsy is the issue. It’s still possible to get laughs out of that situation — “Speechless” does — but first you have to respect it, which this show doesn’t.
There’s more (and you can find it by clicking here).
But really, why bother? You know all you need to not watch the show.
Go have some ice cream instead.
(Hat tip: Tom Greenwald)