“Fat Housewife” Review Is Far From Phat

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….

He continues:

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.

Katy Mixon and Julia Butters, in

Katy Mixon and Julia Butters, in “American Housewife.” No, Katy’s dress does not make her look fat. (Photo/Eric McCandless for ABC)

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)

34 responses to ““Fat Housewife” Review Is Far From Phat

  1. Yes and a bunch of swell writers are each making something like $7,500 an episode to turn out this trash.

  2. I certainly didn’t need a New York Times reviewer to tell me why I shouldn’t like this show. Just one viewing of the trailer, released 5 months ago, told me everything I needed to know. Awful and predictable, irrespective of the town it was meant to represent.

  3. Sharon Paulsen

    I might check it out, just for fun, to see shots of Westport (it was all filmed there, right?)

  4. I have to say – as a TV writer – this is the kind of show that I loath. Underdeveloped characters and a premise that is thin at best. The fact that she is nowhere near “fat” is the biggest sin of all. She’s normal to plus size and to hang a character’s hat on the way that they view themselves through the eyes of others is cheap at best. I read the script before they shot the pilot and didn’t care for it. But to each his own. I will give props to the creators for even getting this on the air. It takes an act of congress to do that and we all know what kind of shape that they are in these days.

  5. Perfect example of “lowest common denominator programming’

    • Kathryn Sirico

      Show was an embarrassing and moronic. How it got on ABC in this time slot is mind boggling. Get it off!

  6. I just watched this show and it might be the worst show I’ve ever seen. This show is full of stereotypes and sophomoric and actually, terrible humor. Honestly, it should be cancelled after just this pilot. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I stuck out the full 30 minutes, but gave it a chance in case it got better. Nope. Gone from my DVR.

  7. Dumbest, most unfunny show ever.

  8. Philip Millstein

    Dan, I’m Phil Millstein, a retired teacher and former advisor of the GSA at West Windsor/Plainsboro High School North. About 12 years ago, you spoke to our group. This past summer, I ran into you at my Stsples 50th reunion. I’m writing for two reasons. First, I taught Neil Genzlinger’s daughter, and she told me that her sister has special needs. I’m sure the “Fat Housewife” show is awful, but no wonder he was offended by the supposed special needs child on the show. Second, (total switch!): who is the RTM member who does adoption searches? Now that both of parents are gone, I would like to find out about my birth family. Thanks very much and take care, Phil Millstein, Mike Perlis’s cousin Princeton 08540-1830 609-577-1199 talk or text

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

      John Suggs is the RTM member who does genealogical research. I heartily recommend him as he helped connect me last year. Look for “Adoption Reunion” in Dan’s blog archives. Good luck!

    • John Suggs is the RTM member you’re looking for.

    • There is also a private facebook group called Search Squad that searches for free. Check them out. Ancestry.com/DNA test along with any NON ID is usually what is needed to get started. Best of luck Philip.

  9. Peter Gambaccini

    Hey, who are these “:entitled snobs” Neil is writing about?

  10. Yep. I’ll never get that 30 minutes back.

  11. Andrew Colabella

    This town, was once an artist colony. Copious amount of history and the true heart of New England beauty. This idea of her being fat distorts people’s personal views of themselves and others. It also further destroys the milieu of this great town. It’s atmosphere has been bought out by families who move or rent here for schools and then get up and leave, never knowing the true great experiences one could have from a very successful family oriented great town. I’m completely appalled by this show and feel that this sort of entertainment is unnecessary, poor, pathetic and a mockery on actual hard working long time living families within the town. People who did once live here will laugh and be proud they left the town deep down knowing they miss it. People in this town will now use this as pedastil to hold themselves to the fact that their (personally) town was on national TV…readers and fellow 06880’ers I implore you to not fall for this stigma or stereotype of our town and lifestyle. We are more than that.

  12. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I watched the show and agree with most of the comments above. I will NOT waste my time on watching another episode. I too, wonder how it got on the tv schedule when it is not funny. I was looking for any exterior shots that were actually done in Westport, but, I did not recognize any. Unless the shots of boats in the marina were actually done in Westport. It was hard to tell.

  13. Thought I would tune in to check this it out and I could barely get through 5 minutes. Wrong in so many ways!

  14. I am perhaps a little more thick-skinned about the Westport stereotype portrayed in this show; as for the more important issues regarding “fat” housewives, etc. I found the interview with series creator Sarah Dunn to be illuminating about the issues she was trying to bring to light, with humor:


  15. A-geud riddance to this show…

  16. Elisabeth Keane

    Westport and Branford were misspelled on the map of CT in the premiere (and, with luck, final) episode.

  17. Westport-raised Kansas City dweller here. Also appalled at the show. I often get a positive response while traveling by mentioning my Westport upbringing. A surprising number of people have lived there, know someone who has lived there, or have had personal experiences with Westport – all positive. I hope this show doesn’t promulgate an “Oh, Westport! That’s that snobby town full of entitled people we saw on that TV show….” response. Pitiful programming… and writing. Very sad thing to see. Can’t imagine reviews will be positive. Blatant stereotypes aside, the dialogue was almost vitriolic. Westport’s “horrible women?” Nice, Very nice.

  18. I admit, I was looking forward to an intelligent and funny satire, but the pilot surely missed the mark.

  19. Dick Lowenstein

    Not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that Westport gets stereotyped. How about this 1957 song that Dan recalled in his blog:

  20. Sharon Paulsen

    Boy, this show a major fail, on all levels.

    Barely made it through the agonizing 20 minutes (of actual program – the ad’s were more tolerable!)

    Un-DVR’d … check!

  21. Melinda Hemson Dubowsky

    I didn’t think the show was particularly funny but as someone who grew up in Westport (as well as my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. and so on) I thought it was pretty spot on in terms of not all but quite a few people who live there now.

  22. I know this post is a few days old, but will comment since, out of curiosity, I taped the show and finally had time to check it out last night. What I saw of it was as awful as most of the comments suggest and are clearly in line with the NYT review. While generally moronic and stereotype-laced, it was more than borderline slanderous of my home town of the last 43 years. I always tell people that deciding to move here was the best decision of my life, second only to asking my wife to marry me. Whatever town that show is intended to portray did not look like my Westport. (Although, a few weeks ago on trip to the town dump, a neatly coiffed and willowy young woman did pull along side me to throw out a bag of garbage that was placed in the trunk of her Maserati…I am just sayin)

    The only connection to Westport that I spotted was that the husband is played by Diedrich Bader, a fine actor often slotted to such roles which require the ability to act a bit “off” . In real life, Mr. Bader is married to Westport’s own Dulcy Rogers. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bader about dozen or so years ago backstage when he performed at the Playhouse along with Dulcy and her family. It was a great show and, like Dulcy, Mr. Bader was warm and engaging. and not “off” at all. Maybe we can get him back to do a benefit to make up for any ill will this mess of a show may cast on our dear town?