American Housewife First Look Review: Overeating the gimmick

Chad White

American Housewife
“Pilot”
Season 1, Episode 1

This is a first look review of ABC’s American Housewife starring Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Ali Wong, and Leslie Bibb.

With every new comedy this season, there’s an accompanying gimmick. For Better Things it’s Pam Adlon’s fight to be a good mother to her three daughters. Insecure has viewers seeing the world through a black woman’s eyes. And The Good Place is about the afterlife and how even that world can fall apart. But sometimes shows lean too heavily on their premises, leaving the show and story feeling stilted in terms of development. ABC’s American Housewife has good spots but it often falls into its own trap of hating itself.

Katy Mixson stars as Katie Otto, the self-appointed “second fattest housewife in Westport, CT” (oddly enough the original title of the show and arguably the better one at that). She narrates the story, leading the viewer to have to believe everything she says. Katie hates the thin, “in shape” moms because she thinks they look down on her. They might but that’s never established; Katie only considers the way they talk to her to be negative. (I’m not a soccer mom so I don’t know if these women are being mean when they ask her to go for a walk or something). Katie is grounded, thankfully, by her husband, Greg (the always tremendous Deidrich Bader), who often falls into his wife’s various pro-fat schemes. Even worse is that Katie despises what her oldest daughter – a blossoming popular girl -- and son – Wall Street’s future -- are turning into. Now, as the second fattest woman in the town, Katie wears that badge proudly as her family and friends (including the great Ali Wong) celebrate along with her.

But this show, as previously mentioned, is so far up its own butt that it’s not seeing the truth behind the fat. Katie is often down on herself, to a comedic effect, and it wears thin very quickly. You’re (what you call) fat; we get it. But this show has the opportunity to show that beauty is only skin deep. However, it uses its timeslot to focus on the cynical aspects rather than the uplifting possibilities. What if Donald Glover’s Atlanta was constantly down on black society? Or if Speechless made cerebral palsey into a laughing stock? If Fresh Off The Boat fed into Asian stereotypes? American Housewife needs to grow up and find a message worth delivering. It obviously has something to say.

Should you watch American Housewife?

The comedies this year have so far been stellar. ABC has stepped forward as the leader in both network and broadcast. However, American Housewife is holding itself and the network back from being great. It’s in good company with The Middle and Fresh Off The Boat; it just has to find its center. Mixon is my forever crush no matter how she thinks she looks. And Bader is one of the best comedy actors on television (and voice acting). The first episode didn’t set this show up to its full potential so watch only if you’re interested in the cast.