Dripping in pearls and mired in controversy, Netflix’s new dark comedy Insatiable landed with a thud on Friday, finally giving subscribers a chance to see what all that fuss was about.
Initially conceived for The CW, the series stars Disney Channel vet Debby Ryan as Patty, a formerly overweight teen who seeks revenge on her bullies by becoming a beauty queen. Interests were piqued when Netflix ordered the dropped pilot to series, but the public’s excitement quickly turned to outrage upon the premiere of the first official trailer, which was met with such overwhelming negativity that multiple online petitions were launched to take Insatiable down before it even hit the stream. (One petition currently boasts more than 228,000 signatures.)
As a result, Ryan and co-star Alyssa Milano’s New York press week has played out more like an apology tour, with the actresses repeatedly insisting that the show is not the fat-shaming nightmare it’s been made out to be. “Upon first glance, the show is something, and I think people really reacted to that,” Milano said during her appearance on Good Morning America earlier this week. “But when you get deeper into it, it’s about something else, which is what every interaction in our lives is really about.”
And now that Insatiable is finally out there in all its fat-suited glory, we can confirm that it’s indeed… something.
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We meet Patty, or “Fatty Patty” as she’s known by her school chums, at her lowest point, trapped in a “miserable” downward spiral of food and Drew Barrymore movies. Then comes rock bottom: After Patty is rejected by her crush, a homeless man tries to steal her candy bar outside a gas station (“It’s not like you need it, fatty!”), prompting her to punch him in the face — and get knocked out cold in return.
The premiere also introduces us to Bob Armstrong (The Good Wife‘s Dallas Roberts), a lawyer who moonlights as a beauty pageant coach, which is a “calling” he discovered after playing Henry Higgins in a church production of My Fair Lady. But when one of his queens comes in (gasp!) second place, the distraught girl’s lunatic mother starts a rumor that Bob touched her daughter’s “hoo-hoo.”
Patty and Bob’s paths converge three months later when the disgraced lawyer is assigned to defend her in court over her perceived assault on the aforementioned candy jerk. (He does it pro bono, of course, because “no one cares about fatties or homeless people.”) But when Bob discovers that Patty is no longer overweight — she’s been on a liquid diet since having her jaw wired shut after her assault — it ignites a spark within his very soul. Not only is he suddenly determined to clear Patty’s name (“Pretty girls don’t have to settle!”), but he plans to use her to return himself to pageant glory.
Understandably hesitant at first, Patty eventually caves after hitting another rock bottom: She reconnects (at an AA meeting!) with the homeless guy who put her in the hospital, crafting a ludicrous plan to seduce and reject him. But her plan hits a snag when the dude falls asleep with a cigarette in his mouth, nearly pushing Patty to burn his ass alive. Instead, she calls Bob — right as he’s about to take his own life, mind you — and agrees to enter the fray.
Other colorful, questionable characters populating the world of Insatiable include Patty’s best friend Nonnie (Big Little Lies‘ Kimmy Shields), who carries a not-so-subtle torch for her BFF; Bob’s wife Coralee (Milano), a sassy southern serpent who would have been right at home on GCB; and Bob’s nemesis Bob Barnard (Ugly Betty‘s Christopher Gorham), a dashing D.A. with courtroom skills and washboard abs.
The premiere is a hodgepodge of fluctuating accents, conflicting tones and clunky exposition, which is a pretty accurate representation of the series as a whole. To its credit, though, Insatiable does figure itself out a bit as the season progresses, particularly as the characters gradually drop their cartoonish pretenses and explore themselves — in every sense of the word.
More premiere moments worth discussing…
* When both Patty and Bob referred to themselves as “insatiable,” did you react with an excited, Peter Griffin-esque “They said it! They said the title!” … or an eye roll?
* Did Patty’s case-winning tactic — accusing the prosecution of asserting that fat people deserve to be ridiculed and assaulted, which they don’t — improve your opinion of the show, or was the empowering message completely overshadowed by Patty’s selfish motives?
* For all you TV historians and/or arbiters of good taste, how right am I about Coralee being straight out of GCB?
* Assuming you’ve only seen the premiere, where do you think Patty’s crush on Bob will go? (Also, wow, there are a lot of statutory rape jokes on this show.)
* Follow-up question: How eager (or not eager) are you to binge the remaining 11?
Your thoughts on Insatiable‘s opening hour? Grade it below, then drop a comment with your full review.