THE SHOW “American Housewife”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC/7
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Katie Otto (Katy Mixon) and husband Greg (Diedrich Bader) are parents of three kids and live in the tony Connecticut suburb of Westport. A next-door neighbor is moving, and Katie is mortified: She is about to become, in her words, the fattest woman in town. She’s determined to do something about that.
MY SAY If you happen to live in Fort Salonga, Nissequogue or Stony Brook and happen to have a view of the Sound — lucky you — look north, then a little to the left. That smudge on the horizon is the setting of a new ABC sitcom, arriving Tuesday, Oct. 11. Why Westport should be so distinguished — or under these circumstances so maligned — is not made clear in “American Housewife,” other than that it would seem to adequately represent the shallow obsessions of the One Percent who are in direct opposition to the 99 Percent. In other words, the houses are huge, the cars European, the bodies perfect.
As usual with TV, the truth is more complex. Westport’s certainly an affluent community, but hardly the sunnier version of Stepford portrayed here.
But naming names, or this name, at least grounds “Housewife” in the genuine real-world concerns of its comedy, notably how to raise kids without turning them into monsters, or how to fit into a community when it’s hard enough to fit into your clothes.
“Housewife” joins a whole parade of large-is-beautiful shows, including Mixon’s former one, “Mike & Molly,” NBC’s “This Is Us,” even LI’s own “Kevin Can Wait.” The inverse TV logic is inescapable — why is everyone on TV a size 4 when the rest of us viewers are multiples of that?
In reality, Mixon’s Katie is hardly “fat,” but more along the lines of what polite society calls “full-sized” or “zaftig.” She’s ashamed of her fixation on weight, and conflicted about it, too, but refuses to go on a diet because her husband “wants to have sex all the time anyway, and I don’t want to give him any incentives.” In the meantime, she’s merciless about her hometown, where “people have big houses, tiny butts and every idiot has a boat and a labradoodle.”
Neither she nor “Housewife” ever get around to the obvious question: Why not just move somewhere else in the Nutmeg State where the labradoodle population is almost inconsequential?
In fact, the pilot’s 21 scene-setting, Westport-zetzing moments never much get beyond the basic premise, dressed up in a string of one-liners, some of which are quite funny, a few vulgar, the rest TMI. Even before the opening credits you will hear everything about the Ottos’ bodily functions — everything. But like any pilot, you have to take a leap of faith and decide that what’s here, or who is here, is worth a second look. Over a long, varied career, Bader has always been good, sometimes great. He certainly deserves that second look. But what about Mixon, who’s not so well known? Her Katie is a blend of can-do optimism and bitter, seditious cynicism. She’s worth that second look, too.
BOTTOM LINE The “fat” stuff is way overdone, but Bader and Mixon are good. Otherwise, your watchwords are: too soon to tell.