If the word “fat” makes you uncomfortable, “American Housewife” is either going to leave you squirming in your seat or getting over that bashfulness pretty darned quickly. Because by the end of the 22-minute pilot the word is used what has to be a record number of times for a TV series, establishing that this is a show about a woman who is not overweight, out-of-shape, plump or heavyset, but plain old fat.
And she may or may not be okay with that. Katy Mixon, whom viewers will recognize as Melissa McCarthy‘s onscreen sister on “Mike & Molly” or as the love interest on “Eastbound and Down,” finally breaks out as the star she’s meant to be, as leading lady Katie Otto in ABC’s latest comedic offering. In the pilot we meet Katie in the middle of a fat-crisis: her larger neighbor, “Fat Pam,” is moving out of Westport, making her the “second-fattest” housewife in an area populated by overachieving, two Fitbit-wearing moms.
It’s a self-inflicted title that Katie doesn’t necessarily want, yet in the same breath she narrates how much she’s okay with her body. She celebrates herself by having a second breakfast or boycotting her eldest daughter’s new penchant for green smoothies, but then squeezes herself into Spanx before a dinner date. She happily eats a cupcake and proudly proclaims that’s a pizza stain on her backwards sweater, but then gets mad at her husband (played by Diedrich Bader) when he doesn’t rush to tell her she’s “not fat.”
Perhaps that makes the character complex or maybe it makes her hypocritical. However you receive her, Mixon is at her finest and sells Katie flaws-and-all in a colorful antithesis to every “Stepford Wife” offering out there. Just when you think Katie is actually being judgmental towards the yoga-pant loving moms with flat tummies and sky-high butts, they turn around and use keywords like “real” to describe her in turn, proving Katie’s insecurities have merit.
For all of the fat-chewing going on, though, being fat isn’t the only issue Katie deals with on the series. As a mother of three she’s got a full-time job making sure her kids grow into decent, normal people–a tall order considering the baby of the family has severe OCD, her eldest may be turning into a mean girl and her middle child is more concerned with making a buck than he is in helping out his fellow man. It all culminates in another family-friendly offering that fits in with ABC’s ever growing comedy lineup.
At the outset, the series may offend “real” viewers thanks to its crass definitions of skinny and fat, especially since in real life Mixon is anything but overweight. But as the comedy carries on it begins to poke fun at some of the stereotypes surrounding both sides, which makes the concept slightly more palatable. As the series settles in beyond the pilot it will inevitably begin to shed some of those stereotypes and delve deeper into the issues at hand (in this case embracing different body shapes and not conforming to unrealistic “mom” standards). The subject matter is in good hands with Mixon in the lead, a casting choice that should leave “bad moms” everywhere celebrating.
Or at the very least ditching those godawful green smoothies.
“American Housewife” debuts Tuesday, Oct. 11 on ABC.