It’s easy to mock the suburbs, but few do it really well. ABC — whose comedy slate relies on an infinite number of iterations on the suburban-family-sitcom, from Modern Family to Fresh Off the Boat to Speechless — has certainly hit the mark before. The network’s most notable examples might be a trio of delightfully subversive but criminally canceled sitcoms: Suburgatory, Trophy Wife, and — perhaps the most overlooked and definitely the weirdest one — Dan Fogelman’s The Neighbors. (Yes, that Dan Fogelman.)
It’s a bit early to tell, but it looks like ABC could have another gem with American Housewife. Created by Sarah Dunn, a veteran of beloved shows like Murphy Brown and Bunheads, the sitcom has a number of key elements working in its favor, but the most obvious one is the wonderful Katy Mixon. It’s hard to even imagine this show without her at its center, and given her years of greatness on Eastbound & Down (and Mike and Molly, I guess?), it’s hard to believe it even took her this long to get a sitcom of her own.
Here’s the premiere’s premise: Mixon stars as Katie Otto, a mother of three who, in the premiere episode, realizes she might become “the second-fattest housewife in Westport.” In fact, that was actually the show’s original title, putting it in the tradition of other ABC sitcoms that were much better than their names (we see you, Cougartown). Her objective: to ensure that someone else fatter than her moves into the neighborhood.
The pilot leans on that weight storyline way too hard, and I’m sure it’ll turn a lot of people away from this show. It’s a shame the network isn’t airing the second episode along with the pilot, because it’s too easy to imagine people watching it and wondering whether every episode will revolve around this conceit.
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I’m happy to report that they do not. In episode 2, American Housewife seems to to find its voice — and a lot of that is due the (I’ll keep saying it) terrific Mixon and her sharp-elbowed, crude-mouthed jabs at 21st-century Stepford life, a realm dominated by Fitbit-wearing, yoga-pantsed power parents. In a way, the show is somewhat the anti-Modern Family. The Otto clan may live in an upmarket Connecticut neighborhood, but they are self-aware middle-class intruders. They could fit in if they want to, but that’s the point — they don’t want to.
At one point in the second episode, we see Katie lie down on the street and shout, “I have a marketing degree from Duke!” It’s around that point that we start to see Katie grow into her true role: a proud disrupter, happily throwing foulmouthed wrenches into the polite upper-middle-class machine. If the show’s writers can keep up with its star, American Housewife has a chance to outlast its premise. B+