Entertainment » Television


by Padraic Maroney
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Aug 10, 2018

You may have heard about the petition asking Netflix to cancel Insatiable before it even premiered, because many believe it promotes fat shaming. The campaign was unsuccessful, as the series is now available to stream on the service. While the controversy may help it achieve some additional interest at first, the show is a glorious mess that may not be built for long term sustainability.

Patty (former Disney kid Debby Ryan) has been bullied her whole life for being overweight. At school she is known as "Fatty Patty" -- that is until she gets punched by a homeless man and her jaw is wired shut for three months. During that time, she loses 70 pounds and a new Patty is born, ripe with possibilities. The most obvious next step, at least for her lawyer, is for her to start competing in beauty pageants. He see her as his way to comeback to pageant coaching, after he was blacklisted due to false accusations of inappropriately touching one of his contestants.

Originally developed by The CW, "Insatiable" tries too hard to be edgy; but the show doesn't actually have any grit to sink it's teeth into. Taking inspiration from "Mean Girls," and television shows like "Popular," and "Desperate Housewives," "Insatiable" is filled with caricatures more than characters, which is part of the show's problem. They are fun to watch, but you don't become invested in them. Much like Patty's transformation, the series only goes skin deep.

The show never goes for the jugular, like it should. It's populated with so many over-the-top characters, that the show needs to go all in; but everytime it starts to, creator Lauren Gussis backs off. Made worse, none of the characters are particularly likeable. With so many crazy characters in her orbit, Patty should be the anchor for the show. But for every two steps she makes to better herself during the first half of the season, she quickly stumbles back a step. Unfortunately, she is spiraling out of control just as much as everyone else.

Gussis and out filmmaker Andrew Fleming, who helms many of the episodes, have squarely focused on getting the LGBTQ community's attention with the show. They have infused the show with a gay sensibility, mixing it with the pitch black humor of classics like "Heathers." But they occasionally cross over the line, in an attempt to be edgy and salacious.

The opening minutes of the pilot include a character, who's portrayed as an airhead, using an inappropriate term when talking about trans people. Patty's best friend, who is not so secretly in love with her, hasn't come to terms with her sexuality and lashes out when people suggest she might be a lesbian. Dallas Roberts' character, Bob, is said to be straight, but has adopted many stereotypical effeminate mannerisms that it can be distracting at times trying to decide if those choices are intentional for later stories or just mocking pageant coaches.

Despite the occasional fumble, Gussis and Fleming do earnestly try incorporate LGBT narratives into the storylines. One character is sentenced to community service at an LGBT community center and saves the day, at one point, by calling on some of the people he met there to help with a fundraiser. Additionally, they have made sure that actor Christopher Gorham (who also starred in "Popular") is shirtless as much as possible and even dons gold short shorts and Chippendales cuffs for a dance scene that is sure to be replayed by many a gay.

The fat shaming controversy is like many of its kind: a knee jerk reaction based on a trailer. While the show does have characters come right out and talk about the benefits of being thin, rather than being overweight, it does balance the message. What is more interesting is that they rightly deal with the PTSD that is experienced by many people who lose large amounts of weight and their inability to change their mindset from thinking and still feeling like their formerly bigger selves.

As for the plots, it's all framed through Bob's attempt to get back into the coaching business. But honestly, the pageant stuff feels forced. The show would be better, during any possible future seasons to move away from focusing so much on that. It would also be beneficial to move away from statutory misconduct accusations. There's two such claims within five episodes - more than most shows offer in their entire runs. Letting these kooky characters get into their own trouble is enough to power the show.

As messy as "Insatiable" is, there is something that still makes you want to binge the next episode. In the first five episodes watched for this review, the show hasn't quite found its footing. But it is doing just enough to whet your appetite for one more episode. That is fine for the short term, but will this be a show that people will want to keep coming back to for more in long term? They have the right ingredients, they just need to figure out the correct recipe.


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