Entertainment » Television

Netflix's 'Insatiable' is a Misguided & Tone-Deaf Dark Comedy

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Aug 10, 2018

When the trailer for the dark comedy "Insatiable" debuted online last month, the Netflix series, which hits the streaming service in full Friday, was met with instant controversy. Despite the show's stars and creators defending the show and suggested viewers it a chance, a Change.org petition that said "Insatiable" is "body-shaming" was launched, urging Netflix to pull the comedy series before its release. As of this writing, it has earned nearly 230,000 signatures.

People took issue with the show's plot: A high school student Patty (Debby Ryan) has been constantly bullied for her weight, dubbed with the unimaginative nickname Fatty Patty. After losing a lot weight as a result of being physically attacked (her mouth was wired shut after being punched in the face by a homeless man who tried to steal her candy bar), a now thin and conventionally pretty Patty seeks revenge on those who made her high school years a living hell.

That's "Insatiable" distilled to its elevator pitch. But there's a lot going on here and the fat-shaming gripe will likely be the tip of the iceberg for those who decide to watch the show. "Insatiable" is a misguided mess from top to bottom. It actively ignores just about everything going on in today's political climate, full of tone-deaf jokes. Though Ryan proves to be totally capable of leading a show - she's good given what she has to work with - "Insatiable," which consists of 12 hour-long episodes (yikes!), doesn't just go for low-hanging fruit when making fun of people who are overweight. This hollow satire also takes the time to perpetuate stereotypes of LGBTQ people, make cracks at minorities, and mocks abuse survivors and pedophilia.

Dallas Roberts, left, with Debby Ryan in a scene from Netflix's "Insatiable." Photo credit: Annette Brown/Netflix

Set somewhere in the South, it's established early on that Patty's best friend Nonnie (Kimmy Shields) is a closeted teen who has feelings for Patty and "Insatiable" plays Nonnie's crush as a punch line - over and over and over again. In the first episode, Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts), a flamboyant attorney who is married to a woman and also manages beauty queens, is falsely accused of child molestation, which the show plays as a punch line - over and over again.

Pulling off a proper satire is never easy, but "Insatiable" is kind of a worst-case scenario. The show is never able to broadcast to the audience that it's smart enough to take on the issues it's satirizing. It also fails to let the audience know that the show itself is in on the joke. Most jokes the actors are forced to spew come from lowest common denominator and, at times, it feels like a low-level Trump staffer wrote lines to piss off snowflake liberals.

The offensive and offensively bad jokes are not the only problems with "Insatiable." The show is completely confusing and its narrative is a disaster. Trying to explain what this show is actually about is a fool's errand. The first two episodes suggest the first season of "Insatiable" is going to be a murder mystery of sorts. But that gets resolved in one of the oddest nonsensical ways that I've seen on modern TV. The comedy then oscillates between Patty's plans of revenge, wooing Bob and the duo's plans to become stars in the beauty pageant circuit. There's really no central story here; instead the show is packed with several thin and confusing plot threads that include a mother-and-daughter pageant duo bent on destroying Bob by falsely accusing him of pedophilia, Bob's rivalry with a district attorney also named Bob, and a number of different love triangles that basically implies everyone in this small Southern town are sleeping with each other.

Debby Ryan, left, with Michael Provost in a scene from Netflix's "Insatiable." Photo credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix

Earlier this year, the newly launched Paramount Network nixed its television version of the cult classic 80s dark teen comedy "Heathers." Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the network announced it was going to air the show at a later date but execs later decided to pull the plug on the show all together. Having been one of the few people who got to see the first five episodes, that was a wise decision. Not only did it use a school shooting for a gag and a weird plot point, it was full of similar cheap jokes as the ones sprinkled throughout "Insatiable," though the latter comedy makes "Heathers" look like "Veep."

The complaints outlined in this story are only a fraction of how dreadful, unfunny and cringe-y "Insatiable" can get. Netflix has built its reputation as a company with unlimited resources; a company that can drop a new series just about every single week. They've also drawn the ire of many, who complain that the streaming service's original movies and TV programs can be buried forever and lost in the void of the algorithm. For "Insatiable" that might be the best case scenario.


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