Hit or Sh**: ABC’s AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

american housewife

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Ah, the evolution of the American housewife. We’ve seen our fair share of housewives, from icons such as Lucy from I LOVE LUCY, to more modern adaptations like Claire from MODERN FAMILY, or Eileen O’Neal from THE REAL O’NEILS. It seems like ABC really can’t get enough of playing with this archetype, and as if they couldn’t play it up enough, they created a whole new comedy about it.

AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE is akin to its predecessors by displaying the “new” housewife: the “imperfect” housewife. But hasn’t the “imperfect” housewife been the same kind of housewife we’ve seen on television for the last 60 years? Has there ever been a perfect housewife in television?  This raises the question as to whether or not AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE really has anything unique to bring to its primetime spot; will ABC end up beating the archetype to death?

american housewife westport

Katie is doing her best to assimilate in Westport culture: bikram yoga, juice cleanses, and all

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Katy Mixton plays Katie Otto, the titular housewife. Mixton brings something different and relatable to her character. She’s blunt in her selfishness and brooding in her need to fit in. Although she may seem like a downright sour person, her deep-rooted issues, veiled by her humor, are what makes the audience still feel at home and reside next to her.

Katie lives with her family in the fictitious town of Westport, a neighborhood run amuck with “money obsessed rats” and “moms with small butts in workout clothes.” Katie despises most of her community members despite her two “normal” mom-friends, but she still proves herself as desperate to fit in. In fact, the main conflict in the pilot is when the “second-fattest housewife in Westport” moves out of town, which means Katie is expected to take her place. As claiming that title frightens her, Katie is desperate to find a woman fatter than her to move in. It all seems much more like high school than motherhood, which feels comedic because of how out of place it is. That’s where AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE tries to grab you.

american housewife husband

(I don’t remember the husband’s name. Relevant to the plot? Of course not)

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Katie jumps back and forth between protesting the town she lives in and doing her best to assimilate. Her youngest daughter has OCD, her middle-child tween son is a huge fan of capitalism, and her oldest teenage daughter is *gasp* popular.  In the beginning of the pilot, she decides that her goal is to get her youngest daughter to fit in more and her older children to fit in less. Her husband is not much help, and most of his dialogue is lost in telling his wife that she’s crazy. Unfortunately, we spend too much in Katie’s head for the other characters to spark us.

american housewife donald trump

I wonder what it’s like to look at your son and see a tweenage Donald Trump

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At the end of the episode, after she feels remorse for nearly letting a racist homophobe move in so as to escape her fate, Katie ultimately accepts her new title as the “second-fattest housewife in Westport,” and resolves to keep her family as uniquely “real” as possible. Once again, it’s almost reminiscent of the ending of a high school flick, where one accepts themselves as they are only when it’s not funny anymore.

The American Housewife is tired. AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE proves that, as creator Sarah Dunn attempts to revive an overused setup, with its comedy doing little to help. Katie is still wholesome enough for some American audience members to find themselves in her. However, if the majority can’t manage to, then the show really is at a loss. Katy Mixton is strong in her role, but she’s the only selling point. If Katie Otto loses any bit of herself, AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE will lose its audience too.

Verdict: Sh**

AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE airs on Tuesdays on ABC

Michelle is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She self-published a book about fairies when she was eight. It sold two copies.

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